Weiss Wins It: Buffalo One Win Away from NLL Championship

PHOTO BY MICHAEL HETZEL / NLL

Nick Weiss scored the game-winner on Game 1 of the NLL Finals.


It started with an impressive loose ball.

A Colorado Mammoth shot wide of cage with under a minute remaining bounced all the way back to the restraining line, where Zed Williams attempted to smack it back into his attacking zone. But Buffalo’s Ian MacKay was in the right spot at the right time, snagging the ball off a bounce to set up a breakaway for Nick Weiss.

Then, the Bandits veteran cashed in. And with Weiss’ late tiebreaking goal, Buffalo is one win away from its first championship in 14 years.

Weiss’ tally, which he snuck past Colorado’s Dillon Ward after a shot fake, was the difference-maker in Buffalo’s 15-14 home win in Game 1 of the best-of-three National Lacrosse League Finals. It capped off a back-and-forth fourth quarter which saw the Mammoth equalize three times.

“[MacKay] came up with an unbelievable loose ball,” Weiss said. “I saw open floor and started running. I had almost too much time, so I had a little bit of time to think and I saw the way [Ward] was standing. I kind of have a favorite shot, so I took that exact shot. I think most of the guys on my team knew exactly where I was shooting that ball. Thank God it went in.”

Rookie Tehoka Nanticoke had the best offensive performance yet in his young career, notching seven points on five goals and two assists. He was one of three Bandits to hit that point total, joined by the team’s usual offensive leaders, Josh Byrne and Dhane Smith.

“This is the kind of game I’ve dreamed of since I was a little kid playing lacrosse, holding a stick, wearing a [John Tavares] jersey running around the backyard,” Nanticoke said. “This is everything I expected from Banditland, and I love it.”

Four players added three points each for Buffalo: Chris Cloutier, Connor Fields, Kyle Buchanan and MacKay. Matt Vinc backstopped the defense with 40 saves.







Colorado, still playing without leading scorer Ryan Lee, was kept in the game thanks to the efforts of Connor Robinson, Eli McLaughlin and Williams. Robinson had three goals and six assists, while Williams and McLaughlin each added eight points.

The Mammoth’s only lead of the night came at 1-0, with Buffalo getting out to a 5-1 advantage inside the first two minutes of the second quarter. Seven goals in the second helped the Mammoth cut that deficit to one at the break when Robinson scored with 2:13 remaining in the second frame.

Buffalo responded by scoring three of the first four in the second half, but Colorado once again was up for the challenge. It matched that run to close out the third quarter, then Robinson tied the score at 12 two minutes into the final period.

Williams also equalized for the visitors at 13 and 14, but Weiss’ final goal would not be answered.

“They have great offensive weapons,” said Tavares, who is looking to add a championship as a head coach after securing four as a Bandits player. “They don’t give up. They keep coming and coming. I kept thinking … ‘They haven’t taken the lead.’ I was cringing if they did. I thought it would have given them that extra momentum, but they just couldn’t get there, and I think that saved us.”

Weiss’ goal, his first of the postseason, sent the Bandits crowd of over 14,000 into a frenzy.

“I don’t usually score goals like that,” Weiss said. “If I’m scoring goals at the end of the game, it’s generally an empty netter, so that was a pretty cool feeling.”

The Bandits, who were swept by Saskatchewan and Calgary in their last two Finals appearances, will head out to Colorado looking for the franchise’s fifth title and first since besting the Portland LumberJax at home in 2008.

“We finally have a weight off our shoulder,” Smith said. “We’re going into Colorado like it’s do or die. We can’t think that we have one more game after that. Yes, it would be awesome to win in Banditland. That being said, it would be even better to win in front of their crowd and bring home the trophy.”

UP NEXT
ALL TIMES EASTERN

Bandits lead series 1-0.

Game 2: Bandits at Mammoth, Saturday, June 11, at 9 p.m.
Game 3 (if necessary): Mammoth at Bandits, Saturday, June 18, at 7:30 p.m.

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