NLL: Tilted floor works in Bandits’ favour for 13-8 win over FireWolves

Matt Vinc was Buffalo’s player of the game. Buffalo Bandits v Albany FireWolves at KeyBank Center, Feb 18, 2022. (Photo by Ben Green)

For the first time this year, the Buffalo Bandits were coming into a game trying to get back to their winning ways. After a tough loss to Toronto last week, Buffalo had a huge challenge in front of them in the gritty Albany FireWolves. Albany, also coming off a loss, is finding their stride as of late and had Buffalo right where they wanted them.

A wise person once said that lacrosse is a game of runs. Well, many wise people have said that, to be honest. This theory was proven to be true, as this game had quite a few of them. After a very slow first quarter for both teams, the intensity and scoring definitely picked up. Buffalo went on a seven-goal run to end the game, and topped Albany 13-8. 

Oh, and to make even more of an odd game, every single goal scored was put in the same net on the floor. To put this into perspective, if you were sitting behind the net on the right side of the floor (provided the camera is facing the logo), no goals were not scored in that net you were sitting behind. (Refunds, anyone?)

Bandit’s head coach John Tavares was asked about the “floor tilt” after the game.

“It makes you rethink the entire game, I still don’t believe all the goals were scored in one end. I think that must be the first time,” he marvelled.

As previously stated, the first quarter was very slow for both clubs. Defense, transition, and unreal goaltending were the story. Jacob Ruest opened the scoring for Albany with a quick snipe past goaltender Matt Vinc, just 1:35 into the game. With a goal scored that quickly, one would assume this contest would be quite the barn burner. Well, that assumption would be correct, but be patient. Goaltenders Vinc and Doug Jamieson were peppered with shots and were up to the task. Vinc stopped 12 of 13 and Jamieson stopped all 12 he saw. 

Cue the game of runs and tilted floor. The second quarter started and so did the high-powered Bandits’ offense. Rookie Tehoka Nanticoke opened the scoring with a drive to the net. This kid resembles a bumper car if he has defenders in his way. The Buffalo kid, Connor Fields, found the back of the net twice not even a minute apart, making it 3-1 Bandits. The second of Fields’ goals was from way downtown. Two goals from Chris Cloutier and another from Nanticoke made it 6-1 Bandits going into the half. 

Statistically this season, Buffalo was 4-0 when leading at halftime and Albany was 0-4 when trailing. Which team’s fortune was going to change? Vinc going a perfect 12 of 12 in the second quarter certainly gave Buffalo fuel to close the game out.

Nanticoke was asked at halftime about the six-goal run and the proverbial tale of two quarters.

“We’re just playing Buffalo lacrosse. Thirty minutes left, we just have to keep going here.”

He was also asked about having two goals in the first half and if everyone could expect more.

“I hope so, I hope for a lot more for our team too,” he said somewhat shyly before adding a “Let’s go Buffalo.”

Josh Byrne takes flight. Buffalo Bandits v Albany FireWolves at KeyBank Center, Feb 18, 2022. (Photo by Ben Green)

One issue Buffalo faced going into the third quarter was that wretched “floor tilt,” and Albany definitely capitalized on that. Andrew Kew and Ryan Benesch scored for the FireWolves just 1:44 into the third quarter to narrow Buffalo’s lead to 6-3. Joe Resetarits joined the Albany scoring party shortly thereafter.

One thing not mentioned too much at this point, is physicality. Did we really think we’d have a Bandits game without a line brawl? Buckle up. At about the 7:00 mark, forward Nick Chaykowsky went hard into Vinc and an all-out onslaught ensued. Players picked someone from the opposition and pushed, shoved, dragged, punched, you name it. Chaykowsky took the brunt of the physical punishment, for obvious reasons. Most notably in this scenario, all the players got up off the turf except for one. Crickets at KeyBank Center as Vinc stayed face down in his crease. Trainers came out to check on him, and the goaltender remained in the game. Breathe, Bandits fans. Cooler heads prevailed; however, this resulted in a 4-on-3 for Albany because of Buffalo’s reaction to the incident. To add insult to injury, Albany stayed red hot. Goals from Resetarits, Benesch, Kew and Mike Byrne made it 8-6 Albany going into the fourth.

But, bad luck for Albany with that floor tilt now going Buffalo’s way. Two quick goals from Dhane Smith and Chase Fraser tied it up at eight. The physicality seemed to have calmed down and Buffalo’s offense came out firing. Three more quick goals, one from Nanticoke and two from Cloutier gave Buffalo the lead they needed to ride this one out. Vinc and the Buffalo defense completely shut down Albany right when they needed to the most. Smith and captain Steve Priolo added goals with about three minutes left and the rest was history.

Players of the game for Buffalo were Cloutier (4+1), Smith (2+4) and Vinc who stopped 58 of 62. Albany’s included Benesch and Resetarits who had two goals apiece. Another huge story for Buffalo was the addition of faceoff specialist Max Adler. Adler has never played box lacrosse and most notably plays for the PLL Chaos. The Bandits signing someone from the Chaos? No, couldn’t be. Adler struggled in his first game only going 8-25, but he can be forgiven since it was his first box game and had been with the team for less than a week.

“He gave us many more possessions and I thought he did a great job,” Tavares said of Adler. “Even when he lost the draw, he did a great job of chasing down their faceoff guy.”

It’s no surprise that Buffalo’s offense came out firing once again.

“That’s the beautiful thing about our offense,” Cloutier said after the game. “Tonight the ball was falling for me.”

Buffalo (7-1) travels to Rochester to take on the Knighthawks (3-5) next Saturday. Albany (4-5) clearly spent too much time licking their wounds because they put up a second L of the weekend on Saturday, falling to the Rock 13-9.