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 Buffalo Bandits

Bandits Defeat FireWolves in Game 1 of NLL Finals

May 17, 2024 - National Lacrosse League (NLL)
Buffalo Bandits News Release

Dhane Smith recorded 11 points to lead Buffalo in the 12-8 win.

Dhane Smith said prior to Game 1 of the NLL Finals that the Buffalo Bandits would need to stick to their game plan and force the Albany FireWolves to adjust in order to secure a victory in Albany.

Despite finding themselves down 6-5 at halftime, Smith and the Bandits stuck to their plan, outscoring the FireWolves 7-2 in the second half to win the first game of the best-of-three series by a score of 12-8 inside MVP Arena on Friday.

The Bandits' alternate captain recorded a point on 11 of Buffalo's 12 goals, tallying two goals and nine assists in the win, while goaltender Matt Vinc made 37 saves, including 24 stops in the second half, to keep the FireWolves at bay.

Josh Byrne (3+4), Chris Cloutier (2+4), Ian MacKay (1+1), and Tehoka Nanticoke (1+1) also recorded multi-point nights while Chase Fraser, Kyle Buchanan, and Dylan Robinson each added a goal.

Albany was led by Ethan Walker, who tallied a seven-point performance (2+5), and rookies Alex Simmons (2+4) and Tye Kurtz (2+2). Jamieson stopped 44 of 55 shots in 57:39 of action.

"We struggled at first," Smith said during his postgame interview with TSN's Brianne Foley. "... We were getting a little bit frustrated early, and we found our way in the second half. But it was the defense that held us accountable and kept us going."

Buffalo will return home to Banditland for Game 2 of the Finals on Saturday and will look to take home the NLL Cup for the second consecutive season and sixth time in franchise history.

Smith said the key for the Bandits will be to erase this game from their minds and reset with a chance to sweep the series in Buffalo.

"We got to reset," he said. "Get some fluids in us. ... And just get back at it and play our game."

The Bandits and FireWolves exchanged goals in the opening quarter, resulting in a 4-4 tie after one. Albany opened the scoring on the first possession of the game as Kurtz picked up a loose ball in front of the Bandits' net and beat Vinc 35 seconds in. The Bandits answered back just over two minutes later when Byrne fed Nanticoke, who buried a quick shot from in front of the crease to tie the score at 1-1.

Buffalo took advantage of its power-play opportunities in the first quarter, going 2-for-3 on the man advantage. Byrne found the back of the net as time expired on the Bandits' first power play of the night before he and Smith each capitalized on the next two power plays to give Buffalo a 4-3 lead. Walker scored his second goal with 21 seconds remaining in the frame to tie the score.

Cloutier kicked off the second-quarter scoring as he beat Jamieson with a fake in front of the net to retake the lead, but Travis Longboat and Simmons responded with goals of their own to give the FireWolves their 6-5 lead at the half.

Cloutier tallied his second of the night at the 4:33 mark of the third before Vinc made an incredible save on Joe Nardella in front of the crease to ignite Buffalo's 7-2 run.

"You know what, he's like a fine wine. He just keeps getting better, especially in important games like this," Smith said about Vinc's performance.

Buchanan, who posted eight shots and 11 loose-ball recoveries in the win, was credited with the game-winning goal after he received the ball from Smith and beat Jamieson to give the Bandits a two-goal lead with 7:56 remaining in the fourth. Byrne, Smith, and Robinson scored insurance goals as Albany was unable to mount a comeback.

Here's more from the win.

1. Smith surpassed Tavares as the all-time playoff assist leader with his nine assists. Tavares previously held the record with 116 career playoff assists. Smith now has 120.

"I just tried to be aggressive," Smith said. "And you know what, my teammates helped me out tremendously. They get me open. I was just trying to make plays out there and I was able to do that tonight."

2. The Bandits have now won 10 of their last 11 games, dating back to March 8 when Buffalo secured a 15-14 overtime win over Saskatchewan. They will look for their ninth consecutive victory when they welcome the FireWolves to KeyBank Center on Saturday.

3. Byrne was named the NLL's Most Valuable Player for the 2023-24 season prior to the game. The MVP recorded nine shots, nine loose-ball recoveries, and one caused turnover in addition to his seven points.

4. The Bandits will host a Party in the Plaza ahead of Game 2 on Saturday. The festivities in Alumni Plaza will begin at 5 p.m. and continue until opening faceoff at 7:30.

The event will feature food, drinks, and outdoor activations in addition to live music on the stage from Cami and the Fringe beginning at 5:30 p.m. Fans can also take photos alongside an Alpha-Lit Banditland display as well as a 360 Fan Cam and visit the Buffalo AKG Art Truck's sign-making station.

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