Dynasty in Buffalo: Bandits run it back for 6th championship

BUFFALO, NY – JUNE 3: Fans cheer during the final game of the NLL Championship between the Buffalo Bandits and the Colorado Mammoth at KeyBank Center on June 3, 2023 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images for NLL)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Back where they began, the Bandits are once again back-to-back champions.

Amplified by a capacity crowd Saturday night at KeyBank Center, the Bandits beat the Albany FireWolves 15-13 to sweep the National Lacrosse League Finals and claim their sixth professional indoor lacrosse title. Buffalo’s championship tally matches the Toronto Rock and Philadelphia Wings for the most in league history.

Culminating an unbeaten playoff run, the Bandits repeated as NLL Cup champions for the first time since 1992-93, the earliest years of the franchise. Buffalo also won the North American Cup as champions of the Major Indoor Lacrosse League in 1996, and the NLL Champions Cup in 2008.

Led by a pair of MVP forwards in Josh Byrne and Dhane Smith, backstopped by the league’s greatest goaltender Matt Vinc, coached by all-timer John Tavares, and supported by a fanbase larger and louder than anything the league has seen before, Buffalo affirmed its dynasty with consecutive championship triumphs. Appearing in a fourth consecutive NLL finals series, and 13th in 32 years, Banditland basks in its orange and black glory for another year.

Chase Fraser led Buffalo’s scoring attack with five goals and two assists. The Bandits got two goals apiece from Tehoka Nanticoke, Chris Cloutier, Brandon Robinson and Smith, who also added five assists to his career playoff tally, an NLL record 125. Byrne, this year’s league MVP, had a goal and eight assists for a team-leading nine points. Matt Vinc made 36 saves.

Kyle Buchanan’s shorthanded, no-look, behind-the-back one-timer two minutes into the game frenzied the crowd and gave the Bandits a lead they would never relinquish. Albany closed out each of the first two quarters with rallies, but Buffalo’s five-goal run in a 5:27 span of the third quarter built a 14-8 advantage that held up against the FireWolves final push in the fourth.

Celebrating a championship on home turf for the second year in a row, the Bandits were showered with orange and purple confetti while passing around their shiny new trophy, acknowledging the fans how lingered in the stands long after the final horn while embracing family, friends and each other. Labatt Blue Light beers were cracked open on the arena floor and eventually chugged from the top of the NLL Cup.

After fans filled Alumni Plaza for a pregame party several hours before the start of Game 2, the Bandits will continue the celebration back downtown at noon Sunday.

Sun-kissed Party in the Plaza before Game 2 of NLL Finals in Buffalo Banditland.
Ball drops at 7:30 p.m.
Watch live on CW23. @news4buffalo

— Jonah Bronstein (@lebronstein) May 18, 2024

— Jonah Bronstein (@lebronstein) May 19, 2024

Buffalo Bandits run it back to win 6th championship in franchise history.

— Jonah Bronstein (@lebronstein) May 19, 2024

— Jonah Bronstein (@lebronstein) May 19, 2024


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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