Byrne’s Return Sparks Bandits To Championship

The Bandits’ potent offense has been a catalyst for their success this year.  Dhane Smith has carried the load for Buffalo this postseason with a league-high 40 points (13g,27a).  Josh Byrne has missed both games of the NLL Finals due to injury but others have stepped up in his place. Chris Cloutier (27 points), Kyle Buchanan (21 points) and Tehoka Nanticoke (20 points) have been big contributors for Buffalo this postseason.

Lack of discipline was a key factor in the Bandits’ first loss of the postseason. Colorado was able to score five power-play goals in the 16-10 victory.

“We had a good start, we added some power-play goals,” head coach John Tavares said after Game two. “All of a sudden we just took penalty after penalty after penalty after penalty.”

Meanwhile for the Mammoth, four players have eclipsed the 25-point mark so far, as the team continues to feature each one nightly.  Seeing the team produce three hat trick efforts Monday amidst eight different scorers, Colorado will need to continue to utilize its options if they hope to solve veteran netminder Matt Vinc Saturday night in Game 3.

For Colorado, with Ryan Lee’s 34 points (11g, 23a) representing the second highest total among all players during the 2023 NLL postseason, combined with Eli McLaughlin (14g, 16a), Zed Williams (12g, 15a) and Connor Robinson (11g, 14a), the team’s top scorers represent four of five Mammoth players who have logged at least one point in all six postseason contests,

The goalie match-up once again had Dillon Ward in net for the Mammoth against Matt Vinc in net for the Bandits.

The combination of Josh Byrne (4g,3a) and Dhane Smith (2g,7a) proved too much for the Colorado on this night.  The Bandits led from wire to wire, with Byrne scoring four goals, with Smith and Chase Fraser adding two each.  Matt Vinc was sensational in net making 46 saves in the game for the 13-4 win.  Buffalo wins their first championship since 2008.

To The Game:

The Bandits opened the scoring with Tehoka Nanticoke charging to the net off a Josh Byrne feed, putting it behind Dillon Ward just 1:40 into the game.  The Mammoth tied it up when Ryan Lee dove across the goal crease off a Connor Robinson pass at 5:06.

After the majority of the quarter being a track-meet with no scoring, the Bandits finally converted on the power-play with less than 0:01 second on the clock.  Josh Byrne fired a Dhane Smith pass from the outside beating Dillon Ward for the tally.

After one quarter, Buffalo 2 Colorado 1.

Second Quarter:

Chase Fraser opened the second quarter scoring firing a shot low to the shortside while diving toward the crease off a Justin Robinson pass at 2:27. 

The teams spent the majority of the quarter going end to end, with both defenses and goaltenders standing tall once again.

Chase Fraser scored his second of the night from just beyond the top of the crease to the shortside off a Dhane Smith pass at 10:20, but Colorado answered back when Eli McLaughlin scored with a laser from the outside off a Zed Williams pass at 12:32.

After two quarters, Buffalo 4 Colorado 2.

Third Quarter:

Josh Byrne opened the third quarter scoring with two quick goals. The first was a low to low shot from the outside off a Dhane Smith feed at 0:28 seconds, followed by a blast from the outside again off a Dhane Smith feed at 3:14. 

The Mammoth got on the board when Eli McLaughlin fired a shot from the outside off a Connor Robinson feed at 10:33, but Josh Byrne scored his fourth of the night into the top corner off a Dhane Smith pass at 11:02 to restore the four goal lead.  Dhane Smith added one of his own from in close off a Chase Fraser feed at 12:42. 

After three quarters, Buffalo 8 Colorado 3.

Fourth Quarter:

Chris Cloutier scored on the power-play to open the fourth quarter scoring, but was answered back by Colorado when Chris Wardle dove from behind the net putting it in at 3:51, the play was challenged, but was deemed a good goal. 

The Bandits stormed back with Matt Spanger scoring in transition off an Ian MacKay feed at 4:10, followed by Brad McCulley scoring off a Dhane Smith pass at 5:28.  Buffalo continued the onslaught with Max Adler scoring off a faceoff win just 0:11 seconds later.  Dhane Smith scored his second of the night on a great individual effort off a Chris Cloutier pass at 9:19. 

Colorado would press, but Matt Vinc was sensational on this night.  The Buffalo defense didn’t allow the Mammoth any room in the offensive zone all night.

Final score, Buffalo 13 Colorado 4.

The Three Stars:

  1. Dhane Smith
  2. Josh Byrne
  3. Matt Vinc

***Of Note***
The Buffalo Bandits set a record allowing the fewest goals ever in a championship game.

Game Stats:

  • Buffalo outshot the Mammoth 60-50.
  • The faceoff battle was won by the Bandits 20-7.
  • The loose ball battle went to Buffalo 76-68.
  • The Mammoth was 1 for 1 on the power-play, while Buffalo was 2 for 3.

Top Scorers:

Colorado Mammoth:

  • Eli McLaughlin 2g, 1a
  • Connor Robinson 1g, 2a
  • Chris Wardle 1g, 0a

Buffalo Bandits:

  • Dhane Smith 2g, 7a
  • Josh Byrne 4g, 3a
  • Chase Fraser 2g, 1a

Don’t forget to check us out every Sunday night at 9pm (ET) on www.eopsports.com

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.

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