The Buffalo Bandits can clinch their 11th NLL championship appearance with a win on Saturday night in Game 2 of the East Conference Finals against the Toronto Rock.
Buffalo took a 1-0 series lead in the best-of-three format with a thrilling 18-17 win in Game 1 at KeyBank Center last Sunday.
Faceoff at FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton, Ontario is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Bandits evened the season series, 2-2, with their win on Sunday. The last time the two teams played north of the border, on Feb. 12, Toronto handed Buffalo its first loss of the season.
The Rock found themselves up 8-4 at halftime in that game and scored three of the last four goals to pull away, 12-10. After starting the season 2-3, the Rock cemented themselves as one of the best teams in the NLL, heading into the playoffs victorious in nine of their last 11 games.
If the Rock win on Saturday night, the series will return to Buffalo for a decisive Game 3 on Saturday, May 28.
The winner of the East Division will face off against either the No. 3 Colorado Mammoth or No. 1 San Diego Seals. Colorado currently leads the West Conference Finals 1-0 and will host San Diego on Saturday night for Game 2.
Here is what you need to know:
Last Time Out
The Bandits heavily relied on Josh Byrne and Dhane Smith in Game 1. Byrne was the player of the game with four goals and seven assists. Smith also was a double-digit scorer with a hat trick and seven assists. The duo had timely goals for Buffalo, including Byrne’s back-to-back goals in the fourth to take a 15-14 lead and Smith’s dagger with two minutes remaining.
Matt Vinc also had a big night for Buffalo, stopping 41 shots and becoming the fourth goaltender in franchise history to have four postseason victories with the team. Vinc leads all NLL goalies with 23 playoff wins and 1,225 saves and is currently in sole possession of the second-most postseason games played with 35.
We’re reminded of the importance of loving each other and coming together.
We are better together.
— Buffalo Bandits (@NLLBandits) May 19, 2022
Chris Cloutier (3+2) completed his first career playoff hat-trick early in the third quarter after two consecutive goals late in the first half. Connor Fields and Chase Fraser both finished with two goals and two assists.
Tehoka Nanticoke, Ian MacKay, Steve Priolo, and Kyle Buchanan all had a goal and an assist each.
For Toronto, Tom Schreiber had a team-high eight points (3+5), while Zach Manns had four goals and a helper.
Captain Challen Rogers chipped in with three goals and two assists. The balanced Rock offense also saw Dan Craig (2+4), Justin Scott (2+2), and Rob Hellyer (2+3) all have two-goal performances. Nick Rose made 33 saves in net.
Dhane Smith Giving Back
Prior to Sunday’s win, Dhane Smith addressed the team on his struggles of being a Black athlete in a predominately white sport. The Kitchener, Ontario native has played his entire NLL career in Buffalo and calls it home.
In response to the racist mass shooting on Buffalo’s East Side, Smith announced Tuesday in an Instagram post that he will donate $50 to victims’ families for every Bandits goal on Saturday. Smith will also auction off his game-used stick and gloves, with all proceeds benefiting the victims’ families.
Goal balls from Sunday’s win are also still available for bidding. All proceeds will benefit the families of the victims of Saturday’s tragedy.
Goal balls from Sunday’s win are up for auction with all proceeds benefitting the victims’ families from the racist attack.
— Buffalo Bandits (@NLLBandits) May 20, 2022
On Wednesday, Josh Byrne, Chase Fraser, Tehoka Nanticoke, Chris Cloutier, Brad McCulley, Ian MacKay, Dalton Sulver, Nathaniel Kozevnikov, Frank Brown, and Dhane Smith all volunteered on the East Side near the site of the shooting.
Ways You Can Help
Earlier this week, the Bandits, along with the Bills and Sabres, provided fans with community resources to help their neighbors that have been impacted by the racist mass shooting.
If you would like to support the victims and their families, click here.