The Buffalo Bandits (6-11) were eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday night after a 20-7 loss to the Georgia Swarm (12-4) in front of 16,833 fans at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, NY. The Swarm jumped out to an early lead and never looked back as they cruised to their twelfth victory of the year. Buffalo set a new franchise record losing their eleventh game of the season.
“That’s probably the worst beating I’ve taken in lacrosse,” said Bandits defenseman Steve Priolo. “And it came on the most important night of the year. That kind of sums up our season of bad luck and lack of effort and lack of passion.”
The Swarm scored the first four goals of the game on shots from Randy Staats, Kiel Matisz, Staats again and Miles Thompson. Ryan Benesch and Anthony Malcom answered for Buffalo and the first quarter ended with Georgia holding a 4-2 lead.
“We knew a good start was important and we knew Buffalo was going to want to jump on us with how desperate they were,” said Swarm head coach Ed Comeau. “We knew if we could get a lead we could capitalize on them having to take more chances.”
Both Mike Poulin and Anthony Cosmo came out with strong goaltending performances, but Cosmo cracked before Poulin did.
“Poulin was great, but Buffalo’s first few chances hit the post,” said Comeau. “If those hit the other side of the post, they go in the net and we could be talking about a different game.”
Jordan Hall opened the scoring in the second quarter before David Brock answered for Buffalo. A five goal run (Staats, Matisz, Johnny Powless, Miles Thompson, Lyle Thompson) opened up a 10-3 lead for Georgia. Mark Steenhuis notched a goal for Buffalo, but Shayne Jackson answered right back. Benesch found the net again and the Bandits trailed 11-5 at the half.
The Swarm kept pouring it on, scoring all five goals in the third quarter. Lyle Thompson, Jackson, Staats, Jason Noble and Powless kept the Swarm in command going into the fourth with a 16-5 lead.
The lead soon grew to 19-5 on two goals from Miles Thompson and a goal from Matisz. Mark Steenhuis and Mitch Jones gave Buffalo their sixth and seventh goals before Hall gave the Swarm their twentieth.
“That was an embarrassing effort. We were outclassed and outworked right from the get go,” said Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley. “It’s especially tough when you’re battling for your life and you have no battle. It was a special night in regards to the Williams family and we had a performance like that.”
Buffalo held it’s annual “Tucker Out Lymphoma Night” in honor of the late Tucker Williams, wearing special jerseys and raising money for children’s cancer research and care.
The Bandits were without 2016 NLL MVP Dhane Smith after he stepped on a ball during the morning shootaround and rolled his ankle. It continued a trend of injuries that Buffalo feels like it’s been dealing with all year.
“Dhane was playing hurt already and when he rolled his ankle this morning, our hearts sank,” said Priolo. “Guys stepped up, but when Dhane went down, we could feel it.
“Smith not playing, he’s a big part of their team, but it didn’t change how we played.” noted Comeau. “We focus on the Georgia Swarm.”
“Teams lose good players, but you have to find a way. We didn’t find a way today,” said Cordingley. “Everyone needs to do a little bit more when you lose someone and instead we did less.”
The loss signaled a strange occurrence: the Bandits were eliminated from the playoffs before the last game of the season. Buffalo is rarely out of the playoff picture with regular season games left to play.
“There’s nothing worse. Our season is done and we feel terrible,” said Bandits forward Mark Steenhuis. “It’s definitely demoralizing. The whole offseason, this will be on my mind. To be out of it this early leaves a terrible taste in the mouth.
The Bandits host the Toronto Rock next Saturday, April 29th at 7:30 P.M. EST. The Swarm end the season with a home-and-home with Rochester, visiting the Knighthawks on Friday the 28th at 7:30 P.M. EST and hosting them on Saturday the 29th at 7:05 P.M. EST.
Three Stars as Selected by the Media
1 .Lyle Thompson
- Randy Staats
- Mike Poulin