5/3/2019 9:00:00 AM / Nick Konotopskyj
Head coach Rich Kilgour:
“Being in a ‘one and done’ game means that we have everything to prove tonight. We have 60 minutes to prove that we’re good enough to go on to the next round. I think we’ve proven that all year long, but now we need to prove it again here tonight. All it takes is one bad night and there is no tomorrow. We have gone over a lot of stuff that New England likes to do and now it’s just going to be a battle of wills and who sticks to their gameplan.”
“The transition game is huge. I saw a stat that they were 6-0 when they won the transition game and had a losing record when they didn’t win the transition battle. That’s really the one thing we did consistently well in both games against them, is take away their transition and that stops their offense.
"At the same time though, our offense needs a big game. In the end, we could give up 5 goals or we could give up 15 goals, but if we score 16 then we are moving on. Of course we want to hold them to 10 or lower, but we have to be ready for anything that can happen tonight.”
Transition Player Nick Weiss:
“It’s really exciting to be in this game. We haven’t been to the playoffs in two years and all of the guys are up and ready for a big performance tonight. We can’t look past these guys because we know they’re a good team and that they are going to come out hot. The regular season means nothing to us at this point, we need to play our game tonight and focus on the task at hand.”
“Our offense did a great job in the last game against them of getting off the floor and limiting them in transition. The playoffs are a different animal and it’s a one-game series so we need to show up and put everything into this game because tomorrow is not guaranteed.”
After missing the playoffs the past two seasons, the Bandits are set to make a triumphant return to the postseason this weekend as the No. 1 seed in the entire NLL. At 14-4, Buffalo set a single-season franchise record for wins. Now, the next goal is to capture their fifth championship in team history.
That quest begins Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. when the Bandits welcome the New England Black Wolves to KeyBank Center for the first round of the NLL Playoffs. If you have a case of deja vu, then that makes sense because these teams met in Buffalo less than two weeks ago in the regular-season home finale. The Bandits came away with a comfortable 12-6 win on April 20 and Buffalo is now 2-0 against New England this year.
The first matchup was in New England back on Jan. 27 with the Bandits picking up a 15-5 victory. So in the two meetings thus far, the Bandits have outscored the Black Wolves 27-11. If Buffalo can earn a win against the Black Wolves, then they move on to the East Division Finals, which would be played next weekend at KeyBank Center.
However, the Bandits first need to get through New England and the Black Woves present a difficult challenge for Buffalo. Callum Crawford leads the club in scoring with 109 points (48+61) and he finished the season second in the NLL in points. Knowing where No. 98 is on the field is very crucial for Buffalo as they were able to keep him in check the first two games this year. Crawford had three points in each matchup and Buffalo was very sound defensively and held New England to just 5 and 6 goals respectively in the two games.
Along with Crawford, Stephan Leblanc has 93 points (27+66) and Reilly O’Connor has 76 points (27+49) for the Black Wolves.
Bandits forward Dhane Smith finished the regular season fifth in scoring with 102 points (30+72) in 16 games (the fourth time in his career he had eclipsed the 100-point plateau), and became only the second player in franchise history to have four 100-point seasons with the Bandits, joining head coach John Tavares.
Shawn Evans had 94 points (28+66) for Buffalo and was joined by a deep group of talented offensive players who can put the ball in the net.
Thomas Hoggarth, Corey Small, Josh Byrne, Chase Fraser, Chris Cloutier and Ian MacKay have all had strong seasons for the Bandits as they helped pace the Bandits to the number one offense in the league (244 goals). Buffalo also has the best goal differential in the league (+58) and they have also allowed the fewest goals in the league (186).
Captain Steve Priolo leads the way on defense for Buffalo while Matt Vinc has been everything the Bandits could have asked for in net this year when they picked him up from Rochester in the offseason. Vinc finished the regular season with 702 saves, setting a new career high. That ranks second in franchise history for saves in a single-season and fifth in NLL history.
The other East Semifinal matchup will take place in Georgia where the Toronto Rock will face the Swarm on Monday.