By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist
It took 13 years, but Matt Vinc is back in Buffalo.
Vinc graduated from Canisius College in 2005, where he was the male athlete of the year as a senior. Since that time, he has played for a number of teams in the National Lacrosse League – but none of them were the Buffalo Bandits.
That changed on Tuesday. Vinc, who is considered one of the greatest goalies in NLL history if not the greatest, agreed to a three-year deal with the Bandits. Vinc was an unrestricted free agent after playing his last eight seasons with Rochester Knighthawks.
The signing strengthens the Bandits at what looked to be their weak spot as the start of training camp approached. Buffalo traded Alex Buque to New England in the offseason and lost Dave DiRuscio in the expansion draft. The team’s third goalie in 2017, Zach Higgins, is believed to be an unrestricted free agent.
In the meantime, the signing strikes a blow at one of the Bandits’ main rivals, the Knighthawks. Angus Goodleaf was re-signed by Rochester on Tuesday, and he will be given every opportunity to take the No. 1 job for the coming season after serving as Vinc’s backup for several years.
Vinc, 36, is one of the most decorated players in NLL history and is a certain Hall of Famer whenever he retires. He has been named the league’s goaltender of the year six times, including for 2018, and he has been a first-team all-pro pick six times. His teams eliminated the Bandits from the playoffs on three different occasions in his career. Vinc has won three championships.
Last season, the goalie has his best year since 2015. He compiled a 9-6 record with an 11.37 GAA and a .782 save percentage. Rochester reached the finals, but lost to Saskatchewan.
Vinc has been the subject of rumors connected to the Bandits for much of the offseason. The Knighthawks are moving to Halifax after the 2018-19 season. That couldn’t have held much of an attraction for Vinc, a teacher in St. Catharines, Ont. Still, the Bandits apparently needed to offer him a three-year deal to lure him to Buffalo.
“This was the hardest decision of my life that has impacted not only my family but everyone that has played a valuable role in my career,” Vinc wrote on Twitter after the announcement. “Ultimately I had to make the best long term decision for myself and my family.”
The Bandits start training camp on Saturday with an open practice and autograph session at the KeyBank Center. Activities begin at 11 a.m.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)