The Buffalo Bandits broke out of their two-game funk in style, with a statement 18-9 victory over the Georgia Swarm on Saturday to clinch the top overall seed. Buffalo will now have home field advantage throughout the NLL Playoffs.
Matt Vinc, who has started every game for Buffalo this year, stopped 28 shots at Gas South Arena to claim sole possession of third place on the all-time single-season save leaderboards. Vinc now has 715 saves in between the pipes and will need 37 more in April 30’s regular-season finale to break Anthony Cosmo’s record of 752.
Vinc also made his 9,000th career save, becoming the first NLL goaltender to ever do so.
Matt Vinc doing Matt Vinc things. 🔥
— Buffalo Bandits (@NLLBandits) April 17, 2022
Buffalo improved to 14-3 on the year with the win. Ten different Bandits found the back of the net as Buffalo tied their season-high with 18 goals.
“We needed a big bounce-back game tonight after the last two losses, and I think we delivered on both sides of the ball tonight,” Bandits forward Josh Byrne said after the game on ESPN+.
Buffalo’s Dhane Smith led all players with nine points (2+7) as he inches closer to breaking the NLL’s single-season points record of 137, a mark he set in 2016.
Smith needs just three points in Buffalo’s final game to accomplish that feat. Through 17 games, Smith has 41 goals and an NLL-record 94 assists.
Chris Cloutier was the club’s Heavyweight Player of the Game, pouring in a season-high eight points (3+5). He posted his first hat trick since February 18.
Byrne and Connor Fields both had six points (3+3). Kyle Buchanan (1+4) and Tehoka Nanticoke (2+3) added five points each for Buffalo.
Nanticoke and Fields joined Smith, Byrne and Chase Fraser in the 30-goal club. Buffalo is the first team in the NLL to feature five 30-goal scorers.
After holding a one goal lead over Georgia through the first quarter, Buffalo netted eight goals in the second – a season-high mark in the NLL – to jump out to a commanding 11-6 lead.
Offensively, Buffalo peppered Swarm goaltenders Mike Poulin and Craig Wende with a season-high 65 shots. On the back end, Buffalo limited Georgia to just 37 shots, which was also a team-best this year.
For Georgia, Lyle Thompson scored just once, but dished out a game-high six assists. Miles Thompson (2+1) and Jordan MacIntosh (1+2) chipped in with three points apiece.
Poulin, the Swarm’s starting goaltender, was credited with the loss playing the first 25 minutes. He allowed 10 goals on 27 shots. Wende went the rest of the way, making 30 saves.
After Brendan Bomberry scored the game’s first goal for Georgia, the Bandits responded with goals from Cloutier, Byrne, and Steve Priolo. Miles Thompson scored for the Swarm to bookend the scoring in the first quarter.
Georgia then netted two goals in a span of 14 seconds to open the second quarter and take a 4-3 lead. The Bandits came back with eight of the next 10 goals in the quarter, including six in a row to build a five-goal cushion they would not relinquish.
Buffalo outscored Georgia 7-3 in the second half, starting with a power-play strike from Byrne on the power-play four minutes into the third quarter.
The play of the game came from Ian MacKay 4:08 into the fourth quarter. As he stormed out of the box after his holding-the-stick penalty concluded, he knocked Swarm transition player Bryan Cole to the turf to create a 2-on-1 scoring opportunity. He buried his shot to make it a 15-8 game.
Georgia drops to 8-8 on the season, making things even more interesting for the fourth seed in the East. Albany and Philadelphia trail Georgia in the standings, but both teams also have eight wins, and Panther City is just behind them with seven. The top four seeds in the East and top three seeds in the West will make the playoffs, along with the club from either division with the next-best record.
Buffalo will have extra time to prepare for Fan Appreciation Night at KeyBank Center. Following a scheduled bye week, they’ll face the Toronto Rock on April 30. Tickets are on sale now.