As Week 14 of the 2022-23 NLL season approaches, the Buffalo Bandits are proud owners of a four-game winning streak. They will look to extend that success on the road tonight when they play the Halifax Thunderbirds in the first game of a home-and-home series.
At 8-2, Buffalo is in a three-way tie with Rochester and Toronto for first place in the East.
Faceoff is slated for 6:30 p.m. The game can be streamed on ESPN+ and fans can tune in to 1520 AM to listen in.
Bandits veteran goaltender Matt Vinc has started all 10 games between the pipes for the Bandits this season, maintaining a 10.54 goals-against average, and an .800 save percentage, as well as racking up 420 saves.
He’s expected to start tonight and will set a new NLL record with his 262nd game, passing Brandon Miller for most games all-time.
The last time the Bandits were in action, they were involved an overtime thriller against Philadelphia, and managed to rise above the chaos, winning the game 13-12 thanks to a Dhane Smith snipe.
Smith’s overtime goal earned him his 900th career point and capped off a 10-point night to put him at 82 on the year. The Bandit veteran is on pace for 147 points this season, which would shatter the all-time single-season mark he set back in 2016 when he recorded 137 points.
Smith’s usual partner-in-crime, Josh Byrne, has been sidelined since sustaining an injury on January 28 and was placed on injured reserve today. A key contributor who has helped fill that void is forward Brad McCulley, who already has 22 points in just seven games.
“Obviously you don’t want to see guys go down in order to get an opportunity,” he said. “I’ve said it before that we have a ‘next man up’ mentality so even if I was playing or I wasn’t playing, I’d be ready to go. It’s the same thing for all the guys around me.”
Halifax is a team that will also be coming off a bye week. They’re fourth in the East with a 5-5 record.
Their key contributors this season have consisted of team leader in points Randy Staats, Clarke Petterson, and Ryan Benesch. Warren Hill has primarily held down the crease for the Thunderbirds this season, posting a 4-4 record, 85 goals against, an average of 11.51 goals against per game, and 272 total saves.
“We’re going to expect a pretty gritty game,” McCulley said. “They have pretty high-powered offenses and defenses, and we know they have good goaltending. It won’t be a walk in the park by any means. It’s going to be a tough game. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing and try to get out on the better side of it.”
The home-and-home series will conclude on March 10 in Buffalo. Tickets are on sale now.