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The Bandits and Rock combine for 35 goals, and Buffalo wins by one in Game One of the East Conference Finals of the NLL Chase for the Championship.
I don’t know if there was a run on the rubber commodity market in the early hours of trading Monday. Still, the two clubs showed how to properly utilize the circular 2.5-ounce piece by passing, sweeping, clutching, cradling, and shooting into the heavy black twine of the goal nets.
There was never a dull moment Sunday evening inside Key Bank Center with a true goal-la-poluza.
Interestingly enough, the first and second half scoring each started at the 33-second mark and darn near the end of each 15-minute quarter. This included the last shot by Toronto, taking place with just a couple of seconds left in an attempt to tie the game at 18.
Bandits goaltender Matt Vinc was seen well after the game continuing to thank the left goal post.
— Buffalo Bandits (@NLLBandits) May 15, 2022
It was a soothing ending to a weekend marred by the senseless and devastating mass murder of 10 innocent people Saturday in our city of good neighbors. Everyone from both organizations was noticeably shocked and dismayed.
“It’s so unbelievable that people are walking around thinking one race is better than the other when we are all the same people,” said Bandits head coach John Tavares. “The common denominator is that we are all human, and no one should think one is better than the other.”
But the 10,258 community of Banditland, coupled with the teams on the playing surface, carried heavy hearts. The Bandits supported the mourning by wearing black hoodies in their warmups and “Buffalo Strong” black and white stickers on the back of their helmet.
Talk about teamwork and togetherness, Nate Murray of Crossbar Athletics received a call from the Bandits Sunday in the early afternoon of the team’s request. He had the stickers delivered by 5 p.m., enough time to seal each player’s helmet in honor of this terrible incident.
Following an emotional moment of silence and spirited anthems, the Bandits and Rock played their hearts out. It was almost like who cared who won. But Banditland cheered their team on and savored the victory.
Byrne & Smith
While Josh Byrne and Dhane Smith combined for 21 points, four goals and seven assists and three goals and seven assists respectfully, it was a total team effort by the Bandits. So, too, was it for the Rock.
“It’s a game of runs, and the team that gets the most runs or the longest runs is the team that will be successful. And to do that, you gotta pay attention to detail; you can’t give them any easy opportunities. You have to minimize transition, play 60 minutes, and you can’t let up, ever,” noted Tavares.
Budd Bailey, reporter from the Buffalo Sports Report, said the first half was the most entertaining lacrosse game he had seen in a long time.
I didn’t get to see him at the end of the game, but I’m sure he would have echoed similarly for the second half.
Let’s Be Re-Entertained
The Bandits tune up their transition game with none other than Ian MacKay.
Coming off a stellar game the week before, Bandits captain, Steve Priolo, wore his emotions on his sleeve and just about ripped his jersey in half after this physically demanding and masterful play, which resulted in a spectacular goal.
The effort. The determination. The spirit.
Here are some more of the Bandits lost in transition. Watch the speed and passing with Nick Weiss, and Kevin Brownell, giving to Chase Faser with a blast. Then Fields gets a chance, then chops the ball before Toronto regains composure – but not for long – as Justin Martin bats down a pass at center then is popped in the head, losing his helmet. Buffalo retains the ball, setting up another offensive set.
“There will always be focus points for a series like this. Playoff lacrosse is always different. The refs call the game a little bit different, and with every goal, the momentum is much more important, so your going to play a bit of a tighter game. You’re going to try and limit that easy goal against; just focusing on taking care of our end, let the game come to us, and not really force anything”
Again, teamwork. Watch Dhane Smith and Mitch de Snoo go at it with jousting. Byrne then steals at the center, then tripped up on the play after getting a pass to Smith. Back to another confrontation with former Bandit de Snoo, then breaking free to get reset. Then the Great Dhane does Great Dhane things. 5-2 Bandits.
Penalty Killing Watch – here’s the only penalty kill of the game by the Bandits, including a Matt Vinc save and cleaning-up of the shorthanded transition by Ethan O’Connor, passing to Chase Fraser, who makes a mad dash to the front porch of Rock goaltender Nick Rose – but not done… yet.
Watch as Tehoka Nanticoke burns precious time off after receiving an outlet pass from Vinc, capped with a shorthanded chance. Not done yet.
Smith, out on the penalty kill, intercepts the ball and sprints to the doorstep of Rose.
The goal exchanges continued. And one worthy of a replay.
The game is 7-7. But not for long. Smith takes the ball after a shot clock violation at center. Then watch this…and we’ll show it again.
It seemed like there was a goal every minute in the third quarter with lead exchanges like it was Boxing Day. And not to be outdone, there was an 11-goal fourth quarter (it might have been 12, but again, thanks to that goalpost).
“We are trying to let the game come to us and not force anything offensively and take unnecessary risks. If we can get one out of the backend, any momentum is big,” said Brownell.
Everybody had poise and power. Here Tehoka Nanticoke takes matters into his hands, body, and soul.
Whoa, gulp, game over. Bandits 18-17. Excuse me. Do you have any goal scoring?
The two teams meet Saturday night inside the First Ontario Center in Hamilton for game two at 7 p.m. Game Three, if necessary, is Saturday, May 28, 7:30 p.m., back at KeyBank Center.
“It would be nice to get off to a good start and get a lead. I think it’s hard to play any sport when you are trying to play catchup. You start holding your sticks a little tighter, which puts more pressure on people.
“And you must learn to play with the lead. If we get the lead, I think we will do a better job of maintaining the lead – and I’m sure the Rock is thinking the exact same thing. A fast start is imperative as to who will win the game,” Tavares said.
Saturday Broadcast Information
Saturday’s game two will be aired on ESPN+ and TSN. Radio coverage will be on 1520 The Bet, with the pregame show set for 6:30 p.m. Steve Bermel and Dave Buchanan will join me for the coverage. We will get both sides of the story in preparation for what proves to be another exciting game.