Matt Vinc has been in between the posts for the Buffalo Bandits since the 2018-19 season. When he came to Buffalo, he was heralded by general manager Steve Dietrich as “the best goaltender that’s ever played the game,” a claim Vinc’s resume supports.
Vinc came to Banditland as a six-time Goaltender of the Year. He’s won the award twice more as a Bandit (an NLL record) and delivered a signature performance to clinch a fourth NLL Cup last June, when he allowed just four goals in Buffalo’s Game 3 win over Colorado.
Vinc had been motivated to win a championship in Buffalo. He has history in the area, having played collegiately at Canisius and having grown up less than an hour away in St. Catharines, Ontario. Yet even when he added that accomplishment to his already impressive resume, the goaltender walked off the floor following the Game 3 win feeling like he had more to give.
“We won and it didn’t feel like it was it for me,” Vinc said.
Vinc signed a two-year extension to return to Buffalo this past offseason. His goalie partner, Devlin Shanahan, believes Vinc is still at the top of his game at 41 years old.
“He’s only getting better as he’s getting older,” Shanahan said. “Watching him, the calmness he has in the net, the mindset he has on the game as a whole. He’s the quarterback of the team and it’s something you want to emulate.”
Vinc has continued to etch his name in the record books through the first three games of this season. He became the first Bandits goalie to notch 50 wins with the organization and moved to fifth on the NLL’s all-time games played list. If he plays every regular-season game, he will end the campaign third on that list behind head coach John Tavares.
At the center of Vinc’s longevity has been his family, another motivating factor in his return. When he won the championship last year he knew exactly where they were sitting in the stands.
“Seeing my family’s reaction after I won, it’s just all that stuff that you want to bottle up and try to do it again and relive it because it was such a great moment,” Vinc said.
Vinc’s family seeing him play was key when he signed for Buffalo in 2019 and when he re-signed in 2023. He started his career in San Jose before going to Rochester. After that organization moved to Halifax, Vinc knew he wanted to play closer to home.
“When I came to Buffalo, I had a young daughter only and now having a son, it just means so much to be able to share these moments in my career with my family,” Vinc said. “To be able to do that on a regular basis in the best atmosphere in sports – not just lacrosse, it’s one of the best atmospheres in sports – it’s truly an amazing experience and I’m very thankful for my time in Buffalo.”
Vinc has never had to face a season alone. A goalie team is key in preparation in the NLL and Vinc has had many over his 18 years in the league. In that time, his relationships have changed with different partners as he’s transitioned from mentee to mentor.
For the 2023-24 season, Shanahan and Steve Orleman are the two 24-year-olds under Vinc’s wings. Orleman, the 19th-overall pick in the 2018 NLL Entry Draft, was acquired this summer in a trade with New York.
“I see it as a learning opportunity for me,” Orleman said. “Coming in and getting to learn from a guy like Matt Vinc, it doesn’t happen very often for goalies in this league. There is only one Matt Vinc in this league. So, to come in and try to soak up as much as I can from him is truly an awesome opportunity for me.”
Shanahan and Orleman have both benefitted from Vinc’s preparation and “scout-like” approach.
“Matt is amazing when it comes to shooters,” Orleman said. “He keeps a book on every single guy in the league that has shot on him. He remembers it, writes it down, and goes over it. I don’t think there’s another goalie in the league that does that.”
Vinc’s “book” is a key aspect to his game. He knows the tendencies of shooters going against him and he can anticipate shots because of how much film he’s watched and how well he knows his opponents. Now with two young goalies behind him, he can get an inside view of the next generation of shooters, too.
“You miss out on some of these guys, even just what hand they are, what are some of their tendencies,” Vinc said. “They (Shanahan and Orleman) know these guys, they’ve grown up playing with them, whether they’re teammates or they played against them for years. It’s been great help for me and it’s kind of like divide and conquer.”
Buffalo’s goalies will all play a part in their season’s success. In between the posts you will see Matt Vinc, old reliable, playing for that championship feeling.