Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) - For the first time since 2008, the Buffalo Bandits stand alone atop the National Lacrosse League.
After losses in the last two NLL Finals, the Bandits finally get over the hump to win the 2023 NLL Cup with a 13-4 win over the Colorado Mammoth in Game 3 of their series at KeyBank Center. The win gives Buffalo its fifth NLL title in franchise history.
The Bandits came out in the first quarter scoring early thanks to a goal from Tehoka Nanticoke just 1:40 into the contest. Colorado answered about three-and-a-half minutes later to tie the game at 1-1.
With time winding down in the first quarter and the Bandits on the power play, Josh Byrne - in his first game played since Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Toronto Rock - gave the Bandits a 2-1 lead, and a giant momentum swing with a buzzer-beater with 0.2 seconds left on the clock.
Buffalo built up its lead to 4-1 in the second quarter with Chase Fraser scoring twice for the Bandits.
Meanwhile, Matt Vinc was on his game in goal for Buffalo, shutting down chance after chance from the Mammoth in the opening half. Despite Colorado answering with a power play goal later in the second quarter, the Bandits entered the locker room for halftime with a 4-2 lead.
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It didn't take long for the Bandits to take total control of the game in the third quarter, as Byrne scored 28 seconds into the frame for his second goal of the game. He'd complete the hat-trick shortly after, adding his third goal of the game just under three minutes later.
Byrne finished his Game 3 of the NLL Finals with four goals and a trio of assists for seven points.
Dhane Smith closed the scoring in the third quarter, and added Buffalo's final goal of the game in the fourth quarter to put the finishing touches on an NLL Finals MVP performance. Smith finished his night with a game-high nine points, and put up 23 points overall in the three games of the Finals.
Vinc and the defense shut the door on the Mammoth, allowing a NLL Finals low in goals. The 40-year-old goalie made 46 saves for the Bandits, as the veteran backstopped Buffalo to another title, the fourth of his illustrious NLL career.
For head coach John Tavares, he also wins his fifth NLL title with the Bandits, but his first as the bench boss in Buffalo. He won as a player with the Bandits 1992, 1993, 1996 and 2008.
Not only does Buffalo snap a 15-year championship drought, the team finally found a way to defeat the Mammoth in the NLL Finals. The Bandits lost their first meeting in 2006 in Buffalo when it was a single game to determine a champion, and then they lost last season in their three-game series.
The Bandits also snap an 0-3 stretch in the NLL Finals since their last title in 2008, having lost in 2016, 2019 and 2022.
More than 18,000 fans in "Banditland" were able to take in Saturday's Game 3 win for Buffalo.