The Buffalo Bandits sent the New England Black Wolves home following a dominant 13-6 victory in their NLL East Division Semi-Final game.
The Bandits were able to control the tempo of the game and rattle Black Wolves netminder Doug Jamieson in his first career playoff game, scoring three goals on their first three shots of the game.
“I was nervous at first, I thought it was going to be the other way around and have it be three goals for them [New England],” said Bandits coach John Tavares.
While scoring three goals to start the game is never a bad thing, the Bandits failed to capitalize on the early lead. New England surged back into the game, scoring three of the next four goals. Callum Crawford (4g, 2a) led that effort with two goals, and before long the Bandits found themselves with a New England team itching for a comeback.
“New England came prepared, and they changed up a lot of things,” said Tavares. “They pressured a lot more than what we’re used to.”
Not only was New England pressuring the ball much higher on the floor, they also took their fair share of penalties. The Black Wolves found themselves in the box 12 times throughout the game, while Buffalo also had penalty problems of their own.
“We haven’t been in many games with a lot of penalties, we were one of the least penalized teams this year,” said Bandits captain Steve Priolo. “But playoffs are going to be a little more intense, and the refs were there to make the calls they needed to.”
By the midway point of the second quarter, Buffalo was able to capitalize on power play opportunities, scoring the last three of a four goal run while on the man advantage. Buffalo had the second ranked power play unit in the East Division during the regular season, scoring on 46 of their 94 chances. That offensive success was on full-display throughout the game.
The Bandits real key to success, however, can be found in-between the pipes.
“We’re a team that’s built from our goalie out to our offense,” said coach Tavares. “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.”
Matt Vinc put in an almost identical game to the last time he faced the Black Wolves just a few weeks ago. Both games he allowed just six goals, yet faced 52 shots compared to 46 in the April 20th matchup. Consistency is king for the St. Catherine’s, ON native.
“Every game you go into it with same mentality, the preparation is the same,” said Vinc. “As I get older, I’m able to keep my emotions in check, and adapt and overcome. That’s been my mainstay, and we have a young group of players. It’s fun to be around, and that’s what we’re having right now.”
With strong play from Vinc and the Bandits defensive unit, Buffalo was able to hold New England to just three goals in the second half. Callum Crawford buried his fourth of the night in beautiful fashion, spinning off a check with five minutes left in the fourth. What might have been a huge momentum builder didn’t seem to catch on, as Corey Small (2g, 2a), Nick Weiss (1g, 1a), and Steve Priolo (2g) would all find the back of the net for Buffalo before starting to kill the clock.
The Bandits move on to the NLL East Division Final next week, facing the winner of the Georgia Swarm and Toronto Rock matchup taking place on Monday at 7:30pm ET. The Calgary Roughnecks and San Diego Seals will face-off Monday at 10:30pm ET for a chance to host the Colorado Mammoth in the West Division Final. Monday’s games can be viewed on B/R Live and Fanseat.