Black Wolves aiming to spoil Bandits' postseason party

Bandits-NEBW2.jpg

It’s been a great season for the Buffalo Bandits, who posted the highest single-season win total in franchise history this year. This comes after the team finished the last two seasons in dead last in the East Division standings.

They’re now looking to follow up their regular season success with a championship. However, that’ll be easier said than done, as the Bandits will have to beat the New England Black Wolves on home floor in order to make it to the next round.

General manager Steve Dietrich made several changes to his squad this past offseason, the biggest of which was the addition of six-time NLL Goaltender of the Year Matt Vinc. He also acquired Corey Small from the Vancouver Warriors in exchange for Mitch Jones - picks were also swapped between the teams. Buffalo added to its cache of weapons midway through the campaign when 2018 second overall pick Chris Cloutier was brought in via trade.

On the other side, the Black Wolves are scuttling into the City of Good Neighbours. They clinched their spot in the postseason with a victory over the San Diego Seals on Apr. 6, but prior to that, they had dropped three straight games to non-playoff teams - Vancouver, Philadelphia, and Rochester. Leading scorer Callum Crawford missed time over that stretch due to suspension, which hindered the team’s attack. New England managed to beat the Knighthawks in the final game of the year to get back on track. They’ll be hoping that performance is the first of many over the next month.

The Bandits have had success against the Black Wolves over the last five seasons. They are 8-5 all-time against New England and 4-2 in the confines of KeyBank Center. Buffalo is also 2-0 against them in the playoffs, with both wins coming in the 2016 postseason - the Bandits scored 35 goals combined in the two-game series sweep.

Saturday’s matchup will come down to the play in the crease. Vinc’s career numbers speak for themselves, but he’ll be facing 22-year-old Doug Jamieson, who finished with a .784 save percentage this season - the fourth-best mark in the league.

This year, the team’s played a pair of games, with Buffalo taking both games.

New England only managed 11 goals against the Bandits in 2018-19, so they’ll have to figure out a way to solve Vinc in order to move on to the East Division Finals. The Bandits have won 10 of its last 12 games and are 7-2 on home floor this season. The Black Wolves, on the other hand, are 2-7 on the road.

It’ll be an uphill battle for New England on Saturday night, but in a one-game elimination, they’ll be doing everything in their power to play spoiler and move on to the East Final.

Austin Owens