The Buffalo Bandits won the 2023 NLL Cup on Saturday, capturing their first championship in 15 years. In a decisive Game 3 against the Colorado Mammoth at KeyBank Center, the Bandits dominated the entire game with a 13-4 win.
The Bandits’ journey to the championship was not without its challenges. The NLL was extremely competitive this year, yet Buffalo was still able to find success. Despite early setbacks, the Bandits finished as the top playoff seed with a 14-4 record.
In the Finals, the Mammoth managed to push the Bandits to the brink by winning Game 2 in Denver. However, Buffalo showed resilience in Game 3, leaving no room for doubt about their dominance on the lacrosse field. The Bandits’ victory was a testament to their overall team effort, exemplified by their complete performance on both ends of the field.
The return of Josh Byrne in Game 3, who missed the first two games of the Finals due to injury, proved to be the difference maker for the Bandits. Byrne put up four goals and three assists, igniting the Bandits’ offense. Dhane Smith, the Bandits’ standout player throughout the series, contributed a game-high nine points and seven assists, ultimately earning him the NLL Finals MVP title. The Bandits’ victory was a long time coming, as they had suffered Finals losses in 2016, 2019, and 2022.
The victory was built on a solid defensive effort led by goalie Matt Vinc, who made an impressive 46 saves in Game 3. Vinc’s performance established a new NLL record with his 30th career playoff win. The Bandits’ defense held the Mammoth to a mere four goals, setting another NLL record for the fewest goals scored in a Finals game.
The championship win marked a moment of redemption and celebration for the Bandits and their loyal fanbase, known as “Banditland.” The atmosphere at KeyBank Center was electric, with a crowd of 18,296 fans witnessing the historic triumph. The victory brought an end to the Bandits’ 15-year championship drought and added a fifth title to the franchise’s storied history.
For players like Dhane Smith and Matt Vinc, who had been part of previous championship disappointments, the victory was particularly meaningful. Smith emphasized that the championship was the ultimate goal and the pinnacle of their hard work and dedication.
The Buffalo Bandits’ triumph in the 2023 NLL Cup was well deserved, with the team coming so close to the throne in years prior. With their first championship in over a decade, the Bandits have solidified their place among the league’s elite teams.
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