National Lacrosse League championship round to feature familiar foes

Buffalo Bandits await winner of Mammoth-Roughnecks series in championship round

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No matter who wins Saturday night between the Colorado Mammoth and the Calgary Roughnecks, the 2023 NLL Finals will feature a familiar matchup.

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That’s because the East Conference-winning Buffalo Bandits have already booked their spot in this year’s championship round.

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And they’re reached the NLL Cup series the last two times it’s been contested — against the Mammoth last spring and versus the Roughnecks back in 2019.

Of course, the Riggers are hoping the finals will be a rematch from four years ago.

“Not even looking past Saturday night,” said Roughnecks GM Mike Board of Game 3 in the West Conference final between his charges and the visiting Mammoth on WestJet Field at Scotiabank Saddledome (7:30 p.m., TSN/

“So we’ve got work to do before any of that discussion even takes place.”

This much we know …

The Bandits (14-4) advanced to the finale after dismantling the Toronto Rock (13-5) in two straight games of the East Conference final — scoring a 14-5 win in Game 1 last Friday in Upstate New York after topping the host Rock 17-8 on Saturday.

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“I don’t know what happened there,” Board said. “They’re both good teams over there, and I know Toronto did run into some injuries. But Buffalo was a top team in the league in the regular season, and I think they showed why. I haven’t talked to Toronto, and I don’t want to speak on their part, but they’re probably disappointed as any team would be not be able to advance.”

By the way, the Bandits were on the losing end in both those NLL Cups against the Mammoth and the Roughnecks.


There are three successful reasons for Board being named among finalists for the NLL general manager of the year.

The first was the off-season acquisition of veteran defender Jeff Cornwall from the expansion Las Vegas Desert Dogs.

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The second was the selection of now-regular-starter Seth Van Schepen with the Roughnecks’ first-round pick in the 2023 NLL Draft.

And the third was the trade to bring in seasoned sniper Josh Currier a few weeks into the season.

“Each year as a season is over, you set out to analyze how things went, analyze the draft and look at how you can make sure that you can continue to build a competitive team,” said Board, who — these days — designs and executes those goals with equal help from assistant GM and assistant coaches Bob McMahon, Brian Beisel and Tyler Richards. “It’s like putting a puzzle together, and you hope you have all the pieces in the right place. If not, you make adjustments, and I think we do that.”

The winners for each award will be announced next week leading into Game 1 of the NLL Finals.

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Here are the finalists …

Most Valuable Player
• Christian Del Bianco (Coquitlam, B.C.) – Goaltender – Calgary Roughnecks
• Dhane Smith (Kitchener, Ont.) – Forward – Buffalo Bandits
• Jeff Teat (Brampton, Ont.) – Forward – New York Riptide

Rookie of the Year
• Brett Dobson (Oshawa, Ont.) – Goaltender – Georgia Swarm
• Jonathan Donville (Oakville, Ont.) – Forward – Panther City Lacrosse Club
• Jack Hannah (Milford, Ohio) – Forward – Las Vegas Desert Dogs

Goaltender of the Year
• Christian Del Bianco (Coquitlam, B.C.) – Calgary Roughnecks
• Nick Rose (Orangeville, Ont.) – Toronto Rock
• Matt Vinc (St. Catharines, Ont.) – Buffalo Bandits

Transition Player of the Year
• Reid Bowering (Coquitlam, B.C.) – Vancouver Warriors
• Zach Currier (Peterborough, Ont.) – Calgary Roughnecks
• Challen Rogers (Coquitlam, B.C.) – Toronto Rock

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Defensive Player of the Year
• Latrell Harris (St. Catharines, Ont.) – Toronto Rock
• Graeme Hossack (Port Perry, Ont.) – Halifax Thunderbirds
• Brad Kri (Acton, Ont.) – Toronto Rock

Sportsmanship Award
• Kyle Buchanan (Nepean, Ont.) – Buffalo Bandits
• Tom Schreiber (East Meadow, N.Y.) – Toronto Rock
• Lyle Thompson (Onondaga Nation, N.Y.) – Georgia Swarm

Teammate of the Year
• Kyle Buchanan (Nepean, Ont.) – Buffalo Bandits
• Dan Dawson (Oakville, Ont.) – Toronto Rock
• John LaFontaine (Whitby, Ont.) – Albany FireWolves

Les Bartley Award (Head Coach of the Year)
• Mike Hasen – Rochester Knighthawks
• Tracey Kelusky – Panther City Lacrosse Club
• Curt Malawsky – Calgary Roughnecks

General Manager of the Year
• Mike Board – Calgary Roughnecks
• Dan Carey – Rochester Knighthawks
• Jamie Dawick – Toronto Rock

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Executive of the Year
• Melissa Blades – Director of business operations, Calgary Roughnecks
• Mark Fine – Chief executive officer, Las Vegas Desert Dogs
• Matt Hutchings – Executive vice-president/chief operating officer/KSE/Governor, Colorado Mammoth

Tom Borrelli Award (Media Person of the Year)
• Pat Gregoire – TSN/Halifax Thunderbirds colour commentator and co-host, ‘Off the CrosseBar’ podcast
• Teddy Jenner – TSN play-by-play and co-host, ‘Off the CrosseBar’ podcast
• Adam Levi – Inside Lacrosse, NLLPA, and contributing writer and host, ‘Lacrosse Matrix’ podcast


Bandits Dhane Smith and Josh Byrne are the co-scoring leaders — with 26 points apiece over just three games — in these playoffs. Smith and teammate Chris Cloutier both boast an NLL post-season-high 11 goals in a trio of contests … The West’s best scorer is Mammoth star Ryan Lee with 19 points, while Roughnecks captain Jesse King is next with 16 points — both after three games. Riggers forward Tyler Pace has played just two tilts and sports a whopping 16 points, including a team-high seven goals to match that of teammate Tanner Cook in that category … T Ethan Ticehurst (lower body) remains doubtful for the Roughnecks for Game 3.

Check out our sports section for the latest news and analysis. Care for a wager? Head to our sports betting section for news and odds.


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