With nearly two weeks since their loss in the NLL Finals, multiple members of the Buffalo Bandits organization were recognized for their historic season.
On Thursday afternoon four players took home hardware, including Dhane Smith, Matt Vinc, Steve Priolo, and Tehoka Nanticoke. Earlier in the week, Steve Dietrich was named General Manager of the Year.
Smith was named the NLL’s Most Valuable Player for the second time in his career along with receiving All-League First Team honors. For the eighth time in his illustrious career, Vinc won Goaltender of the Year and also received a spot on the All-League First Team.
Bandits captain Steve Priolo joined Smith and Vinc on the First Team while finishing second to Toronto’s Mitch De Snoo for Defensive Player of the Year. Nanticoke received his first award in the NLL as the 2021 third-overall pick was a member of the All-Rookie team.
Smith admitted that he wouldn’t have believed that he would add another MVP to his resume at the beginning of the season. Back in 2016, Smith won the MVP by setting a new NLL record of 137 points in a season, leading the Bandits to a Finals appearance against Saskatchewan.
The Kitchner, Ontario native set a new single-season assist record with 94 helpers, topping Mark Matthews’ previous high with 84 in 2018-19. “The Great Dhane” had 135 points over 18 regular-season games while finishing top five in points (35), goals (13), and assists (22) during the postseason.
“This award is a huge accomplishment, but what matters to me more is winning a championship,” Smith said Thursday as he became just the fifth player to win multiple MVPs.
“Something that got me pretty emotional today was the video from my teammates speaking about how I helped them and made them better. That means way more to me than a physical award.”
This message from my teammates got me emotional wouldn’t be the player I am today without them . To the city of buffalo thank you and know that I would trade this award for a championship… is that possible ?. Seriously though bring on 2023 love 92 https://t.co/rhPL1prL3h
— Dhane Smith (@dhanesmith92) June 30, 2022
Like his teammates, Dietrich also spoke highly about Smith when describing how proud he was of his first ever draft selection as a GM with Buffalo.
“He’s the total package that you build a franchise around,” Dietrich said. “… There was nobody more upset after the loss more than [Smith] because he wants nothing more than to bring a championship to Buffalo.”
Vinc arguably had the best season of his 12-year career, leading the NLL in wins (14), saves (747), and save percentage (.807) while setting a career high in minutes played in a season. Even though Vinc just won his eighth Goaltender of the Year and First Team honors, there is still uncertainty whether or not he will decide to walk away from the game and retire.
Dietrich mentioned how he has had multiple conversations with Vinc regarding his future since the end of the season, and all signals look like he will return.
“Matt let us know that he had no intentions of playing anywhere else other than here in Buffalo,” he said. “So, we have our fingers crossed that nothing will change from now until November with where his head is at.”
Priolo and Smith are among Vinc’s veteran teammates that have been trying to persuade the legendary goalie to return to the Bandits.
“I don’t think he’s going to retire because he knows that he’s at the top of his game, proving that he’s still the best goalie in the world,” Priolo said.
Priolo was named to the All-League team for the first time in his career. He led the Bandits with 116 loose balls, tied for first with 21 caused turnovers, and had 16 blocked shots. Offensively, the Bandits’ longest-tenured player scored three goals and notched 15 assists continuing his production in the postseason with two goals and five assists.
Nanticoke earned his place on the All-Rookie team after finishing fourth in rookie scoring with 51 points and third with 32 goals. The former University of Albany Great Dane led the league with six game-winning goals, and put the league on notice with his five-goal performance in Game 1 of the NLL Finals against Colorado.
Even though he did not receive a nomination for Rookie of the Year, Dietrich couldn’t have been more ecstatic about the first-year player moving forward.
“Tehoka did everything and more in terms of what we wanted from him this season,” he said. “He played through a lot later in the season, and especially in the playoffs.”
Smith mentioned how deserving Nanticoke was to get a Rookie of the Year nod, but also how the league is full of young talent due to the past two drafts being classified as rookies after the 2020-21 season being postponed.
“It just goes to show how the NLL is growing and how many great players we have in this league,” he said. “All of the nominations were deserving for their play this season, but I believe Tehoka should’ve been in that category.”