Bandits Outlast Mammoth In A Special Teams Frenzy

Cover photo courtesy of the Buffalo Bandits

The Colorado Mammoth (1-3) visited the Buffalo Bandits (2-2) in NLL action Saturday evening at the KeyBank Center in front of 17,000+ fans.  This is the first meeting since the Bandits defeated the Mammoth in Game 3 of the 2023 NLL Finals to take home their fifth championship in team history.

Both teams have uncharacteristically struggled early this season, and were looking to get rolling in this game.  Colorado returns five of their seven leading point scorers from last season. Connor Robinson (7g,5a) and Eli McLaughlin (5g,7a) lead the Mammoth with 12 points each this season while Tyson Gibson (4g,7a) and Connor Kelly (5g,3a) are also having productive years.  Buffalo counters with an equally as impressive lineup with Josh Byrne (8g,12a), Dhane Smith (1g,19a), Chris Cloutier (7g,2a), Chase Fraser (4g,3a) and Tehoka Nanticoke (4g,3a).

“I don’t think it’s any shock it’s going to be a good game. Over the last two seasons the Bandits and the Mammoth have created a bit of a rivalry, especially now with the unified standings – there’s no East and West. So, I think it’s going to be that much more physical and that much more intense. It could be a goaltender battle. It could be a battle of the offenses or the defenses.  For us, we’ve got to game plan the same as every week. It doesn’t matter who we play, we’re focused on us.”

Bandits forward Brandon Robinson

The goaltending matchup had a familiar battle of foes.  Dillon Ward started in the cage for the Mammoth against Matt Vinc in net for the Bandits.

This was a game that showed how important special teams were.  In a game where both the Bandits and the Mammoth scored three shorthanded goals and two power-play goals each, no lead was safe.

The Bandits opened up a 7-1 lead in the first half on two each from Josh Byrne and Chase Fraser.  The Mammoth scratched and clawed their way back through their special teams to bring the game within three goals in the fourth.   Matt Vinc was spectacular in net, closing the door on the Mammoth uprising.  Buffalo held on for the 12-8 victory.

To The Game:

In a back and forth start to the game, both goalies looked sharp.  Colorado was awarded a penalty shot early.  The Bandits jumped off the bench early on a change during a Robert Hope breakaway, interfering with the play.  Eli McLaughlin took the shot for the Mammoth, but was calmly saved by Matt Vinc at 4:41.

Buffalo got on the board first on a delayed penalty when Josh Byrne blasted a shot from the outside off a Chase Fraser pass at 7:05.  The Bandits increased the lead on the power-play when Chase Fraser fired a shot from in close off a Dhane Smith flip pass with just 0:09.6 seconds left in the quarter.

After one quarter, Buffalo 2 Colorado 0.

Second Quarter:

A milestone was achieved at the beginning of the second quarter.  Dhane Smith vacuumed up his 800th career loose ball.

Buffalo scored during 4 on 4 action when Brad McCulley quick sticked a Chase Fraser pass 2:34, followed by Josh Byrne with his second of the night.  Byrne stepped out of the penalty box, sprinted to the net and finished a Dhane Smith feed at 3:52.

Chase Fraser scored his second of the night with a quick low to low shot to the far side of Dillon Ward off a Josh Byrne feed at 6:06.  The goal was Chase Fraser’s 100th career goal.

The Bandits continued the onslaught when Tehoka Nanticoke scored from the high slot with a high to low shot shorthanded off a Josh Byrne pass at 9:06.

Colorado finally got on the board on a two man advantage when Zed Williams scored unassisted at 9:38, but Dhane Smith came right back shorthanded converting a Brad McCulley pass at 10:24.

At the half, Buffalo 7 Colorado 1.

Third Quarter:

Buffalo got on the board first in the third quarter when Josh Byrne scored his third of the night at 0:22 seconds.  Originally called off for being in the crease, the Bandits challenged and the call was overturned. 

Colorado answered when Eli McLaughlin quick sticked a Connor Kelly pass at 1:19, but Dhane Smith scored his second of the night with a low to low blast off a Josh Byrne pass at 2:20. 

The Mammoth then scored three shorthanded goals as Paul Dawson was serving a 5 minute cross checking penalty.  Eli McLaughlin scored quickly in transition off a Joey Cupido pass at 5:56, followed by Tim Edwards scoring unassisted just 0:10 seconds later.  Connor Kelly scored the third shorthanded goal in transition with a 360 spin move off a Joey Cupido pass at 8:50.

Chase Fraser then got called for a 5 minute illegal body check penalty for the Bandits.  Brad McCulley scored his second of the night shorthanded off a Chris Cloutier pass at 10:31, but Eli McLaughlin scored on the power-play with a laser to the top corner off a Tyson Gibson pass at 14:18.

After three quarters, Buffalo 10 Colorado 6.

Fourth Quarter:

The Bandits opened the fourth quarter when Tehoka Nanticoke quick sticked a Josh Byrne pass while taking a Paul Dawson hit at 7:37, but the Mammoth answered with a howitzer from Connor Kelly from the outside 0:18 seconds later.  Colorado then added another in transition when Kelly scored again at 8:36 off an Eli McLaughlin feed.

Kyle Buchanan added one more for the Bandits off a rebound from a Dhane Smith shot at 13:23 to finish the scoring.

Final score, Buffalo 12 Colorado 8.

The Three Stars:

1. Josh Byrne
2. Eli McLaughlin
3. Brad McCulley

Game Stats:

  • Shots on goal were tied 57-57.
  • The faceoff battle went to the Mammoth 16-9.
  • The loose ball battle went to Colorado 63-58.
  • Colorado went 2 for 6 on the power-play, and scored three shorthanded goals.
  • Buffalo went 2 for 5 on the power-play, also scoring three shorthanded goals.

Top Scorers:

Colorado Mammoth:

  • Eli McLaughlin 3g, 2a
  • Connor Kelly 3g, 1a
  • Tim Edwards 1g, 1a

Buffalo Bandits:

  • Josh Byrne 3g, 4a
  • Dhane Smith 2g, 5a
  • Brad McCulley 2g, 4a

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Gary Groob
Gary Groob

Gary Groob has been involved with Lacrosse for the majority of his life, whether playing, coaching, or covering the sport for the media.

An avid fan, with a real drive about helping to “grow the game”, Gary became part of podcasts about the game in 2010. Through the podcasts, Mr. Groob was given an opportunity to write about lacrosse, and the rest as they say, is history.

Through many miles (flying and driving) Gary has made inroads with the National Lacrosse League, Major Series Lacrosse League, the Ontario Lacrosse Association, as well as the Arena Lacrosse League, covering the leagues, their teams, and players, working for, and in concert with all of them.

In the year 2020, Mr. Groob was made the media person for the Arena Lacrosse League, voted onto the board of directors of the Brampton Excelsiors Lacrosse Club, as well as being made administrator of the Lacrosse page “Global Lacrosse” with a membership of 9000 members in over 90 Countries. Gary was also made an administrator of Lacrosse History Past Present and Future in 2022.

Mr. Groob co-hosts a weekly Lacrosse show on Spanglish Sports World, and ZingoTV channel 250, as well as writes a weekly lacrosse column for La Portada Canada News (both in print, and online).

Gary also hosts a Lacrosse talk show and podcast for The Edge of Philly Sports Network, seen live Sunday nights at 9pm (ET), and archived on the Edge of Philly YouTube page, as well as Spotify.

Mr. Groob’s other sports interests include Hockey, Football, Boxing, Wrestling, and Baseball, competing competitively in Boxing and Wrestling for many years.