With Friday’s 17-12 victory over the Philadelphia Wings, the Buffalo Bandits became the first team to secure a home playoff game for the quarterfinal round of the NLL playoffs.
They also extended their win streak to seven games, which is the longest in the league this season.
Chase Fraser led the way for Buffalo at Wells Fargo Center, continuing his dominant play against the Wings after recording a hat trick and an assist against them on March 12.
Fraser was the game’s First Star on Friday with four goals, tying a season-high.
It was another collective effort offensively for the Bandits, with nine different players scoring, resulting in their fourth-straight game with at least 16 goals.
Dhane Smith produced a game-high seven points (2+5). He now has 105 points on the season. Kyle Buchanan recorded his first hat trick in a Bandits uniform, along with a season-high five points.
Connor Fields eclipsed the 100-point plateau for his career with a five-point effort, and Josh Byrne chipped in six points (2+4).
Reigning Player of the Week, Matt Vinc stopped 35 of the 42 shots he faced before Doug Buchan took over midway through the fourth quarter. Buffalo held a 16-7 lead at that point.
“I think right now we are firing on all cylinders,” Vinc said on ESPN+ after the game. “Our offense is putting up big numbers right now, and I like where we are at on the defensive side of the ball, too. We feel comfortable right now.”
Philadelphia was without forwards Matt Rambo and leading goal-scorer Ben McIntosh. Both were scratched by Wings coach Paul Day. Kevin Crowley filled their void offensively for with six points (2+4), Blaze Riorden stepped up with a hat trick, raising his season total to 17, and captain Kiel Matisz added two goals and five assists.
It was a tough night for both Philadelphia goaltenders. Zach Higgins was relieved by Angus Goodleaf just 13 minutes into the contest, only to have Higgins return to the net during the second half. The tandem combined for 28 saves and a .622 save percentage.
Like most games this season, Buffalo came out of the gates firing. Chris Cloutier scored his only goal of the night in the first minute, rolling off a pick set for Byrne and burying the shot near the crease.
The two teams would combine for six goals in the first six minutes of the game as the Bandits got out to a slim 4-2 lead. Fields’ second goal of the night produced four unanswered goals for Buffalo, as Buchanan, Ian MacKay, and Frank Brown all found the back of the net.
Brown, a former Wing player, suited up for the first time all season as he was activated off the PUP list with Justin Martin and Nick Weiss sent to the IR earlier in the day.
Brown went coast to coast, slipping his way past the Philadelphia defenders who were caught out of position for the breakaway opportunity.
Leading 7-2 heading into the second quarter, Crowley got things going for the Wings scoring his first of the night, ripping a shot past the glove of Vinc. Buffalo would respond by rattling off three goals to end the frame, capping off a 7-1 run.
Coming out of the break, Philadelphia would get first blood again, but immediately let Buffalo string four goals together. Fraser netted three goals in the third, showing off his versatile skill set.
His second of the game came off a feed from Smith in the two-man game, scoring in close against Goodleaf. After Smith scored just 48 seconds later, Higgins made his way back on the turf, and Fraser darted out off the bench in transition, receiving a beautiful pass in stride from Ian MacKay to complete the hat trick.
Fraser has had multiple jaw-dropping plays this season, but arguably his best on his fourth goal as the Bandits were on a five-minute major penalty kill. Matt Vinc sent a long pass down the field to Fraser in transition as he spun off Wing defenders and snuck a behind-the-back goal past Higgins.
Even though Philadelphia was down 14-4, they continued to fight as Matisz scored two power-play goals in just 34 seconds between the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter.
The Wings captain ignited a seven-goal fourth quarter, where they outscored the Bandits by four and scored three goals in 55 seconds after Vinc excited. Cory Vitarelli recorded the final two goals of regulation for the Wings, including a shot past Buchan with 0.1 seconds remaining on the clock.
Buffalo will quickly shift their focus to the Colorado Mammoth, as they will travel to Denver on Friday for a full day to prepare before Saturday’s 9 p.m. start.
Colorado has a 7-6 record and currently sits in second place in the west division behind the leading 9-3 San Diego Seals.