By TRT Staff with notes from NLL.com
BUFFALO, N. Y. — The Bandits quest for their first league title since 2008 continued on Saturday, June 3 at 7:30 p.m., in Buffalo’s Keybank Centre.
One year ago, nearly the same NLL Final scenario played out at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, with the outcome of 2022’s 15-14 Bandits Game 1 triumph looking mighty similar to this year’s 2023 finals opening act.
Colorado took care of business on their home floor for Game 2 in 2022 as well, winning 11-8 before heading back to Banditland for the Game 3 series clincher. This year, the Mammoth took nearly the same win, 16-10 in their home arena.
But on Saturday night, after 15 long years, Buffalo secured their spot as 2023 NLL Final champions after a strong win of 13-4 over Colorado.
“Six Nations of the Grand River (SNGR) would like to congratulate Tehoka Nanticoke, Adam Bomberry and the Buffalo Bandits on capturing the National Lacrosse League (NLL) championship,” wrote the SNGR Facebook page.
Nanticoke broke game scoring with the first goal from Josh Bryne, then proceeded to earn multiple assists throughout the remaining game time.
“Congratulations to Tehoka, Adam and the Buffalo Bandits,” Chief Mark B. Hill said. “Adam and Tehoka are tremendous individuals, and I couldn’t be happier for them. What they do on and off the floor is amazing and they represent Six Nations in a way we are all proud of. Enjoy your accomplishment.”
The SNGR also recognized pride in the accomplishments of its community members.
“Tehoka and Adam have been integral parts of the Bandits run for the championship season. They are also great role models for our youth because of what they do on and off the floor.”
As for internal recognition, Dhane Smith was named Finals MVP, after recording two goals and seven assists in Game 3 to lead the Bandits. For the series, Smith totaled nine goals and 14 assists for 23 points. His 49 points during the postseason is a new league record. The Finals MVP was voted upon by the players from across the NLL’s 13 other franchises and took into account all three games of the series. Smith becomes the 12th player in NLL history to win a regular season MVP and Finals MVP in their career.
With the victory, the Bandits claimed their fifth NLL title, good for a tie for third by any NLL franchise (Halifax, trailing the Albany FireWolves and Toronto Rock franchises with six), and their first since 2008. Their other championships came in 1992, 1993, and 1996.
Head Coach, John Tavares was a player on that 2008 team when they defeated the Portland LumberJax as well as all three titles in the 1990’s, earning Finals MVP in 1992 and 1993. Tavares also provides his experience on the bench of the Six Nations Pro-fit Chiefs.
Buffalo finished the regular season as the overall No. 1 seed at 14-4 for the third completed season in a row. After advancing to the NLL Finals the previous two seasons, they finally emerge as champions. Along the way to the Finals, they defeated the Rochester Knighthawks, 20-8, in the single game elimination Quarterfinals and the Toronto Rock, two games to none in the East Conference Final, never trailing at any point during the first two rounds.
Colorado finished 9-9 in the regular season and qualified as the lowest seed of the eight team format, sitting in the No. 4 seed in the West. They upset the No. 1 West seed in San Diego, 13-12 in the Quarterfinal, and the No. 2 seed Calgary Roughnecks two games to one in the West Conference Finals, to set up the NLL Finals rematch. Eli McLaughlin (Surrey, B.C.) and Connor Robinson (New Westminster, B.C.) each had a team high three points while Dillon Ward (Orangeville, Ont.) saved 47 of 60 shots in net in the Game 3 loss.
As for notable transactions ahead of and following the finals: on June 6 the Albany FireWolves have signed Marshall Powless of Six Nations to a two year agreement. The New York Riptide have signed Colton Lidstone to a two year agreement. And on June 1, the New York Riptide have signed Zack Deaken to a two year agreement.