NLL: Double wins for Bandits in Week 9

Buffalo Bandits @ New York Riptide. January 28, 2023. (Photo: Evan Bernstein)

It’s never easy to play back-to-back nights in the NLL, and that is exactly what the Buffalo Bandits had in front of them this past weekend. Friday night they were in Philadelphia and came out with a win. Saturday night they were in Uniondale, New York to take on the New York Riptide. Buffalo sat in second place in the East Division and the Riptide were coming in second from the bottom. Although their record isn’t indicative of their talent, the Riptide looked to find their stride and stop Buffalo’s momentum.

This game was a tale of two halves. The first was very much back-and-forth, while the second was Buffalo pulling away. The Bandits downed the Riptide 16-10.

The Riptide jumped out to an early two-goal lead with goals from former Bandit Brent Noseworthy and Larson Sundown on the powerplay. Dhane Smith got Buffalo on the board with a powerplay tally of his own. There was a bit of a lull in the scoring, but in the meantime there was a ton of good transition play and phenomenal goaltending from Matt Vinc and Steve Orleman. Jeff Teat and Ian MacKay traded goals to end the quarter. 3-2 New York after one.

The second quarter was an absolute track meet. Buffalo rattled off the first two goals of the quarter, one from Tehoka Nanticoke on the powerplay and the other from Nick Weiss. Connor Kearnan got one back for New York, but MacKay and Smith had another two-goal answer for Buffalo. The ESPN+ broadcaster said it best, “it was like a pick-six in football for Smith.” Dhane found himself on defense, intercepted a pass and went the length of the field to score his second goal of the game. New York continued the seesaw second quarter with Reilly O’Connor’s first and Teat’s second. Brandon Robinson and Sundown traded goals in the final minute to keep the game deadlocked. 7-7 going into the half.

Larson Sundown was asked at the break about his recent success. “I really think it’s just my teammates. Reilly and Jeff work really hard for me, and those righties are always looking in the middle. I’m really blessed to play with great teammates who are unselfish.”

Both goaltenders shone in the first half and made timely saves to keep their respective team right in the mix. Vinc made 27 saves on 34 shots. Orleman had very similar numbers, stopping 28 of 35.

As previously stated, Buffalo ran away with this one in the second half. That runaway started by out-scoring New York 7-3 in the third quarter. Quick note about Buffalo’s game against Philadelphia the night before: they trailed going into the third and proceeded to go on a seven-goal run. Hot second half starts seem to be a common occurrence for the Bandits. Let’s get to it.

Brandon Robinson continued his recent success as he got his second and third of the game to start the third. All three of Robinson’s goals consisted of him using his big frame and charging right to the front of the net. Tyler Digby stopped the bleeding for a moment for New York as he shot right up the middle. MacKay had an answer right away with his hat trick goal, which was a career high. Mickey has been a Swiss Army knife for the Bandits this year, as he can play offense, defense, and is lethal in transition. Speaking of transition, Steve Priolo, Matt Spanger, and Ethan O’Connor found themselves on an odd-man rush, resulting in Spanger burying a shot for his first of the game. Teat and Smith traded hat trick goals for their respective clubs, and we sat at a score of 12-9 with 5:55 to play in the quarter. Digby got his second, but was answered by Nanticoke’s second on the powerplay and Spanger’s second as well. 14-10 Buffalo going into the fourth.

The fourth quarter allowed everyone to catch their breath. After a crazy, high-scoring previous two quarters, this one had only two total goals scored, both by Buffalo. The first was at the 14:09 mark and it was MacKay’s fourth of the night on the powerplay. The other, was at the 6:44 mark by Smith, his fourth, also on the powerplay. Buffalo really slowed the pace down and sulked this one away. Vinc was, well Vinc, and the Buffalo defense was stifling. Your final from Nassau Coliseum, 16-10 Buffalo.

Players of the game for Buffalo were: Smith (4+7), MacKay (4+2), and Robinson (3+4). Vinc was on-point for the second night in a row, making 42 saves on 52 shots. Buffalo also went an impressive 5-7 on the powerplay.

A couple things to note about Buffalo and something to think about: one name we didn’t see at all was Josh Byrne. The league’s scoring leader left the game late in the second quarter with what looked like a lower-body injury. Players like MacKay, Spanger and Robinson really stepped up in his absence. Smith also had 20 total points in Buffalo’s two games this weekend.

As for New York, Teat (3+4), Digby (2+2), and Sundown (2+1), led the way. Orleman had a strong first half, but fell off a bit late. He made 31 saves on 47 shots.

“I was just trying to find a role on the offense, usually I’m a D-guy obviously,” said MacKay after the game. “The way the arena is set-up and with Josh going down there at the end of the first half, I tried to slot into a role and luckily the guys trusted me with the ball.”

Buffalo (6-2), looks to continue their winning ways. They host the first-place Rochester Knighthawks (6-1), Saturday night at 7:30 pm. The second installment of the “Battle of the I-90” should be a good one to say the least. As for New York (1-5), they need to find an answer. They travel to Toronto to take on the red-hot Rock (5-2), Saturday night at 7 pm.