After coming up short in Game 3 of the NLL Finals to the Colorado Mammoth last year, the 2022-2023 Buffalo Bandits have already begun to look forward, deciding to not let the past put a damper on their enthusiasm for the upcoming season.
The Buffalo Bandits will kick off the new season on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. when they host the Albany FireWolves at KeyBank Center. Tickets are on sale now. The game will also air on ESPN+ and 1520 AM.
The first 8,000 fans in attendance will receive a Bandits magnet schedule.
“We’re excited for a new season and a new opportunity,” Bandits transition player Ian MacKay said. “Obviously last year was tough. Using the Finals loss, and just the way our last two seasons ended, I think just adds to our motivation.”
Eighteen of the 21 players on Buffalo’s opening-night roster played games for the Bandits last year.
“We’re in a unique situation where we lose some guys, but the core of our group is still intact. With the group that we have, and the experiences we’ve been through I think will help push us over the edge this year.”
Buffalo finished last season an NLL-best 14-4, and a handful of players earned league-wide accolades in the offseason.
Dhane Smith won his second MVP award after leading the league with 135 points and an NLL-record 94 assists. He’s third in franchise history in goals (310), assists (508) and points (818).
“It’s a pretty big accomplishment, but at the end of the day my main goal is to bring a championship here to Buffalo,” Smith said. “I would trade both of my MVPs for a championship and I know that I have to continue to improve to help get us over the hump there.”
Matt Vinc was named Goaltender of the Year for the eighth time in his career. He’s the NLL’s all-time leader in wins (133), saves (9,046), and minutes played (13,691).
Bandits captain Steve Priolo finished second for the Defensive Player of the Year and was named the All-League First Team with Smith and Vinc.
Tehoka Nanticoke, who was selected by the Bandits with the third-overall pick in 2021, was named to the NLL All-Rookie Team after posting 51 points (32+19) in 18 games.
Steve Dietrich also took home hardware with his second General Manager of the Year award.
New faces include Brandon Robinson up top, and Carter McKenzie and Kellen LeClair on the back end. Returning players like forward Brad McCulley, transition players Max Adler and Dalton Sulver, and defenseman Marcus Minchiello are all on the active roster and could see expanded roles this year.
“We’re looking pretty good. We brought in some really good pieces,” Smith said. “We’ve done a good job of bringing in bigger bodies on the offensive end and we’ve added some energy guys that we’re gonna need. I’m excited to see what we have, and I’m excited for this season.”
If there is one thing that the team can all agree on, it’s what they’re most looking forward to this upcoming season.
“Getting back in front of Banditland,” Mackay said. “With the first game of the year to be back in front of our fans, and I’m sure the crowd is going to be really full and really fired up to be back at KeyBank Center. Getting back and playing in front of them is the initial excitement for this season, for sure.”
Albany, meanwhile, is coming off a 9-9 campaign. They were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Bandits. The FireWolves will be without their top five scorers from last year.
Albany will lean on second-year pro Charlie Kitchen to lead the offense. He had 22 points (14+8) in 15 games last season.