Bandits stars Josh Byrne, Dhane Smith both MVP finalists

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — As the Bandits prepare to defend their NLL Cup championship in their fourth consecutive trip to the finals, three Buffalo players have been named finalists for National Lacrosse League awards.

Buffalo’s dynamic duo of Josh Byrne and Dhane Smith are both in the running for MVP and Offensive Player of the Year, while Ian McKay is a finalist for Transition Player of the Year.

Byrne, who was voted Bandits MVP by his teammates, led the NLL in scoring during the regular season with 135 points (53 goals, 82 assists), two short of Smith’s league record set in 2016. Smith, a two-time league MVP, was second in the league with 134 points. Smith’s 101 assists surpassed his own league record.

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MacKay was a multi-faceted weapon for Buffalo this season, leading the Bandits and ranking eighth in the league with 160 loose ball recoveries, recording 29 points (12 goals, 17 assists), 19 caused turnovers and 12 blocked shots while filling on faceoffs early in the season.

Award winners will be announced before the Bandits visit Albany on May 17 for Game 1 of the NLL finals.

This is the first year the league has given out an Offensive Player of the Year award. The other finalist is New York’s Jeff Teat, who led the NLL with 58 goals and was third in points with 134. Toronto goaltender Nick Rose is the other MVP finalist, while Calgary’s Shane Simpson and Halifax’s Jake Withers join MacKay in contention for Transition Player of the Year.

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Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.

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