NLL: Bandits headed to East Division final

Matt Vinc makes a save. Buffalo Bandits vs. New England Black Wolves at KeyBank Center, May 4, 2019. (Photo by Sara Schmidle)

Dhane Smith, Shawn Evans and Matt Vinc lead the Bandits to Eastern Division final

Saturday night the Buffalo Bandits moved ahead in their quest for the NLL Cup by defeating the New England Blackwolves 13-6 in front of 11,776 fans at the KeyBank Center. This marks the fourth time this season the Bandits have defeated New England, and a streak of eight that started on February 19, 2017.

The Bandits wasted no time in getting the offense rolling as rookie Ian MacKay started the scoring. Dhane Smith and Shawn Evans would follow to give Buffalo a three-goal lead just 2:31 into the game.

Buffalo controlled the pace of the game, jumping on goalie Doug Jamieson who was making his first career playoff start.  Meanwhile, at the other end of the floor Matt Vinc, no stranger to the playoffs, was as cool as the other side of the pillow.

New England would rattle off three of the next four goals to draw within a goal at 4-3. That would be the closest the game would get as the Bandits would go on a four-goal run, three to end the first half at 7-3. Corey Small completed the run with a power play goal to open the third. New England would go scoreless for 20:50 before Reilly O’Connor beat Vinc to make the score 8-4.

During the scoreless streak the Blackwolves collected a total of eight penalties and the Bandits scored three times on the power play during that span. On the night they would capitalize five times and also score a goal shorthanded.

“We’re a team that’s built from our goalie out to our offense,” said co-head coach John Tavares in a post-game media scrum. “Whenever your goalie is playing well, it gives everybody confidence and the ability to take more risks out there. Because then they know they have a wall behind them that’s hard to score on.”

Callum Crawford would score a goal shorthanded at 4:52 of the final quarter to give New England a little hope at 10-6, but that was the final goal for the Black Wolves as Matt Vinc shut the door for the final 10:08 of the game.

New England had two scoring droughts that lasted a combined 30:58. If you want to stand a chance against Buffalo and Matt Vinc you have to try to find a way to score during that time.

Dhane Smith (2G/5A), Shawn Evans (3G/1A), Chris Cloutier (1G/3A) and Corey Small (2G/2A) led the offense, while Matt Vinc stopped 46 of 52 shots faced for the win.

Callum Crawford figured in on all of the Black Wolves’ goals (4G/2A). Doug Jamieson stopped 46 of 57 shots in his first playoff game.

Buffalo hosts the Toronto Rock next Saturday, May 11 at 7:30 p.m. in the East Division final.