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A Preview of the NLL Finals

01 de Junio de 2022 a las 04:14

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Article by Gary Groob
Columnist and Co-Host on Spanglish Sports World and Spanglish World Networks
TORONTO. - After two absolutely phenomenal semi-final series, we have our 2022 championship round set.  The Buffalo Bandits will face the Colorado Mammoth. Game one is this Saturday night June 4th, at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, NY.

How We Got Here:

In a slam banging two game sweep, the Buffalo Bandits outlasted the Toronto Rock 18-17, and 10-9 with both games literally coming down to the final second.  Game one was a wild affair, with thirty five goals being scored, while game two was much more of a defensive battle with just nineteen goals scored.  The series showed athleticism, toughness, sheer skill and talent, as well as character on both sides.  These teams showed exactly why they finished first, and second in the league standings.

The Colorado Mammoth had to play the series without their offensive leader Ryan Lee.  Just before game one he was put on the injured reserve, where he still remains today.  This series had everything.  Highlight reel goals, ridiculous saves, and an inner fortitude from both teams that had everyone on the edge of their seats until the final horn of game three.  Game two was even determined by overtime.  While Dane Dobbie, Wes Berg, and Austin Staats had a good series for San Diego, the combination of Zed Williams, Connor Robinson, and Eli McLaughlin really stepped their game up to bring the Mammoth to victory.  Eli McLaughlin had back to back sock-tricks (6 goals) leading the Mammoth to their best of three victory 2-1.

The Finals:

Buffalo has been the class of the league all year, leading the standings from wire to wire.  Colorado had some growing pains early, but with veteran guidance, the youth of the team was able to gel, becoming the juggernaut who will face the Bandits in just a few days.

How They Match-up:

When I was putting this together, it astounded me just how similar these teams were constructed.  Both teams had perennial All-Star goalies in Matt Vinc for Buffalo, and Dillon Ward for Colorado.  The defenses were bruising with Captain Steve Priolo leading by example for the Buffalo Bandits, and Robert Hope being the steady force behind the Colorado Mammoth defense.

Both teams have big bodies on defense that can move like cats.  These players are ready to take away shooting and passing lanes, as well as pounce on loose balls for transition opportunities.  The slight edge in transition I give to Colorado.  The Mammoth have the league's best transition player in Joey Cupido, who can electrify fans, and change momentum of the game with any one of his rushes.

The offenses for these two teams are fast, athletic, exciting, and rather creative.  Josh Byrne, Chase Fraser, Dhane Smith, Chris Cloutier, Connor Fields, Tehoka Nanticoke, (and the list goes on) for the Bandits.  While Colorado counters with Eli McLaughlin, Connor Robinson, Zed Williams, Chris Wardle, Dylan Kinnear, and hopefully a healthy Ryan Lee.

Even the faceoff battle will be a fairly even event with Tim Edwards battling Max Adler.  Both men have been able to hold their own with the top faceoff men in the league all season, and the battle that will ensue between these two men will be epic.

My Take On The Series:

I can easily make arguments for both teams to be hoisting the cup, but would rather say the real winners will be the fans, the league, and lacrosse in general.  With all games televised on ESPN and TSN, many new fans should be able to experience what a fantastic game the Creator's game really is.  This should lead to an influx of viewers, and supporters for years to come.

Good luck to both teams.  Don't be surprised if the NLL Championship is determined by an overtime goal in game three of the best of three series.