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 Buffalo Bandits

Bandits Defeat Roughnecks to Clinch Playoff Berth

April 14, 2024 - National Lacrosse League (NLL)
Buffalo Bandits News Release

Dhane Smith and Josh Byrne each tallied 7 points in the 14-7 win.

The Buffalo Bandits clinched their spot in the 2024 NLL Playoffs on Saturday night with a 14-7 win over the Calgary Roughnecks inside KeyBank Center.

Forwards Josh Byrne (2+5) and Dhane Smith (1+6) led the Bandits with seven points each in the victory. Chase Fraser (4+0) scored a game-high four goals while Chris Cloutier (3+1) and Kyle Buchanan (2+2) also posted four-point nights. Matt Vinc backstopped the Bandits with 43 saves on 50 shots.

The Roughnecks were led by Tyler Pace (2+2) and Jesse King (1+3), who each recorded four points. Christian Del Bianco posted 39 saves in 54:43 in net while Steve Fryer stopped one shot in 5:17.

"It's been a long season, tough grind," Byrne said. "I'm just proud of our guys for sticking with it. We could have folded up. A couple losses in a row there and it just feels like (now) we're playing our best ball."

The Bandits defense clamped down early against the Roughnecks and never let up as Buffalo held a 5-0 lead just a few minutes into the second quarter. Vinc made 18 saves and the defense totaled 10 blocked shots before Calgary finally found the back of the net halfway through the second.

Buffalo kept its foot on the pedal in the second, forcing Calgary to make a goaltending change with goals from Fraser, Chris Cloutier, and captain Steve Priolo. The Bandits tacked on one more before the end of the half, taking a 9-2 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Fraser gave the Bandits their largest lead of the night with 9:25 left in the third as he found a loose ball behind the Calgary goal and held off his defender for a wraparound shot to put Buffalo up 11-2.

Calgary put together a three-goal run to close out the third, but the Bandits scored three more times in the final quarter to secure the victory, including another highlight-reel worthy goal from Fraser with 4:54 to go in the game.

Following the game, Bandits coach John Tavares was happy with his group's performance.

"It was nice punching our own ticket and not relying on anyone else," Tavares said. "Another 60 full minutes I thought. Probably one of our best games of the year. Most proud of those seven goals against."

Here's more from the win.

Fan awards

The Bandits recognized their 2023-24 Fan of the Year, Tony Failla, ahead of the game. Failla got to present the team's 2023-24 Player Awards as voted on by the fans.

Faceoff specialist Connor Farrell was voted as the Breakout Bandit. Farrell has been key for the Bandits in getting possessions in vital moments down the stretch of the season.

Tehoka Nanticoke was selected as the Fan Favorite while Byrne, who leads the NLL with 126 points this season, was voted as the team's Most Valuable Player.

Hitting their stride

The Bandits' defense has gotten healthy at the right time. In the early stretch of the season, players were in and out with injuries and it forced Buffalo to play younger, less experienced defensemen. The team was aware of that and brought in the veteran presence of Paul Dawson at the trade deadline. With him on the defensive end, even forwards have noticed the presence he brings for the back end.

"I think bringing a guy like Pauly in really calms out defense down," Byrne said. "17 to 18 years in the league - it really speaks volumes to the difference that that made for us. Obviously, Vno feels more comfortable with him, he's a longtime friend and played with him a long time. That calming presence goes a long way on defense."

Buffalo's defense was clearly comfortable as they tied a season-high 14 blocked shots in the win, including 10 at the end of the first half.

"That's why we're winning," Tavares said. "Guys are doing the little things right, whether it's blocking shots or loose balls or running to the bench. We're just doing the little things right."

Next time out

The Bandits will hit the road for their regular-season finale against the Las Vegas Desert Dogs on Saturday. Faceoff is scheduled for 10 p.m. on ESPNU and ESPN+.

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