The Buffalo Bandits took on the Albany FireWolves at MVP Arena in the final week of the regular season. The FireWolves came into the game 3-14 and 0-8 at home. This was their last chance to get a win for the home crowd before looking to the 2023-2024 season. Conversely, the Bandits locked up the top seed in the East the week prior. However, they could take the #1 overall seed and exact revenge for a season-opening loss at home to Albany. A 16-10 victory accomplished those tasks for the Bandits, who finish the regular season at 14-4. The FireWolves drop to 3-15 and will have the top pick in the 2023 Entry Draft in the fall.
First half track meet sees Bandits in front
The pace of the game was extremely fast from the opening faceoff. Chase Fraser (3g, 3a; 1:34) started the scoring, and Nick Weiss (5:47) gave the Bandits a 2-0 lead. Ethan Walker (2g, 3a; 7:23) got the FireWolves on the board with a power play marker. Kyle Buchanan (1g, 2a; 8:02) put Buffalo up two, but Connor Kelly (4g, 3a; 8:47) cut the deficit to one. The teams traded another pair of goals to finish the first quarter, with Chris Cloutier (4g, 1a; 9:30) and Kelly’s second (10:32) finding the back of the net to make it 4-3 Bandits.
Kelly’s hat trick goal (2:04) and Hiana Thompson’s (1g, 3a; 3:28) follow-up gave the FireWolves a 5-4 lead early in the second quarter. Unfortunately for Albany, Buffalo would put the game out of reach, scoring nine of the next ten goals into the second half. Cloutier’s second and third (3:55; 7:35) and Fraser’s second (5:49) put the Bandits up 7-5. Jake Fox (1g, 3a; 7:59) narrowed the margin to one before Josh Byrne (3g, 5a) went back-to-back (11:04; 12:04) to push Buffalo’s lead to three going into halftime.
Bandits’ big run clinches top seed
The Bandits tacked on four more goals in the third quarter. Tehoka Nanticoke (1g, 1a; 1:23), Fraser’s hat trick goal (1:47), and Cloutier’s fourth (5:04) put Buffalo up 12-6. Dhane Smith recorded his 96th assist on Cloutier’s goal, setting a new NLL single-season record. Following the Cloutier goal, Albany lifted netminder Doug Jamieson in favor of Justin Geddie. Adam Bomberry greeted his former teammate with a goal in transition (5:57) to up the lead to seven. Kelly (11:40) finally broke the run by netting a power play marker for his fourth of the night.
Dhane Smith (2g, 4a: 1:38 power play), Byrne’s hat trick goal (3:59), and Smith again (6:52) rounded out the fourth quarter scoring for Buffalo. Albany countered with Walker’s second (3:09), Corson Kealey (1g, 1a; 9:58) and John Piatelli (1g, 1a; 14:02). The Bandits now have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They host Rochester (10-8) in the first round of the playoffs next week.
Other Stats of Note
Faceoffs: BUF 25; ALB 6
Shots on Goal: BUF 47; ALB 60
Max Adler (BUF): 11 Loose Balls (led all players)
Matt Vinc (BUF): 40 saves; Devlin Shanahan played the last 8 minutes, stopping 10 of 12 shots
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“Muffler” Mike Kostiuk was formally introduced to box lacrosse when he attended a New England Black Wolves game on a whim in 2016. Instantly hooked, he has since become an avid follower of the National Lacrosse League. Following the postponement of the 2019-2020 NLL season, he was offered the chance to share his wealth of statistical knowledge and unique insights with the lacrosse community at large. He cheerfully accepted, and currently serves as Edge of Philly’s correspondent for both the Albany FireWolves and New York Riptide.