BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Bandits are bringing championship lacrosse back to Buffalo.
Sweeping the East finals with a 17-8 win against the Toronto Rock on Saturday in Hamilton, Ontario, the Bandits advanced the National Lacrosse League finals for the fourth time in six playoffs.
This will be Buffalo’s 12th championship appearance in 31 seasons. The Bandits won three North America Cups in the Major Indoor Lacrosse League from 1992-96, and an NLL Champion’s Cup in 2008, but has lost in its past three finals trips.
The Bandits will have home-floor advantage in the best-of-three championship series. It could be a rematch from last year’s finals, won by the Colorado Mammoth, who won the first game of this year’s West finals.
Following a 13-5 win in Game 1 against betting favorite Toronto on Friday night, Buffalo beat its rivals for a fourth time in five meetings this seedings, and a in a third playoff matchup since 2019. Buffalo has a 51-21 scoring margin, 10 goals per game, in three playoff victories against East rivals Rochester and Toronto.
Chris Cloutier had a sock trick (six goals) to lead the Bandits in the Game 2 win. Cloutier had four goals in the second quarter, when Buffalo went on a 7-goal run in a 3:49 span to break open a tie game. Cloutier also tallied two assists for an eight-point night.
Josh Byrne tallied 10 points (two goals, eight assists) to bring his playoff total to 27, one more than Dhane Smith, who recorded eight points (two goals, six assists) for the second night in a row. Tehoka Nanticoke scored a hat trick and had an assist, and Kyle Buchanan recorded four assists.
Matt Vinc stopped 33 of 41 shots, bringing his postseason save percentage to .856. The 40-year-old Canisius College graduate is the NLL’s all-time leader in playoff wins (27) and set a career-high for the postseason with 52 saves in Game 1 of the East finals.
Buffalo’s 51 goals in three playoff games are the most since the inaugural 1992 championship season when the Bandits scored 52. The Bandits scored 38 goals and allowed 31 in three playoff wins before last year’s NLL finals, where they were outscored 35-31 in three games.
Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.