Dane Dobbie Scores Wild Goal, Keeps Seals Alive in Conference Finals


Could you have asked for better back-to-back National Lacrosse League semifinal games?

First, the Buffalo Bandits avoided overtime by just tenths of a second. Then, the San Diego Seals and Colorado Mammoth needed the extra frame, resulting in a highlight-reel goal few in attendance will ever forget.

And with the results, Buffalo is heading to its second straight NLL Cup, and the Seals stayed alive for one more week.

Toronto’s Dan Craig sent the Hamilton crowd into a frenzy Saturday night when he appeared to score a buzzer-beating equalizer. After entering the Buffalo zone with under 15 seconds remaining, Challen Rogers found Craig all alone to the right of Buffalo goalie Matt Vinc. He snuck a shot in between Vinc’s arm and side, turning to the stands for an emphatic celebration as the scoreboard read 10-10.

But the Bandits’ bench was adamant the shot came too late. The referees went to the monitor and confirmed Buffalo’s suspicions. The ball was just underneath Vinc’s arms when the clock hit zeroes, resulting in a heartbreaking 10-9 ending for the hosts.

Buffalo secured a series sweep — though both games came right down to the wire — and a chance to win its first championship since 2008.

“The way we ended last game, that’s not our best,” Vinc said. “They’re a great offensive team, but I think we have a lot of pride in that locker room on the defensive end, and we knew we needed to play a lot tighter because our team is not going to be able to put up 18 all the time.”

The Rock put together an incredible comeback to even get within striking distance, having entered the final six and a half minutes of regulation down 9-5. Goals from Rob Hellyer and Craig just 28 seconds apart got the team back in it before Hellyer scored again less than 30 seconds later to cut the deficit to one.

Chase Fraser gave the Bandits cushion again with a seeing eye shot to the top corner with three and a half minutes remaining, but Tom Schreiber answered with 46 seconds on the clock to set up the team’s final opportunity.

Josh Byrne led the way for the Bandits with two goals and six assists. Dhane Smith, who pledged to donate $50 to the families of the victims of the mass shooting in Buffalo for every goal scored Saturday, had two goals and dished out four helpers. In total, he helped raise $15,000.

The Bandits will play either Colorado or San Diego in the final after falling to Calgary in their last attempt at a title. Game 1 is set for June 4 no matter who the opponent is.

“I’m already thinking about it,” Vinc said. “That’s the way the goalie is. You might get tonight, but tomorrow, that’s when you’ve got to start focusing. You have a week to prepare for a reason. I think that’s going to start tomorrow.”

Buffalo gets that added week to prepare thanks to Dane Dobbie’s heroics keeping the Seals’ season afloat.

The postseason legend collected an errant pass off the boards in the corner and sized up Colorado defender Jordan Gilles before getting by him with a roll dodge. He had to tip toe around the crease while being met by Robert Hope, sliding up above the cage to increase his angle as he lost his footing.

That’s when he released a desperation behind-the-back shot that got past Dillon Ward to secure an 11-10 overtime triumph and a return trip to San Diego.

“We worked extremely hard trying to get to the net,” Seals coach and general manager Patrick Merrill said. “We knew we’d have to earn opportunities in overtime with the way their defense was playing, the way Dillon was playing. Guys just took it upon themselves. … I think we earned that bounce at the end.”

Colorado’s Eli McLaughlin opened the fourth quarter with back-to-back goals to give his Mammoth a 9-7 advantage 6:12 into the frame. San Diego responded with a three-goal run of its own featuring a pair of goals from Zack Greer to regain the advantage.

McLaughlin closed out his strong fourth and his sock trick by equalizing, forcing the overtime period. But it was Dobbie, who scored four times with two assists, who got the last laugh.

Wes Berg, Jeremy Noble and Austin Staats all had five points for San Diego, which is attempting to make the NLL Cup for the first time. Now, it comes down to a winner-take-all Game 3 in Pechanga Arena.

“It’s the two best teams in the West,” Seals defenseman Drew Belgrave said. “You knew it was going to be a battle. But you’ve just got to keep on grinding through and find a way to get the win.”


West Finals

Game 3: Mammoth at Seals, 10 p.m. Saturday


Game 1: Mammoth/Seals at Bandits, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, June 4


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