Skip to main content
Dhane Smith and the Bandits won their second straight NLL title.

Records Fall as Bandits Repeat as NLL Champions

May 19, 2024
Jack Goods
Buffalo Bandits / National Lacrosse League

The circumstances felt dire for the Buffalo Bandits in early March. The shorthanded defense was on its last legs, and future Hall of Fame goalie Matt Vinc was on the shelf. A loss to the Vancouver Warriors put them under .500 at 5-6.

It would have been easy to throw in the towel, to turn their attention to next year. Even general manager Steve Dietrich understood that. But this Bandits team doesn’t quit. And because of that tenaciousness, they are back-to-back National Lacrosse League champions.

The over 19,000 fans who packed Buffalo’s KeyBank Center were sent into a frenzy over the course of Saturday’s Game 2 of the NLL Finals, with their hometown Bandits rolling to a 15-13 win and a 2-0 series sweep of the Albany FireWolves. Buffalo never trailed, stringing together dazzling goal after dazzling goal in a dominant performance.

“I feel like I’m on top of the world,” said forward Dhane Smith, who put Buffalo in tremendous position after 11 points in Game 1. “It’s an amazing feeling in front of 19,000 fans.”

The Bandits are the first back-to-back champions in the NLL since the Rush accomplished the feat in Edmonton and Saskatchewan in 2015 and 2016. Buffalo last won two in a row in the franchise’s first two seasons, 1992 and 1993.

Buffalo also moves into a tie for the most championships in NLL history, matching the Philadelphia Wings and Toronto Rock with six.

Saturday’s showing had the appearance of a highlight reel for the Bandits, starting with Kyle Buchanan’s opening goal. He took a pass inside from Josh Byrne, spinning like a top to complete a jaw-dropping shorthanded move.



Patrick Kaschalk responded for Albany, only for Buffalo to mount a three-goal run that gave the Bandits a lead they never relinquished.

Josh Byrne was instrumental in the Bandits going ahead early — orchestrating a performance that helped him add an NLL Finals MVP to his regular season MVP and Offensive Player of the Year honors. He recorded seven assists on the Bandits’ first nine goals, finishing with eight on the night in a nine-point performance. His efforts helped Buffalo go up 9-4 midway through the second quarter.

Sam Firth, who defeated the Bandits in the 2022 NLL Finals as a member of the Colorado Mammoth, did all he could to keep Albany in it. He notched five goals, including critical tallies toward the end of the first half. His back-to-back goals inside the final seven minutes of the second quarter kickstarted a 3-0 Albany run which cut Buffalo’s lead to 9-7 at the break.

Travis Longboat added to the spurt by opening the second half’s scoring, but an ensuing 5-0 Buffalo response to end the third meant most of the Bandits’ fourth quarter was spent killing time.

Perhaps the flashiest performance from the Bandits came from Chase Fraser, who finished with five goals and two assists. He first left viewers awestruck with a swim move into a subshot in the second quarter.



Then, he and Byrne pulled off an audacious hidden ball trick in the third.



Albany ended with four straight goals, but the Bandits’ win was hardly in doubt in the fourth quarter. Firth’s goal to put the FireWolves within a pair came with just eight seconds remaining.

Buffalo put Albany into a win-or-go-home situation Saturday thanks to a strong finish Friday night, with the Bandits scoring four of the final five goals for a 12-8 triumph. Albany exceeded expectations all season, going from last place in 2022-23 to the NLL Finals, but came up short against an experienced and talented Bandits squad.

Vinc, playing in his ninth NLL Finals, made 36 saves in Game 2. At 41 years old, he adds a fifth championship to his trophy case.

“These guys are young, my kids are young, so they give me energy,” Vinc said. “They fill up the gas tank. That’s why I play.”

Smith finished with 18 points in the series, while Connor Farrell had a major bounce back performance at the faceoff dot in Game 2. He won 15 of 32 draws against Joe Nardella.

Two records previously held by John Tavares were broken during the series. Smith moved into first all-time in career postseason assists, while Albany’s Alex Simmons recorded the most points for a rookie in a postseason run.

The Bandits were as doubted as a defending champion could be this season. And yet, they finished on top yet again. Another banner will be raised in Banditland.

“It feels like we’re going to Disneyland, baby,” Byrne said.