Justin Ivey, NLL Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©
In the 2019 regular and postseason, the Buffalo Bandits held opponents to 10 or fewer goals 12 times. They won all 12 of those games. The Bandits finished the regular season 7-2 at home, and easily won rounds one and two as the host team. The offense seemed unstoppable at times this year, and the defense caused so much confusion in games that teams struggled to get good shots at the stellar goaltender Matt Vinc. All of this led up to the first game of the NLL Finals where they hosted the Calgary Roughnecks in front of almost 16,000 fans. The Roughnecks already visited Buffalo this year and were one of those teams kept at 10 goals, losing 12-10. Everything seemed to point in favor of the Bandits. They kept the trend going and for the 13th time this year, they held their opponent to 10 or fewer tallies, but Calgary showed a defense that matched Buffalo’s energy and they stole Game 1 on the road. Tight defense from both sides meant a low scoring affair, but Calgary capitalized on more offensive chances to put themselves in place to hoist the Cup next weekend in Calgary. Final Score: Calgary-10, Buffalo-7.
It was clear from the opening faceoff that this game was going to be physical and with a focus on defense. It took 8:35 before the first goal was scored. Rhys Duch (2G, 2A) buried a shot to the top corner to give Calgary the first score of the night. The Roughnecks clogged the middle of the floor, getting in the way of Buffalo shots. Finally, with 1:23 remaining in the quarter, Corey Small (2G, 1A) scored the equalizer for Buffalo. That was all the offense either team could muster in the first 15 minutes. At the end of the first quarter, Calgary and Buffalo were tied 1-1.
The second quarter continued in the same fashion. This time though, Buffalo struck first 9:39 in. Dhane Smith (1G, 1A) scored his only goal of the night on the assist from Shawn Evans (1G, 4A). The Calgary response came from none other than Duch, burying his second of the night with 3:07 remaining in the half. At halftime, Calgary and Buffalo were tied 2-2.
The scoring started a bit quicker after halftime. Evans gave Buffalo the lead for the second time on the night 4:16 in. But the lead was short lived. Calgary goalie Christian Del Bianco started an excellent clear with a pass to Reese Callies (1A) who found Dan MacRae (1G, 1A) for the transition goal. Almost six minutes passed before the next goal as each goaltender made save after save. Rather than a back and forth, the Roughnecks found some momentum. Curtis Dickson (1G, 1A) scored with 4:16 remaining and Dane Dobbie (3G, 3A) with just 10 seconds remaining in the third completing a three-goal third quarter run to take a two-goal lead into the fourth. At the end of three quarters, Calgary led Buffalo 5-3.
More goals were scored in the fourth quarter than in the previous three combined. The frustration from the low scoring game fermented into precision passing and excellent scoring chances. Dobbie increased the lead to three goals just 34 seconds in, but just over a minute later Small brought Buffalo back within two with the lone power play goal on the evening. Calgary then hit their stride, scoring three goals before the five-minute mark. Dobbie completed his hat trick before assisting Jesse King (1G, 3A). Just 35 seconds after that goal, Dan Taylor (1G) scored and suddenly the Roughnecks led 9-4. Buffalo needed an answer, and they found it. Josh Byrne (2G, 2A) scored two goals in a row and Chase Fraser (1G) scored his lone goal of the night 9:25 in to complete the Bandits’ own three-goal run. But 9-7 was as close as they were going to get. Del Bianco and the Calgary defense shut them out for the remaining five plus minutes and Mitch Wilde (1G) scored the empty netter with 1:26 remaining to bring us our final. Final Score: Calgary-10, Buffalo-7.
The Calgary Roughnecks host the Buffalo Bandits for Game 2 on Saturday, May 25 at 9:00 PM EST.