15,747 fans came out to the KeyBank Center to watch the Buffalo Bandits take on the Calgary Roughnecks in Game 1 of the 2019 NLL Finals and were treated to a close game that the Roughnecks were able to take over in the second half.
It was strange to see two of the best offenses in the league struggle getting clean looks early on and trying to get shots by the goalies, but with Matt Vinc and Christian Del Bianco in the nets it made sense that the score was 2-2 at halftime despite both teams taking more than 20 shots. Both defenses were all over their matchups as well and seemed to be talking through everything almost perfectly. Rhys Duch was the only Roughneck able to get shots by Vinc early on and Buffalo was able to score off of good ball movement. I kept thinking to myself that these offenses were too good for the score to stay this low and in the second half things did start to open up more.
The turning point of the game was definitely the sequence that took place at the beginning of the 4th Quarter as Ethan O’Connor scooped up a rebound and scored, but it was waved off by the referee saying he was in the crease. The Roughnecks sprinted down the floor right after and Dane Dobbie scored. The Bandits challenged the crease call, but after several minutes of review there was not enough evidence to call it a good goal as O’Connor’s foot was right on the edge of the crease line. So instead of it being a 5-4 game Calgary took the lead 6-3. After that the Bandits began to get sloppy defensively and Dane Dobbie and company took over the game. The Bandits would make it as close as 9-7 and the crowd was louder than ever, but they were not able to score when it mattered most and the Roughnecks escaped Banditland with the 2019 NLL Finals Game 1 victory.
The biggest difference in Game 1 had to be the play of Christian Del Bianco. Even as the Bandits started to get better looks at the net Del Bianco was cutting down the angles and just seemed to get a piece on almost every shot as he finished with 48 saves. He was also all over every rebound and sending the ball up the floor to his teammates immediately. The Bandits will have to get more creative offensively and start finding ways to get the ball past Del Bianco.
Relive Game 1 of the 2019 NLL Finals by watching this great video by BR Live here.