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Bandits face season's end in Calgary

There’s no room for error for the Bandits as they get set for Game 2 of the NLL Championship, scheduled for 9 p.m. Eastern time at Calgary’s Scotiabank Saddledome.

Buffalo needs to even the series to force Game 3 back in Buffalo, or else the Roughnecks will claim the Champion’s Cup.

A loss will also mean the Bandits are 0-2 in their past two championship appearances. They lost to the Saskatchewan Rush in two games in their last title appearance in 2016.

Buffalo’s high-octane offense was stymied by Calgary’s rock-solid defense in Game 1 last Saturday at the KeyBank Center.

The Bandits were unable to get into a flow like they had so many times during the regular season as Calgary defenders made it a point to interrupt shooting and passing lanes.

An important part of Buffalo’s game plan is quick passes and deception in the offensive zone to confuse goalies and defenders alike.

A textbook example came on May 4 against New England when Dhane Smith appeared to pass the ball to Josh Byrne, when in reality it never left his stick.

Smith was able to fire the ball into the net for an easy goal en route to a victory in the quarterfinals.

But when those quick passes are jammed, it throws a wrench in Buffalo’s offensive machine.

“We have to adjust with how we’re shooting the ball,” head coach John Tavares told Bandits.com.

“They have a lot of athletes and they put pressure on our offensive players.”

When the Bandits did get a shot off, it often was stopped by the Riggers’ star goalie Christian Del Bianco. The 21-year-old stopped 48 out of 55 Buffalo shots.

His 1,356 career saves have put him in fourth place on Calgary’s all-time goalie save list behind Frankie Scigliano (1,787).

Buffalo’s three-headed monster of Smith, Byrne and Shawn Evans, the same group that combined for 73 goals and 238 points in the regular season, was held to just four goals and 11 points on May 18.

The Bandits will also be tasked with bottling up Dane Dobbie once more.

Calgary’s star forward and the NLL’s regular season points leader led the Roughnecks in shots (10) and points (6) against the Bandits in Game 1.

Dobbie and teammate Curtis “Superman” Dickson have formed a dangerous scoring duo, as well as a strong chemistry on the turf.

“Dane’s one of my best friends,” Dickson told the Calgary Sun on Thursday. “His will to win and the effort he puts out night-in, night-out is pretty inspiring.”

That chemistry was evident when the two assisted each other on goals against the Bandits.

Buffalo has not lost back-to-back matchups this season.

“We seem to answer well after losses so we’re just looking for another opportunity to bounce back,” said forward Corey Small.

If Buffalo wins in Calgary, Game 3 is scheduled to be played May 31 at the KeyBank Center at 8 p.m.

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