The Buffalo Bandits are finally back in action this weekend.
Saturday’s NLL East match against the Toronto Rock will be Buffalo’s first game since December 11. Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m. from KeyBank Center. Tickets are on sale now.
It’s also the team’s annual Tucker Out Lymphoma Night, which will celebrate the life of Tucker Williams. Learn more about Tucker’s story and details of the night here.
Here are three things to know ahead of the game:
1. Goaltending Showdown
Toronto has gotten consistent goaltending from 12-year veteran netminder Nick Rose this year. Rose is third among all NLL goalies with at least three starts this year with a 9.67 goals-against average and fourth in the league with a .782 save percentage.
The Rock have relied heavily on their goalie this year as the team has struggled to find the back of the net. Through three games, Toronto is averaging 9.6 goals per game.
Bandits goaltender Matt Vinc has been lights out during his two starts, allowing just 17 goals this year and currently holding an .851 save percentage. The seven-time NLL Goaltender of the Year and 15-year veteran has earned high praise from his teammates.
“He’s the backbone to our team,” forward Dhane Smith said. “He is the best goalie in the league and maybe even the best to ever play.”
2. Best start since 2012
The sample size is small, but it’s true. The last time the Bandits started a season 2-0 was in 2012. Buffalo also averages 14 goals per game, the most since 2019, when the team went to the NLL Finals.
In their first game this season, the Bandits scored 16 times on Calgary and ended with 12 goals in a hard-fought win at Rochester in Week 2.
Buffalo native and first-year Bandit forward Connor Fields leads the team in scoring with eight goals. Fields scored four in each of the club’s first two games. Smith has nine assists on the year and leads the Bandits with 13 points.
3. Extended bye
After the scheduled three-week break, the players are eager to get back on the turf.
“When you’re 2-0 and you’re feeling hot, gaining momentum, and still building that chemistry, it’s not ideal timing,” forward Kyle Buchanan said. “But it’s still early in the season and we’re still working on things. We’re just excited to be back with the guys.”
Smith said he’s not worried about this team being prepared to get back into action. With the veteran leadership on the team and their skill level, he believes the team will be able to pick up where they left off from their hot start to the season.
“We’ve been having great practices during this time and keeping our bodies ready to go,” he said. “It won’t take us long to get back into game speed.”