The Buffalo Bandits’ fourth-quarter lead against the Colorado Mammoth evaporated Saturday night in Game 2 of the NLL Finals. Colorado scored five unanswered goals in a span of 7:32 in the final quarter in an 11-8 win at Ball Arena.
The Game 3 of the best-of-three series will be played on Saturday, June 18 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo at 8 p.m.
Josh Byrne recorded a team-high four points (2+2) for Buffalo, including two goals in the second quarter. Dhane Smith and Chris Cloutier both finished with two goals and one assist. Smith became the second Bandit to eclipse 100 points in the playoffs with his first goal of the night.
Ian MacKay (1+2) and Kyle Buchanan (1+1) were the other goal scorers for Buffalo.
Goaltender Matt Vinc registered his first loss since April 30, posting 33 saves and a .750 save percentage. Vinc also dressed for his 38th playoff game, which tied the NLL record set by current Bandits head coach John Tavares during his playing career.
We've got Banditland on our side next weekend. Let's do this.
— Buffalo Bandits (@NLLBandits) June 12, 2022
Buffalo maintained the lead throughout Game 2 after being held scoreless in the first quarter. Dhane Smith scored the first Buffalo goal 4:30 into the second, which ignited a five-goal run in just under six minutes.
Down 6-4 heading into the break, the Mammoth’s defense came out and limited the Bandits to just two goals in the second half. Offensively, Colorado saw goal production from three other players after relying heavily on Zed Williams and Connor Robinson.
Kyle Buchanan opened the scoring in the fourth to create an 8-6 Bandits lead before Colorado stormed back. Buffalo had no answer for Mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward, who made 40 saves, including 10 in the fourth quarter.
With their season hanging in the balance, Colorado had the daunting task of attempting to alleviate the absence of leading scorer Eli McLaughlin, who was placed on injured reserve before faceoff. McLaughlin had gone off for 41 points (20+21) in five playoff games this season.
Williams (4+3) and Robinson (3+1) carried the load for Colorado through the third, as the duo was responsible for the first six Mammoth goals. Williams collected his game-high fourth goal that tied the game at 8-8 at the 4:04 mark of the fourth.
Rookie Brett McIntyre was second on the team with six points (2+4), three of which came in the final frame.
Colorado forward Tyson Gibson, the NLL Rookie of the Year, delivered a brilliant backdoor pass to Dylan Kinnear for the go-ahead goal 5:10 into the fourth to put Colorado ahead 9-8, a lead which they would not relinquish. Gibson followed it up by burying a shot past Vinc on the doorstep to go up two.
As Vinc was pulled for the extra attacker with 1:58 remaining, frustration loomed for Buffalo. Nick Weiss was assessed a minor penalty for a slashing and a five-minute high-sticking major.
Smith also was sent to the box with two seconds on the clock for goalie interference, resulting in both teams jawing at one another before the final buzzer sounded.
Both teams will have a week to rest and prepare before the winner-take-all Game 3 of the championship series. Buffalo is looking for their first title since 2008, while Colorado hasn’t won a championship since hoisting the trophy against the Bandits back in 2006.