The NLL Finals Begin This Weekend26 de Mayo de 2023 a las 04:25
Photo courtesy of Bandits.com
By Gary Groob Columnist and Co-Host of NLL Talk on Spanglish Sports World and Spanglish World Networks
TORONTO. - With Colorado outlasting the Calgary Roughnecks in the best of three conference final, they now have the privilege of facing the Buffalo Bandits in this year's NLL finals. This is a rematch of last year’s final in which Colorado stunned Buffalo in three games. What made it all the more surprising was the Mammoth offense had been decimated with injuries. This team still found a way to win. Can they do it again?
A complete offense consisting of Eli McLaughlin (44g,39a), Zed Williams (37g,34a), Connor Robinson (35g,36a) and a healthy Ryan Lee (6g,33a in 6 games) are in sync and raring to go. The transition game took a major hit when Joey Cupido went down with a season ending injury, but Dylan Kinnear and Jalen Chaster have given a strong effort to enhance the offence.
The defense of Robert Hope, Tim Edwards, Jordan Gilles, Josh Sullivan, and Warren Jeffrey have been getting more in sync with every game.
Dillon Ward in net is a perennial All-Star. This is the wild card that can steal any game or any series.
Buffalo is led by last year's league MVP Dhane Smith (36g,96a), with a support cast of Josh Byrne (43g,50a), Kyle Buchanan (21g,37a), Tehoka Nanticoke (21g,18a), and Chris Cloutier (17g,19a). As shown in the conference final games, they are explosive both in offense and in transition. Ian MacKay and Steve Priolo can go coast to coast on any loose ball, adding another dimension to the offense.
Defensively the Bandits have a punishing group consisting of Matt Spanger, Adam Bomberry, Ethan O'Connor, Bryce Sweeting, and Nick Weiss.
Matt Vinc in net is always the wild card. An eight time goalie of the year and three time NLL champion, Vinc is a soon to be first ballot Hall of Famer.
I will stand by my earlier prediction that the Buffalo Bandits will finally win their first championship since 2008. As long as Buffalo can stay healthy, there is just more ways that the Bandits can be creative on offense. Transitionally I give the edge to the Bandits as well. If Joey Cupido was healthy and in the lineup it would be another "X" factor for Colorado, but he is out for the season.
The one place that can give the Mammoth a good chance of becoming victorious is in net. Dillon Ward has done it before, including last year, when Buffalo was the overwhelming favorite. Ward stopped the Bandits continuously throughout the series en route to a Mammoth championship. It would not surprise me in the least if he was to do it again.