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 Buffalo Bandits

Bandits Host Calgary for Regular-Season Home Finale on Saturday

April 12, 2024 - National Lacrosse League (NLL)
Buffalo Bandits News Release

The Buffalo Bandits will host the Calgary Roughnecks at KeyBank Center on Saturday for Fan Appreciation Night. Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m. on CW23 and ESPN+. Radio coverage can be found on WWKB 1520.

Buffalo will play in front of a sold-out crowd on Saturday and goaltender Matt Vinc knows the energy Banditland can bring is unlike any other.

"First off, I'm not surprised, but it's definitely a huge advantage," Vinc said. "It's definitely gonna give you goosebumps, especially when you're waiting in the tunnel, waiting to be called out. And then actually seeing the crowd, it gets the adrenaline pumping a little bit faster."

The Bandits return home to Buffalo following a three-game road trip and a 13-11 win over the Colorado Mammoth last week. Josh Byrne tallied the game-tying goal with 7:03 remaining in the fourth before Smith scored the game winner and tacked on an empty-net power-play goal to close out the game.

Despite the win, forward Kyle Buchanan would like to see the group put together a full 60-minute effort against the Roughnecks.

"I don't know that we've put a full 60 in yet this year," Buchanan said. "I think we're still a group that can be better. ... I think it's decision making and a team first mentality that are gonna get us there. The effort's clearly there but I think there's just some small fine-tuning we need to do and keep building towards the playoffs."

The Bandits (9-7) currently sit in fifth in the NLL standings at 9-7 ahead of their matchup with the Roughnecks (7-9), who are on the outside looking in for a playoff spot.

Here's more before the game.

Fan Appreciation Night

Fan Appreciation Night will feature in-game promotions and giveaways for fans as well as pregame activities in the concourse.

The first 10,000 fans in attendance will receive an official team photo poster. For more information on what you can expect, click here.

MVP candidates

Both Smith and Byrne are strong candidates for MVP this season. Byrne's 119 points through 16 games lead the NLL and Smith is currently third overall in points and leading the league in assists with 85.

"They're stars that keep improving each year which is amazing and that's a testament to them," Buchanan said. "I don't know too many stars like them who put in the work outside of the arena, are really good with their teammates, and really want to include the other guys in the offense.

"... Obviously, they want their shots to drop but if Dhane goes zero goals and six assists and we win a game, he's still happy. Obviously, he wants to improve but that's what I think I love about them the most is they're really team-first guys, which is really special."

Defense takes shape

With two games left in the regular season, the Bandits defense has come together. Many players have dealt with injuries this season, but Buffalo saw the return of Justin Robinson and Justin Martin, who were activated from injured reserve last week against the Mammoth.

Vinc knows the defensive group has been growing this season.

"We added a few new faces lately in getting a couple guys back that were big parts of our championship team last year," Vinc said. "It took a little bit of a learning curve to get some of those new guys that were added from the draft or trades earlier, but we have guys who've played big minutes earlier in the year and I think it's playing dividends now."

Rookies Cam Wyers and Zach Belter have gotten more playing time throughout this season due to other defenders being in and out of the lineup. Along with them and the late trade acquisition of Paul Dawson, the defensive core has been developing more chemistry in hopes of another championship run.

Scouting Calgary

The Roughnecks are 2-1 in their last three games after defeating the Albany FireWolves in late March and splitting a home-and-home series with Saskatchewan last Friday and Saturday.

Calgary has been led by the duo of Jesse King and Tyler Pace this season. King leads the Roughnecks in points with 93 while Pace leads the team in goals with 31.

Christian Del Bianco has averaged 10.48 goals against and a .800 save percentage through 16 games this season.

"People always talk about the goalie union, and I feel I've developed a pretty good relationship with Christian even though we don't get to play each other that often," Vinc said. "You have a lot of respect for his game and what he's been able to do and be a big part of his team's success. He's the MVP of the league for a reason, so you just kind of tip your hat to him."

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