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WK
1
Fri, Dec 2
FINAL
Philadelphia
8
Halifax
18
Sat, Dec 3
FINAL
Vancouver
8
Toronto
19
Sat, Dec 3
FINAL
San Diego
15
New York
14
Sat, Dec 3
FINAL
Albany
11
Buffalo
10
Sat, Dec 3
FINAL
Rochester
16
Georgia
11
Sat, Dec 3
FINAL
Colorado
6
Saskatchewan
18
WK
2
Fri, Dec 9
20:30:00
Las Vegas
Panther City
Fri, Dec 9
22:00:00
Saskatchewan
San Diego
Sat, Dec 10
19:00:00
Toronto
Rochester
Sat, Dec 10
21:30:00
Vancouver
Calgary
WK
3
Fri, Dec 16
22:00:00
Calgary
Vancouver
Fri, Dec 16
22:30:00
Panther City
Las Vegas
Sat, Dec 17
19:00:00
Buffalo
Toronto
Sat, Dec 17
19:00:00
Rochester
Albany
Sat, Dec 17
19:00:00
Philadelphia
Georgia
Sat, Dec 17
19:30:00
Halifax
New York
Sat, Dec 17
20:00:00
Colorado
Panther City
WK
5
Fri, Dec 30
19:30:00
Halifax
Buffalo
Fri, Dec 30
21:00:00
San Diego
Calgary
Sat, Dec 31
21:00:00
Panther City
Saskatchewan
WK
6
Fri, Jan 6
22:30:00
Philadelphia
Las Vegas
Sat, Jan 7
19:00:00
Panther City
Rochester
Sat, Jan 7
19:00:00
Halifax
Albany
Sat, Jan 7
19:00:00
Buffalo
Georgia
Sat, Jan 7
19:30:00
Toronto
New York
Sat, Jan 7
22:00:00
Vancouver
San Diego
Sun, Jan 8
0:00:00
Calgary
Colorado
WK
7
Fri, Jan 13
18:30:00
Albany
Halifax
Fri, Jan 13
21:00:00
Saskatchewan
Colorado
Sat, Jan 14
19:00:00
Halifax
Toronto
Sat, Jan 14
19:00:00
Panther City
Philadelphia
Sat, Jan 14
19:30:00
Georgia
Buffalo
Sat, Jan 14
21:00:00
San Diego
Calgary
Sat, Jan 14
22:00:00
Las Vegas
Vancouver
Sun, Jan 15
15:00:00
Rochester
New York
WK
8
Fri, Jan 20
19:30:00
Buffalo
Rochester
Fri, Jan 20
22:30:00
Vancouver
Las Vegas
Sat, Jan 21
19:00:00
New York
Albany
Sat, Jan 21
19:00:00
Toronto
Philadelphia
WK
9
Fri, Jan 27
18:00:00
Rochester
Halifax
Fri, Jan 27
19:00:00
Buffalo
Philadelphia
Sat, Jan 28
19:30:00
Buffalo
New York
Sat, Jan 28
20:30:00
Las Vegas
Saskatchewan
Sat, Jan 28
21:00:00
Toronto
Calgary
Sat, Jan 28
21:00:00
San Diego
Colorado
Sat, Jan 28
22:00:00
Panther City
Vancouver
WK
10
Fri, Feb 3
21:00:00
Georgia
Colorado
Sat, Feb 4
18:00:00
Calgary
Halifax
Sat, Feb 4
19:00:00
New York
Toronto
Sat, Feb 4
19:00:00
Albany
Philadelphia
Sat, Feb 4
19:30:00
Rochester
Buffalo
Sat, Feb 4
22:00:00
Panther City
San Diego
Sat, Feb 4
22:00:00
Saskatchewan
Vancouver
Sat, Feb 4
22:30:00
Colorado
Las Vegas
WK
11
Fri, Feb 10
19:30:00
Toronto
Georgia
Fri, Feb 10
21:00:00
Saskatchewan
Calgary
Sat, Feb 11
19:00:00
Halifax
Rochester
Sat, Feb 11
19:30:00
Albany
New York
Sat, Feb 11
20:00:00
Vancouver
Panther City
Sat, Feb 11
21:00:00
Colorado
Calgary
WK
12
Fri, Feb 17
22:00:00
Saskatchewan
San Diego
Fri, Feb 17
22:00:00
Calgary
Vancouver
Sat, Feb 18
19:00:00
Georgia
Toronto
Sat, Feb 18
19:00:00
Las Vegas
Albany
Sat, Feb 18
19:30:00
Philadelphia
Buffalo
Sat, Feb 18
20:00:00
Colorado
Panther City
Sun, Feb 19
13:00:00
New York
Halifax
WK
13
Fri, Feb 24
21:00:00
Panther City
Colorado
Fri, Feb 24
22:30:00
Calgary
Las Vegas
Sat, Feb 25
19:00:00
New York
Rochester
Sat, Feb 25
19:00:00
Albany
Georgia
Sat, Feb 25
20:00:00
Vancouver
Saskatchewan
WK
14
Fri, Mar 3
18:30:00
Buffalo
Halifax
Fri, Mar 3
21:00:00
Las Vegas
San Diego
Sat, Mar 4
11:30:00
New York
Philadelphia
Sat, Mar 4
19:00:00
Rochester
Toronto
Sat, Mar 4
19:00:00
Georgia
Albany
Sat, Mar 4
20:00:00
Saskatchewan
Panther City
Mon, Mar 6
19:00:00
Toronto
Philadelphia
WK
15
Fri, Mar 10
19:30:00
Halifax
Buffalo
Fri, Mar 10
21:00:00
Calgary
Colorado
Sat, Mar 11
19:00:00
Albany
Toronto
Sat, Mar 11
19:30:00
Philadelphia
New York
Sat, Mar 11
20:30:00
San Diego
Saskatchewan
Sat, Mar 11
22:30:00
Vancouver
Las Vegas
Sun, Mar 12
16:00:00
Rochester
Georgia
WK
16
Fri, Mar 17
21:00:00
Saskatchewan
Calgary
Fri, Mar 17
22:00:00
San Diego
Vancouver
Sat, Mar 18
11:00:00
Georgia
Philadelphia
Sat, Mar 18
18:00:00
Toronto
Halifax
Sat, Mar 18
19:30:00
Albany
New York
Sat, Mar 18
19:30:00
Colorado
Buffalo
Sat, Mar 18
20:00:00
Las Vegas
Panther City
Sun, Mar 19
15:00:00
Philadelphia
Rochester
WK
17
Fri, Mar 24
20:30:00
San Diego
Panther City
Sat, Mar 25
19:00:00
Toronto
Albany
Sat, Mar 25
19:00:00
Halifax
Philadelphia
Sat, Mar 25
19:30:00
Georgia
New York
Sat, Mar 25
21:30:00
Calgary
Saskatchewan
Sat, Mar 25
22:00:00
Buffalo
San Diego
Sat, Mar 25
22:00:00
Colorado
Vancouver
Sat, Mar 25
22:30:00
Rochester
Las Vegas
WK
18
Fri, Mar 31
20:00:00
New York
Georgia
Fri, Mar 31
21:00:00
Las Vegas
Colorado
Fri, Mar 31
22:00:00
Calgary
San Diego
Sat, Apr 1
19:00:00
Buffalo
Toronto
Sat, Apr 1
20:00:00
Albany
Panther City
Sat, Apr 1
21:30:00
Vancouver
Saskatchewan
Sun, Apr 2
13:00:00
Georgia
Halifax
Sun, Apr 2
18:00:00
Rochester
Philadelphia
WK
19
Sat, Apr 8
19:00:00
Albany
Rochester
Sat, Apr 8
19:00:00
Saskatchewan
Georgia
Sat, Apr 8
21:00:00
Panther City
Calgary
Sat, Apr 8
21:00:00
Vancouver
Colorado
Sat, Apr 8
22:30:00
San Diego
Las Vegas
WK
20
Fri, Apr 14
21:00:00
Las Vegas
Calgary
Fri, Apr 14
21:00:00
San Diego
Colorado
Sat, Apr 15
19:00:00
Philadelphia
Toronto
Sat, Apr 15
19:00:00
Georgia
Albany
Sat, Apr 15
19:30:00
New York
Buffalo
Sat, Apr 15
21:30:00
Halifax
Saskatchewan
Sat, Apr 15
22:00:00
Panther City
Vancouver
WK
21
Fri, Apr 21
20:30:00
Calgary
Panther City
Sat, Apr 22
18:00:00
New York
Halifax
Sat, Apr 22
19:00:00
Georgia
Rochester
Sat, Apr 22
20:00:00
Toronto
Buffalo
Sat, Apr 22
21:30:00
Colorado
Saskatchewan
Sat, Apr 22
22:00:00
Las Vegas
San Diego
Sun, Apr 23
15:00:00
Philadelphia
Albany
WK
22
Sat, Apr 29
19:00:00
Philadelphia
Rochester
Sat, Apr 29
19:00:00
Buffalo
Albany
Sat, Apr 29
19:00:00
Halifax
Georgia
Sat, Apr 29
22:00:00
Colorado
San Diego
Sat, Apr 29
22:00:00
New York
Vancouver
Sat, Apr 29
22:30:00
Saskatchewan
Las Vegas
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Stories/Op-Ed

League’S Top Two Teams Clash With Bandits Vs. Rush To Open 2016 Nll Finals

Following a hard-fought East Division Finals victory over the New England Black Wolves, the Buffalo Bandits will continue their historic season Saturday night when they take on the defending-champion Saskatchewan Rush in Game 1 of the Champion’s Cup Finals at First Niagara Center. 

In Game 2 of the East Division Finals, the Bandits endured an exhausting battle that saw both teams playing with a true sense of desperation. After a slow start, Buffalo trailed after the first quarter, but the Bandits’ explosive offensive attack paved the way for the opportunity to play for what could be the organization’s fifth championship. 

“It was a physical game and bodies were flying all over the place all night,” said Bandits assistant coach Rich Kilgour. “We knew New England would play with a sense of desperation, and we had to go above and beyond that and we did. There were a few spots where we could’ve folded, but we kept our noses to the grindstone and took care of business.”

On a night where the defense struggled at times to contain the high-scoring New England offense, Buffalo’s offense rose to the occasion to bail them out. In the win, Dhane Smith continued his spectacular year with a nine-point (4+5) night, and Ryan Benesch (3+4) and Mark Steenhuis (3+2) both chipped in outstanding performances. 

In addition to Buffalo’s top-three regular season scorers, the Bandits’ secondary scoring also proved hugely influential in the victory. After a four-goal night in Game 1, Alex Kedoh Hill one-upped himself with a seven-point (3+4) night in Game 2. Chad Culp also had four points (3+1), which included a pair of vital fourth-quarter markers. 

“The ‘D’ struggled a little bit, but the offense bailed us out and that’s what a good team does,” Kilgour said. “They tried to just key in on Dhane, but everybody else stepped up and that’s how you win. We are a deep team and we’re an unselfish team. No one cares about who gets the great shot, our offense is always five guys working together to get the best shot on every shift.”

Although the defense did struggle in the first half against the Black Wolves, there were positives to take away from the night. When the game was hanging in the balance in the fourth quarter, the Bandits surrendered only two New England goals to slam the door shut on their opponents. 

“Our defense was caught trying not to lose early on as opposed to playing to win,” Kilgour said. “We were sitting back instead of putting the pressure on the other team. While we struggled in the first half, we settled down and in the second half and especially in the fourth. When push came to shove, the ‘D’ did step up when we really needed it.”

This coming Saturday, the Bandits will need their entire team to step up when they take on the Rush. After matching the Bandits regular season record (13-5), the Rush defeated the Calgary Roughnecks with consecutive victories in the West Division Finals. In doing so, the Rush clinched a second-straight Champion’s Cup Finals appearance, and they will have an opportunity to repeat as league champions. 

Fittingly, this year’s finals will pit the League’s two best teams against one another.

“They’re a really good team and we have a really good team,” Kilgour said. “It’s a great matchup, but we are preaching the same idea that we have all season long: just go out and do your job. We are a team. We don’t care who gets the credit. All we care about is putting the Buffalo Bandits’ name on the Champion’s Cup trophy, and that’s the attitude that we’re bringing into the finals.” 

Offensively, Buffalo will face the NLL’s stingiest defense. The Rush led the NLL in goals allowed (190) during the regular season and they possess one of the League’s best goaltenders in Aaron Bold. In the two-game series with Calgary, Bold was dominant in posting a 9.50 goals-against-average and a .796 save percentage. 

Despite the impressive resume of the Saskatchewan defense unit, the Bandits are confident in their offensive attack. Buffalo led the NLL with 251 goals for during the regular season. Nineteen of them came back on Feb. 28 when the Bandits went on the road to beat the Rush in overtime. 

“We were able to hang 19 on them in the regular season and we should have confidence going in against their defense,” Kilgour said. “We have so much depth on the offensive end and our transition game really hurt them when we played them before. I don’t want to jinx us, but we know that we can turn that red light on a lot. It’ll be a great battle.”

On the defensive end, the Bandits will have to deal with a star forward that presents a far different challenge than the one they faced against New England. While Shawn Evans’ small stature and quickness proved difficult to deal with, the Bandits will be tested when they hope to slow down Saskatchewan’s 6-foot-5, 230-pound forward Mark Matthews. 

Matthews led the Rush in regular-season scoring with 109 points (40+69) and he has paced the club with 12 points (4+6) so far in the playoffs. 

Despite the attention that Matthews will draw, the Bandits can’t fall victim to devoting the entirety of their attention to the big forward. 

“Matthews will get a lot of attention, but at the same time we can’t overlook everybody else,” Kilgour said. “They have a ton of capable scorers, and if we pay too much attention to Matthews, there are a lot of other guys that can hurt us. They were champions last year for a reason, and we’ll do our best to create and execute a plan that will take away their tendencies.”

In addition to their game plans at each end of the floor, Buffalo will hope to draw upon the emotion that comes with playing for the ultimate prize. For many of the Bandits’ players, including several of the team’s well-traveled veterans, playing for the Champion’s Cup trophy could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. 

“Andrew Watt has been in this league nine years and he’s played on a lot of good teams and never had the chance to play for a championship,” Kilgour said. “Chad Culp has been in this league 15 years, he’s been on some really good teams, but he hasn’t been here either. Anthony Cosmo has been a part of two championship teams in Toronto, but he never played a minute in those playoff runs.

“Every player on this team has to make the most of their opportunity, and we have a great opportunity. We’ve earned this chance and now we have to go play lacrosse and make the most of it.”

Saturday’s radio broadcast coverage will be on WGR SportsRadio 550 and on WGWE 105.9 in Salamanca. The pregame show will begin at 7 p.m.

Online and television coverage will be on the ESPN app in the U.S. and on TSN GO and TSN2 in Canada. 

Faceoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the First Niagara Center.

By Zac Hirschbeck for Bandits.com. Photo by Bill Wippert.

NLL