Buffalo Bandits defeat Colorado Mammoth, Zed Williams

Colorado's Zed Williams protects the ball from Buffalo's Matt Spanger during Game 1 of the NLL Championship at KeyBank Center on Saturday. OBSERVER Photo by Christian Storms

BUFFALO — History often repeats itself.

That saying was proved true when the Buffalo Bandits and Colorado Mammoth matched up again in the National Lacrosse League Championship. Then on Saturday night at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, the Bandits took it a step further and defeated the Mammoth in Game 1, once again, this time by a score of 13-12.

Silver Creek High School graduate Zed Williams is one of the greatest competitors in Chautauqua County history and losing — something he seldom does — is one of the last things he would rather have happen to him. However, if history repeats itself, Williams should be looking forward to Game 2 on Monday at 4 p.m. in Denver, because the Mammoth won that game last year before coming back to win Game 3 in Buffalo to claim the NLL Championship.

Zed came close to changing history in the waning moments of Game 1 when he attempted to slam home what would have been a tying goal for the Mammoth at the buzzer. He finished the contest with 2 goals and 3 assists for 5 points, but it was not enough to send Colorado over in Game 1.

While the loss stings for Williams and the Mammoth, they find themselves in a similar situation to last year, but not identical.

Buffalo Bandits head coach John Tavares addresses the media after the Bandits defeated the Colorado Mammoth in Game 1 of the NLL Finals at KeyBank Center on Saturday. OBSERVER Photo by Christian Storms

“We won the first game against Colorado last year, so this thing is far from over,” Buffalo Bandits head coach John Tavares stated about winning Game 1. “I think our team is more mentally prepared at the task at hand.”

Instead of spacing out the games, the playoffs will conclude within the week as Game 2 is a quick turnaround on Monday in Denver, then a potential Game 3 is back in Buffalo next Saturday.

“I think the one thing is that we’re both doing it,” Colorado Mammoth head coach Pat Coyle said about the quick turnaround to Game 2 on Monday. “A lot of times in our league is it’s one team that has to do that and another team is waiting. I think it will be a story in Game 2 is that the team that adjusts best to that adversity and travels the best and eats the best and sleeps the best. But at this point I think guys would play right away again now if they had to.”

Colorado is certainly looking back at what happened last year and is saying it can do it again, but Buffalo head coach John Tavares certainly remembers last year and is keen on not letting history repeat itself.

“It’s almost harder to guard a team where we’re unpredictable,” Buffalo’s Dhane Smith said about the lineup without Josh Byrne. “They lost their two best players last year in the finals and they were really hard to guard. I think tonight we were really hard to guard as well. We played awesome tonight, but again that’s just one game and we’re not satisfied.”

With not many changes, Buffalo brought back almost every player that experienced last year’s loss in the finals and they don’t intend on coming back to Buffalo for a Game 3.

Coming up big for Buffalo in Game 1 was Dhane Smith, otherwise known as Great Dhane and he certainly was that on Saturday night. The Buffalo legend scored four goals in the first quarter alone to help the Bandits jump to a 4-0 lead and end the quarter up 5-4.

Smith ended the night 5 goals and 1 assist for 6 points, stepping up big in the absence of Josh Byrne who came into Game 1 tied as the playoff goal leader. Also, rising to the occasion in the absence of Byrne was Tehoka Nanticoke with 3 goals, 2 assists for 5 points; Chase Fraser scored a hat trick; and Ian MacKay scored 1 and assisted 6 goals for a game-high 7 points.

“We are next man up, through and through,” Buffalo’s Tehoka Nanticoke stated about playing without Byrne. “I think we proved that all year. I don’t know how many one-goal games we had, but it’s next man up the entire year and no different in this series. We’re gonna go and we got one more, next man up.”

Buffalo did a great job of limiting the Colorado offense for extended periods of time, which ultimately led to the Mammoth’s downfall.

“Second and fourth quarter, I thought we did really well,” Coyle said about the ebbs and flows of the game. “That’s this building, too. Once the crowd gets involved and this team is such a momentum team. I felt that we came out of the locker room in the first and the third flat. It’s hard for us to not look at those stretches as the difference in the game.”

However, great players like Zed will still get theirs and that he did. Zed’s first goal came in the final minute of the first quarter when he shook his defender off and broke toward goal on the left side, then once at the top of the crease he dove across to open the legs of Buffalo goalie Matt Vinc to slam home the Mammoth’s third goal of the game.

Zed had to wait until the fourth quarter to strike again, this time in his spot on the powerplay and he ripped a long shot to the corner that once again brought Colorado within two goals, trailing 12-10.

After scoring four times in every championship game last year, Williams is almost certainly not satisfied with his performance, but that’s just how the mind of great competitors like Zed operate. On Monday at 4 p.m. on ESPN2, Zed will get his chance to make sure history repeats itself when the Mammoth host the Bandits in a must-win Game 2.


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