The Buffalo Bandits will transition to a more “traditional” schedule for the final three games of the regular season.
Following a stretch of four games in eight days, the Bandits will welcome the New York Riptide to KeyBank Center on Saturday for their only game this week. Faceoff is scheduled at 5 p.m. on ESPN2, ESPN+ and 1520 AM.
Buffalo went 3-1 last week and saw a seven-game win streak snapped last Saturday in a 15-14 loss in Colorado.
Heading into the game, Buffalo sits at 13-2 and can clinch the top seed in the East Division with a victory. New York (4-10) dropped both games they played last weekend, eliminating them from playoff contention.
Buffalo and New York last played on January 30 at Nassau Live Center, where the Bandits squeaked by with an 18-17 overtime win.
In the fourth quarter, New York scored seven in a row to take a three-goal lead before Chase Fraser, Connor Fields, and Josh Byrne all tallied to tie the game in the final three minutes of regulation.
Chris Cloutier was the hero for Buffalo, scoring his only goal of the day on the power play as the Bandits improved their record to 5-0.
— Buffalo Bandits (@NLLBandits) April 8, 2022
Here is everything you need to know:
1. Records Are Meant To Be Broken
Saturday’s contest is full of players who are on the brink of snapping previous NLL records.
In 15 games this season, Dhane Smith has posted 117 points (38+79) to lead the NLL. Back in 2016 during his MVP season, Smith set the all-time points record at 137. He is currently on pace for 140 points, which would set a new NLL record.
This is neat … but one goal 🏆 👀 https://t.co/6rZvmfqp8A
— Dhane Smith (@dhanesmith92) April 4, 2022
Smith recorded 12 points (3+9) last weekend against Colorado. He is averaging just over five helpers per game this season and needs just five more to break Mark Matthews’ single-season assist record.
Bandits goaltender Matt Vinc will also be on record watch through the end of the regular season, inching closer to most saves in a season. Anthony Cosmo set the current high in 2014 with 752 stops, and through 15 games, Vinc has recorded 650 saves. With just 102 more saves needed over his final three games, Vinc is on pace for 780 total saves.
The Riptide’s Jeff Teat is on pace to become the record holder for most points and assists in a season by a rookie. The 2020 first-overall pick has missed two games this year for the Riptide, but he still has recorded 74 points and 49 assists in 12 games.
Among rookies, Randy Staats, now with Panther City, holds the current record for most points in a season with 96. Toronto’s Tom Schreiber posted 61 assists in his rookie season back in 2017 to set that record. Teat is on pace for 99 points and 65 assists if he plays in the final three games for the Riptide.
Steven Orleman is another rookie for New York putting together a memorable season. The goaltender is expected to shatter the record for most saves in a season by a rookie netminder. With 511 saves through 14 games, Orleman is on pace for 657 stops, which would break Matt King’s mark of 603 set in 2002.
2. Rookies To Watch
Teat and Tehoka Nanticoke have made their presence felt in their first NLL season.
While Teat is chasing history and has produced 31 more points in three fewer games played, Nanticoke, the third-overall pick in the 2021 NLL Draft, has recorded 43 points in 15 games and leads all rookies with 28 goals.
Nanticoke’s five game-winning goals aren’t just the best among first-year players. He also leads the entire league in that category.
3. NLL Playoff Tracker
With less than a month left in the regular season, let’s take a look at the playoff race across the league.
The Toronto Rock were the second team in the league to clinch a playoff spot after dominant wins last weekend over the Georgia Swarm and San Diego Seals to increase their record to 10-5.
The Halifax Thunderbirds (9-5) got a much-needed win over the Rochester Knighthawks last Friday and look to carry that momentum into their game against the Calgary Roughnecks to secure the third spot in the east.
Georgia (8-7), Philadelphia (7-8), and Albany (7-9) are all in the hunt for both the final spot in the East, and the one Wild Card position that’s up for grabs.
Under the NLL’s new expanded playoff format this season, the top four teams in the East, the top three teams in the West, and one Wild Card team with the next best record qualify for the postseason.
In the West, San Diego (9-4) is still sitting pretty with a two-game lead over Colorado (9-6), even though neither has punched their ticket to the playoffs yet. Calgary, Panther City, and Vancouver all have six victories and are under .500 with work to do to secure the third seed in the West or a Wild Card berth.