The Buffalo Bandits played their most complete game of the season in a 17-5 rout of the Philadelphia Wings at KeyBank Center on Saturday night.
Eight different Bandits scored while the defense and goaltender Matt Vinc allowed a season-low five goals. The 12-goal margin of victory was Buffalo’s largest of the season so far.
Vinc stopped 50 shots to earn a season-best .909 save percentage.
“I think we’re getting better, which is more important than our record,” coach John Tavares said. “We are just trying to put ourselves in a position where we can make the championship and win it.”
Multiple offensive players also earned individual accolades as the Bandits are 10-1 for the first time ever.
Dhane Smith recorded a season-high 12 points (2+10). Rookie Tehoka Nanticoke became the first Bandit this season to score five goals in a game – and the first to record a hat-trick in a single quarter. Josh Byrne cemented himself among the Bandits greats, cracking the Top 10 in franchise history in points and assists with eight assists in the game.
Chase Fraser (3+1) and Kyle Buchanan (1+3) had four-point nights for Buffalo, along with two-goal games from Chris Cloutier and Connor Fields.
“This has got to be one of the top groups, if not the top offensively,” Tavares said. “…I wish I were playing with them on offense today. it looked like fun.”
In their first of two meetings this season, Philadelphia opened the scoring with 6:46 remaining in the quarter as Matt Rambo found the back of the net. It would be the Wings’ only lead of the day, as 1:07 later, Fraser extended towards the crease, embracing a big hit from Ian Llord, and tied the game.
It marked the first of five unanswered goals for Buffalo heading into the second quarter. Smith split the defense and received a pass from Nick Weiss for the final goal of the opening frame. Nanticoke scored back-to-back tallies in the first four minutes of the second, shooting far side to beat Philadelphia goaltender Zach Higgins and then slipping past John Ranagan close to the crease.
Twenty-six seconds later, Fraser stopped on a dime, changed direction, and unleashed a backhand goal at the top of the restricted area for his second of the game.
Kevin Crowley scored on a second-chance opportunity for the Wings before Nanticoke completed his third hat trick in four games on a pick-and-roll with Smith to end the half with Buffalo ahead 6-2.
Philadelphia’s two goals in the first half were tied with their lowest total this season, both coming against the Georgia Swarm.
Not much changed in the second half as the Bandits outscored the Wings 5-1 in the third and ended the game on a 6-0 run in response to two quick Philadelphia goals in the fourth.
Nanticoke barreled his way through the heart of the defense for his fourth of the game, and then Ian MacKay scored his eighth of the season, picking off a pass in Bandit territory before running the length of the floor for the breakaway goal.
Buffalo scored on both of their power-play opportunities in the third, using less than 20 seconds to score. Smith buried a shot for his second goal and Fraser netted his third to make it a 10-3 game.
“We will be sitting on the bench watching the offensive set and see the ball go from here to there and back to here and into the back of the net,” Fraser said when asked about Buffalo’s ball movement throughout the game. “Everyone just kind of looks around and says, ‘Wow, did that just happen?!”
All of Banditland had that same reaction when Byrne scored a jaw-dropped behind-the-back shot from distance that went five-hole on Higgins with 18.3 seconds remaining in the quarter.
IS THIS REAL LIFE?! @Joshbyrne94 | #LetsGoBandits pic.twitter.com/vgK2Ht3Zl9
— Buffalo Bandits (@NLLBandits) March 13, 2022
As former Bandit Corey Small made it an 11-5 game after his team-high second goal, Cloutier and Fields joined in on the fun scoring just 14 seconds apart.
Wings backup goaltender Angus Goodleaf would relieve Higgins, and Cloutier poured salt in the wound for the team that drafted him with a wraparound goal.
Buchanan became the eighth Bandit to score with 2:42 remaining before Nanticoke scored his fifth and final goal to push the lead to 12.
“I haven’t stopped smiling tonight because everything went so well,” Smith said 30 minutes after the final buzzer.
Buffalo is 4-1 against Philadelphia since they rejoined the league back in 2018-19 and will face the Wings in the City of Brotherly Love on March 31.
In the meantime, the Bandits will have a bye week before playing four games in eight days, starting with a home and home series against the Halifax Thunderbirds.
“I don’t even think we’ve hit our max potential yet. We just have to keep working and keep staying on the same page,” Fraser said. “Everyone’s gotta have the same goal in mind heading into such a meaningful series with Halifax.”
Halifax lost both games on the weekend to Albany and Georgia, dropping to 8-3 while remaining second in the East to Buffalo.
The Bandits will host the Thunderbirds for the first game of that back-to-back set on Saturday, March 26 at 1 p.m. Tickets are on sale now.