The Bandits Are Champions Again

The Albany FireWolves and Buffalo Bandits met in the second game of the best of three series with the Wolves backs to the wall.  Buffalo, coming off a 12-8 victory the previous night were looking to generate energy from the sellout crowd of 19,000+ in Banditland, to repeat as NLL champions.

Led by an eleven point night from Dhane Smith (2g,9a) and a seven point night from Josh Byrne (3g,4a), the Bandits overcame a 6-5 halftime deficit to come away with the victory.

Albany got big nights from Ethan Walker (2g,5a), Tye Kurtz (2g,2a) and Alex Simmons (2g,4a).  Albany’s problems came in the second half when their offense dried up, being outscored 7-2.  To push the series to a game three they will sixty minutes from everybody.

The goaltending match-up had Doug Jamieson in net for Albany facing Matt Vinc in net for the Bandits.

An entertaining first half where the Bandits looked like they were going to run away with the game, only to have the FireWolves battle back to make a game of it, for a 9-7 Bandits lead at the half.

Josh Byrne had seven assists in the first half, while Nanticoke, Cloutier and Fraser had a pair of goals each.  Sam Firth scored three times, with Alex Simmons scoring a pair for the FireWolves.

Chase Fraser made a definite statement putting the team on his shoulders in the third quarter.   With Albany battling within one goal, Fraser scored three goals to pull the Bandits away.  What was even more impressive was each goal was in a different style, even including a hidden ball trick.

Albany didn’t give up, pushing on each possession aggressively.  But the Bandits weren’t going to be denied for their repeat.  The FireWolves fought back from a six goal deficit to come within two goals, but it just wasn’t enough.  Buffalo held on for a 15-13 win and the 2023-2024 NLL Championship.

To The Game:

The Bandits opened the scoring shorthanded when Kyle Buchanan fired a backhand shovel off a Josh Byrne pass at 1:58, but Patrick Kaschalk got it back for Albany in transition on a broken play at 4:54.

Buffalo came back when Dhane Smith fired a sidearm howitzer off a Josh Byrne feed from the outside at 7:56, followed by Brandon Robinson scoring from in close also off a Josh Byrne pass at 8:33.  Tehoka Nanticoke scored on the power-play wiring a shot to the top corner off a Dhane Smith feed at 10:46 for a three goal lead.

Alex Simmons answered for the FireWolves firing a high to low shot off a Sam Firth pass at 11:05, followed by Firth himself scoring with a quick stick off a Tye Kurtz pass at 14:57.

After one quarter, Buffalo 4 Albany 3.

Second Quarter:

Tehoka Nanticoke scored his second of the game with a great individual effort reaching around Doug Jamieson at 0:53 seconds, followed by Chase Fraser all alone off a long lead pass from Steve Priolo in transition at 4:14. 

Chris Cloutier added to the Buffalo lead with a backhand shovel off a Josh Byrne feed at 5:02, followed by Chase Fraser with a swim move backhand at 10:32.

Alex Simmons stopped the four goal run with a dive across the crease at 6:27.  It was originally called no goal on the floor, but on a coaches challenge it was deemed a good goal.

Chris Cloutier came back with a shot over Jamieson’s shoulder just 0:45 seconds later off a Josh Byrne pass, but Sam Firth got it back for the FireWolves from in close with a laser to the shortside at 8:29.

Firth’s third of the night was a screen shot from the outside off an Alex Simmons feed at 12:49, followed by a low to low laser from Travis Longboat off an Ethan Walker pass with just 0:00.5 seconds left in the half.

At the half, Buffalo 9 Albany 7.

Third Quarter:

The FireWolves opened the third quarter scoring with Travis Longboat scoring from in close off a Sam Firth pass at 2:32, but Dhane Smith answered back with a great individual effort trucking like a freight-train towards the net at 3:52, followed by Chase Fraser’s third of the game with a low to low shot at 5:30. 

Fraser then added his fourth of the night diving across the crease off a Chris Cloutier feed at 7:16.  Josh Byrne got on the board with a high to high shot to the corner at 8:53, then Chase Fraser scored on a hidden ball trick disguised by Josh Byrne at 9:19.

After three quarters, Buffalo 14 Albany 8.

Fourth Quarter:

Sam Firth opened the fourth quarter scoring with an outside shot to the far corner at 1:03, but Brandon Robinson finished a game of tic-tac-toe with Dhane Smith and Chris Cloutier converting a power-play goal from in close at 2:55.

Travis Longboat responded with a goal from in close off a Nathan Grenon feed at 3:08, followed by Alex Simmons diving across the crease unassisted at 4:59.  Tye Kurtz brought the FireWolves within three with blast off a Marshall Powless feed at 12:21, followed by Sam Firth’s fifth of the night with 0:07.5 seconds left in the game. 

Final score, Buffalo 15 Albany 13.

The Buffalo Bandits are Back to Back NLL Champions

The MVP of the Finals was Josh Byrne

The Three Stars:

1. Chase Fraser
2. Josh Byrne
3. Sam Firth

Game Stats:

  • Shots on goal were 51-49 in favor of Buffalo.
  • The faceoff battle went to Albany 17-15
  • The loose ball battle went to the FireWolves 75-62.
  • Albany went 2 for 5 on the power-play, while the Bandits went 2 for 3 also scoring a shorthanded goal.

Top Scorers:

Albany FireWolves:

  • Sam Firth 5g, 2a
  • Alex Simmons 3g, 4a
  • Ethan Walker 0g, 5a

Buffalo Bandits:

  • Josh Byrne 1g, 8a
  • Dhane Smith 2g,5a
  • Chase Fraser 5g, 2a

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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.