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Bandits will open 2019 season at home on Dec. 1

The Buffalo Bandits will host the Toronto Rock in the National Lacrosse League's season-opening Face Off Weekend on Dec. 1, marking the second earliest start to the season in the league's 33-year history.

The NLL schedule, announced by the league on Thursday afternoon, stays at 18 games for a sixth straight year. The slate is unbalanced, as Buffalo will play Toronto, Philadelphia and Rochester three times, New England and Georgia twice and each of the five Western Division teams once.

Buffalo will battle the defending champions, the Saskatchewan Rush, on the road on March 16 at 9:30 p.m. The defending Eastern Division champion Rochester Knighthawks visit KeyBank Center once, on Jan. 5, while Buffalo will head to Blue Cross Arena on Jan. 26 and Feb. 22.

Bandits fans won't have to wait long to see their team match up against the two new expansion franchises, the Philadelphia Wings and San Diego Seals. Buffalo will face both new squads on the road in December, traveling across the country to San Diego on Dec. 8 and down to Philadelphia to renew a longstanding rivalry on Dec. 15. The Wings, which are back after a four-year hiatus, will visit Buffalo once on Jan. 19.

There are two back-to-back weekends on the Bandits' 2019 slate, including a brutal trip from Rochester to New England on Jan. 26 and 27, and five off weeks. All nine Bandits home games begin at 7:30 p.m.

Traditionally the regular season begins in late December or early January, but the league opted to stretch out the schedule last year in preparation for expansion. The 2018 opener came a week later than this year's, on Dec. 8. The only time the NLL started earlier than Dec. 1 was in the 2001-02 season, which began on Nov. 16.

The Bandits missed the playoffs for a second straight season in 2018, finishing last in the East Division at 8-10. They own the third and fourth overall picks in the upcoming NLL Draft, set for Sept. 25 at Xfinity Live! in Philadelphia.

Here is the Bandits' complete schedule:

Dec. 1 vs. Toronto, 7:30
Dec. 8 at San Diego, 10
Dec. 15 at Philadelphia, 1
Dec. 28 vs. Vancouver, 7:30
Jan. 5 vs. Rochester, 7:30
Jan. 19 vs. Philadelphia, 7:30
Jan. 26 at Rochester, 8
Jan. 27 at New England, 6
Feb. 2 vs. Colorado, 7:30
Feb. 9 at Georgia, 7:05
Feb. 16 vs. Calgary, 7:30
Feb. 22 at Rochester, 7:30
March 8 at Philadelphia, 7
March 9 vs. Georgia, 7:30
March 16 at Saskatchewan, 9:30
March 23 vs. Toronto, 7:30
April 5 at Toronto, 7:30
April 20 vs. New England, 7:30

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