The National Lacrosse League (NLL) finals are only days away, and some might say there is an air of repeated history.
On the Western side, the Calgary Roughnecks and defending champions, the Colorado Mammoth, will play Game 3 of their series on Saturday, May 20 at the Scotiabank Saddledome. So far, each team has earned one win in the best of three, making the match highly anticipated. On May 11, the Mammoth won a close 8-7, while last Saturday, the Roughnecks won another close one 13-12.
Meanwhile, the East has already been decided.
The Buffalo Bandits have returned to the NLL finals after booking their third consecutive berth with a convincing 17-8 win over the Toronto Rock in Game 2 of the East Conference Finals at FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton last Saturday night.
The Bandits, who were the league’s top-seeded team after a 14-4 regular season, are in the Finals again after losing to Colorado in 2022 and Calgary in 2019. The 2020 and 2021 seasons were cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Buffalo’s last NLL championship came in 2008, one of four total for the franchise.
On Saturday at Toronto, Buffalo’s high-powered offence was led by Josh Byrne with 10 points on two goals and eight assists, while Dhane Smith notched eight points on three goals and five assists. Goalie Matt Vinc made 33 saves.
Tehoka Nanticoke earned three goals, Chase Fraser, Justin Robinson and captain Steve Priolo also scored for the Bandits, who overwhelmed the Rock in both games of the East Conference Finals including Friday’s 14-5 Game 1 win in Buffalo.
Buffalo scored a total of 51 goals in three playoff games this season, including their 20-8 Quarterfinal victory over Rochester. The Bandits broke the game on Saturday after Rock captain Challen Rodgers was penalized five minutes for cross checking at 8:57 of the second quarter. Cloutier scored on the power play shortly after at just fifty seconds later and Buffalo would not look back.
For Toronto, which was also swept in two games by the Bandits in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, it’s another offseason of unanswered questions. The Rock were 13-5 during the 2022-23 regular season, but their championship aspirations have been shelved for yet another season.
As for notable transactions ahead of the finals:
On May 11: The Calgary Roughnecks placed Tyler Pace on the Short Term Hold Out List from the Active Roster. The Calgary Roughnecks have placed Practice Player Zach Herreweyers on the Active Roster from the Practice Player List. The Toronto Rock placed Chris Weier on the Injured Reserve List from the Active Roster and placed Sheldon Burns on the Active Roster from the Injured Reserve List.
On May 12: The Toronto Rock have placed Tom Schreiber on the Active Roster from the Injured Reserve List and placed Practice Player Josh Dawick on the Practice Player List from the Active Roster.
On May 13: The Calgary Roughnecks have placed Tyler Pace on the Active Roster from the Short Term Hold Out List, and placed Practice Player Zach Herreweyers on the Practice Player List from the Active Roster. The Toronto Rock placed Tom Schreiber on the Injured Reserve List from the Active Roster and placed Practice Player Josh Dawick on the Active Roster from the Practice Player List. (maintain Practice Player Tag).