The Colorado Mammoth (3-2) headed to the KeyBank Center in Buffalo for a rematch of last year’s NLL final. Buffalo (4-0) is looking to avenge last year’s championship loss to the Mammoth in a best of three series this year.
A Tale of the Tape:
The Bandits are playing in their third consecutive NLL Finals dating back to 2019 and seeking their first championship since 2008. Josh Byrne is tied with Chris Cloutier for the team lead in playoff goals with 11. Tehoka Nanticoke (7), Dhane Smith (6), Kyle Buchanan (4) and Chase Fraser (4) have also led the club’s offensive efforts. Byrne (11g,15a) and Smith (6g,20a) are tied in scoring with an NLL best 26 playoff points.
Colorado, the fourth seed in the West, advanced to the Finals with a 9-7 victory over Calgary in Game 3 of the West Conference Finals last Saturday. Ryan Lee (5g, 16a), Eli McLaughlin (8g,9a), Zed Williams (8g,8a), Connor Robinson (7g,8a) and Chris Wardle (5g,3a) lead the offense for the Mammoth.
***Announced prior to gametime, Josh Byrne was put on the Injury Reserve***
The goalie match-up had two perennial All-Stars against each other. Dillon Ward was in the net for Colorado vs. Matt Vinc in net for Buffalo.
Buffalo jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead, and looked to be in total control of the game. To their credit, Colorado didn’t panic, fighting their way back to an 8-7 lead at the half.
The Bandits roared out in the third quarter scoring four goals to take the lead. While Dhane Smith was the catalyst in the first half, Tehoka Nanticoke came alive in the second.
Matt Vinc wasn’t the focal point in this game, but he came up with the big saves when he needed to in the fourth quarter, helping the Bandits to a 13-12 victory.
To The Game:
The Bandits got on the board first with two quick goals from Dhane Smith. A beautiful quick stick off a Chris Cloutier feed at 0:41 seconds, followed by a blast at 2:02 for a 2-0 lead.
Buffalo increased the lead when Chase Fraser grabbed a rebound from Dillon Ward off a Justin Robinson shot, tip toeing around the crease line, putting it in at 4:36. The Bandits continued to pour it on with Dhane Smith scoring his third of the night off a Chris Cloutier pass at 8:18.
The Mammoth finally got on the board when Evan Downey scored to the far side of Matt Vinc off a Tim Edwards pass in transition at 10:11, followed by Ryan Lee scoring on a bounce shot off a Zed Williams feed at 11:36. The Bandits answered back with Dhane Smith’s fourth of the quarter, firing a laser past Dillon Ward off an Ian MacKay pass 0:25 seconds later.
Colorado scored twice more before the quarter ended. Zed Williams diving across the crease off a Ryan Lee feed at 14:09, followed by Eli McLaughlin scoring off a Tyson Gibson pass at 14:57.
After one quarter, Buffalo 5 Colorado 4.
Buffalo opened the second quarter with a beautiful twister from Ian MacKay off a Kyle Buchanan pass at 1:29. The Mammoth stormed back with a howitzer from Tyson Gibson off an Eli McLaughlin pass at 2:39, and a power-play goal from Connor Robinson off an Eli McLaughlin pass at 3:12.
Colorado took their first lead of the night on the power-play with Tyson Gibson firing a shot to the top corner off an Eli McLaughlin feed at 8:45, but Brad McCulley tied it up with a shot to the far side off a Tehoka Nanticoke pass at 9:44. The Mammoth regained the lead with a beautiful individual effort from Ryan Lee off a Dylan Kinnear pass at 12:34.
At the half, Colorado 8 Buffalo 7.
Buffalo got on the board quick with Tehoka Nanticoke scoring from in close off an Ian MacKay feed at 0:24 seconds, followed by Chase Fraser scoring shorthanded with a low to low shot that beat Dillon Ward at 1:31. The Bandits increased their lead with Dhane Smith’s fifth of the game off a Nick Weiss feed at 3:01, followed by Tehoka Nanticoke scoring from the top of the crease off a Chris Cloutier feed 0:23 seconds later.
Colorado stopped the Bandits run with a howitzer from Eli Mclauglin off a Ryan Lee pass at 4:06, but Buffalo answered back with Tehoka Nanticoke scoring from in close off an Ian MacKay feed at 7:00.
After three quarters, Buffalo 12 Colorado 9.
The Mammoth opened the fourth quarter scoring with Zed Williams converting a Ryan Lee pass on the power-play at 0:38 seconds, but the Bandits answered also on the power-play. Chase Fraser, with another laser, off a Chris Cloutier feed at 3:13, but Colorado stormed back when Chris Wardle converted a Connor Robinson pass just 0:24 seconds later. Colorado converted another power-play when Eli McLaughlin beat Matt Vinc off a Ryan Lee pass at 9:42 to bring this to a one-goal game again.
The Mammoth threw everything at the Bandits in the final minutes, but Buffalo was able to hold on for the one-goal win.
Final score, Buffalo 13 Colorado 12.
The Three Stars:
1. Dhane Smith
2. Tehoka Nanticoke
3. Eli McLaughlin
- Shots on goal favored Buffalo 54-43.
- The faceoff battle went to the Bandits 17-12.
- The loose ball battle went to Buffalo 70-61
- Colorado and Buffalo both went 4 for 5 on the power-play, but the Bandits also scored a shorthanded goal.
- Eli McLaughlin 3g, 3a
- Ryan Lee 2g, 4a
- Zed Williams 2g, 3a
- Ian MacKay 1g, 6a
- Dhane Smith 5g, 1a
- Kyle Buchanan 0g, 6a
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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.