The Buffalo Bandits used a five-goal run in the third quarter to erase a two-goal deficit and defeat the San Diego Seals 12-9 in their home opener at KeyBank Center on Saturday.
The Bandits were down 7-5 in the third before tallying three goals in just 41 seconds to take the lead and never looked back.
Josh Byrne and Dhane Smith led the way for Buffalo with seven points each. Byrne found the back of the net four times while Smith recorded seven assists. Tehoka Nanticoke (1+1), Chris Cloutier (1+1), Ian MacKay (1+1), Nick Weiss (0+3), and Kyle Buchanan (2+0) all had multi-point nights.
Goaltender Matt Vinc posted 39 saves against the Seals to post his 50th win as a member of the Bandits, becoming the first Bandits goalie to notch that many wins.
“We’re a great team with a lot of talent but you still got to work hard,” Bandits coach John Tavares said. “I thought we played really well. We buried our opportunities in the second half. I thought Matt (Vinc) played well. The defense played well. It was like a totally different game in the second half.”
The Seals were led by Curtis Dickson (2+4), who had a six-point night. Wesley Berg (3+1), Austin Staats (2+2), and Dane Dobbie (1+3) added four points each. San Diego goalie Christopher Origlieri tallied 34 saves on the night.
How it happened
San Diego was on the board first as Staats found the back of the net less than two minutes in. The Bandits responded with two goals from Byrne and Brandon Robinson. Byrne’s first tally came after he set a pick for Cloutier and crept behind the defense. Smith fed Byrne, who buried a shot from the edge of the crease through double coverage. Robinson scored on a fast break from Weiss. The two teams exchanged goals from there to close out the quarter tied 3-3.
Both teams scored on the man-advantage to open the second frame. San Diego added two goals, including a shorthanded goal by Berg after he caught a pass in the middle of the floor and ripped a behind-the-back shot past Vinc’s glove to give the Seals a two-goal lead. Chris Cloutier answered back with 2:29 to go in the half to go into the break down 6-5.
The Bandits outscored the Seals 5-2 in the third quarter behind tallies from Byrne (2), Buchanan, MacKay, and Matt Spanger to spark a three-goal lead.
The Bandits limited San Diego to just one fourth-quarter goal with 12 saves from Vinc and a successful penalty kill. Buchanan and Chase Fraser added insurance goals to secure the win and move to .500 heading into the BYE week.
Here’s more from Saturday’s victory.
Banner Raising Night
Before the start of the game, the Bandits watched their 2023 championship banner soar into the rafters.
The team wanted to enjoy the moment but also knew there was a game to be played. Smith shared that it was an emotional start and the group had to adjust in the second half to earn the win.
“It was special,” Smith said. “It was exactly what I dreamed it would be. It was definitely hard to kind of bring myself back knowing that we had to play a game. I knew that would be the case, but I think we did a pretty good job adjusting.”
With his third goal of the night, Byrne moved ahead of Ryan Benesch for fifth all-time in Bandits goals.
Byrne leads the Bandits in points with 16 through two games. He has six goals and 10 assists so far this season.
“He’s a phenomenal player and he’s moving up the ladder pretty quickly,” Tavares said. “I’m not surprised, he sees the floor well, he’s athletic, he’s got a great shot. He’s a triple threat, outside, inside and a feeder. He leads by example and he’s a great leader in the room.”
Under the radar
Smith has only scored one goal so far this season, but has found other ways to contribute. In Week 1 against Albany, Smith scored on the power play and tallied six assists. He added seven assists and six loose-ball recoveries Saturday night against the Seals despite being held off the scoresheet.
Vinc’s record book night
Vinc joined a list of only five players who have played 271 games in the NLL when he suited up versus the Seals.
Along with the accolades in the record book, Vinc’s 21 second-half saves were central to the Bandits’ defensive dominance.
Brandon Robinson, the ultimate teammate
The Bandits placed defenseman Justin Robinson on injured reserve prior to faceoff Saturday. His brother Brandon made it known to his coach that he was willing to do whatever the team needed from him, including playing defense.
Tavares was thankful for the veteran’s ability to adapt.
“It’s not that we didn’t have enough defenders,” Tavares said. “We didn’t have enough experienced defenders. We didn’t want to go with four or five younger players at once. Brandon’s played defense before, he’s very smart. He sent a text saying ‘Hey, listen if you need me back there, I’m willing to play.’ And he was our player of the game.”
The Bandits host the Georgia Swarm on Dec. 29 at KeyBank Center.
Fans can watch the game on CW23 or ESPN+ and listen on 1520 WWKB. Faceoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.