BY MICHAELA KAISER
The Buffalo Bandits, Buffalo’s professional men’s lacrosse team, won game one of the East Division Finals Monday night at Mohegan Sun Arena 15-10 against the New England Black Wolves.
This victory should come as no surprise to fans after the team won nine of their last 10 games, finishing 13-5 in the regular season. In fact, the Bandits broke their single-season record with those 13 wins and finished first in the East Division and first in the NLL.
The second game of this year’s playoff series for East Division Finals will be played on Bandits turf at First Niagara Center on Saturday, May 21st at 7:30pm. The Bandits have home field advantage for the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
If they win Saturday they will head to the Champions Cup Finals to play either Saskatchewan or Calgary.
If New England wins there will be a 10-minute mini game immediately following the match to determine who will advance to the finals.
This year fans’ hopes are high – if not a bit impatient – following their outstanding winning streak – as the Bandits seek to raise another championship flag – in First Niagara Center, where the team plays home games. The team’s last championship was in 2008. Before that the team hadn’t won top honors since the 1990’s — with their three previous championships occurring in their premiere year in the league in 1992 and again in 1993 and 1996.
Recent years have been characterized by near misses. The Bandits were eliminated in the playoffs by Toronto in 2010, 2011, and 2012, and Rochester in 2014 and 2015.
If Dhane Smith’s five goals on Monday and Goalie Cosmo’s 43 saves on 53 shots are any indication of how Saturday will go, Buffalo has a good chance of taking this all the way to the end.
Meanwhile, it’s hard to believe that there are Buffalonians who have never attended a Buffalo Bandits game since the average attendance of 15,833 a game (with a total attendance of 142,505 for the nine home games of the season), is the highest in the league.
For those of you who have not seen the Bandits in action, here are a few tips to consider when attending the game:
1. Wear the team colors: either orange or black
2. Know how to spell “box” since the whole arena will shout it out when an opposing player is sent out for a penalty. The cheer goes: B-O-X! B-O-X! To the box! To the box! The box, box, box, woo!
3. When the announcer mentions the Great Dhane Smith you’re expected to bark like a dog.
4. When they ask “Whose house?” reply “Steenhuis” for Mark Steenhuis who has been with Buffalo since 2003.
Overall, First Niagara Center is a family-friendly environment replete with fans who are loud – but respectful. Their mascot, Rax, and cheerleaders, the Buffalo Bandettes, provide entertainment in the stands and between quarters. The game starts with a bagpiper and features opportunities to win Bandits – themed prizes throughout the night.
The Bandits are owned by Hockey Western New York LLC. This is the same partnership that owns the Buffalo Bills and the Buffalo Sabres, and is led by Terry Pegula.
Playoff tickets are available at www.bandits.com from $21 for 300 level seats up to $40 for 100 level center seats.