The Georgia Swarm (4-4) got payback with a 19-15 road win over the Buffalo Bandits (4-4) in front of 14,515 fans at First Niagara Center on Saturday night. After losing at home to Buffalo on Valentine’s Day by a score of 21-14, the Swarm used an eight-goal fourth quarter to take over the game and secure the win in ‘Banditland.’
By stopping 44 shots, Bandits goaltender Anthony Cosmo recorded his 6,472nd career save and became the NLL’s all-time leader in saves, passing Bob Watson. Cosmo was quick to credit his teammates over the years for his huge accomplishment.
“It’s a good record to have and that I’ve been playing a long time. I’m getting a little old,” Cosmo said. “Although it’s my record, I’m just the recipient. There are a lot of people that have helped me battle through. I’m honored to have the record, but unless I hoist a Champion’s Cup as a starter, it’s all for naught.”
Zach Higgins came into the game for Brodie MacDonald after Buffalo’s eighth goal and stopped 25 of the 32 shots he faced. His strong relief performance helped the Swarm gain some momentum and ultimately earn the victory.
“We have two goalies with different styles. Zach is active, controls the rebounds and comes up with the ball quick. He did a great job for us,” said Georgia head coach Ed Comeau. “Anytime you put a guy in off of the bench, you hope he does exactly what he did for us tonight.”
Buffalo jumped out to a 5-3 lead after the first quarter on the back of four power play goals, including two on the same major penalty to Mitch Belisle for checking from behind.
After Buffalo opened up an 8-4 lead, a hit from Billy Dee Smith on Lyle Thompson gave the Swarm a five minute powerplay of its own that allowed them to tie the game at eight with 5:20 to go in the half. Buffalo responded with two goals to end the half with a 10-8 lead.
The third quarter saw the game tied twice before the Bandits took a 12-11 lead into the final frame on Anthony Malcom’s second goal of the night.
Georgia scored five straight goals in the fourth quarter to open up a 16-12 lead with 7:25 to go. The Swarm outscored Buffalo 8-3 in the final quarter to win 19-15.
Dhane Smith, the league’s leading scorer, led all runners with 11 points (4+7) while Johnny Powless led the Swarm with six points (3+3). Bandits rookie Anthony Malcom also had a strong night with five points (3+2), to which he credited offensive coach John Tavares.
“[Tavares] is a great coach. He’s been able to translate his tremendous play on the floor to being behind the bench,” said Malcom. “I really like his style. The ball is swinging often with lots of picking and lots of cutting. That really bodes well for my style of play.”
The Bandits second loss in as many nights left their head coach Troy Cordingley disappointed, but he knows the NLL season is a marathon, not a sprint.
“We were totally dominated in the second half. [The Swarm’s] second and third chances killed us. We’re not playing very well defensively right now. We just weren’t good and we got outworked,” Cordingley said. “We just have to rebound, everyone has adversity. We have to find a way to challenge ourselves and be better as a team. We still have 10 games to play.”
The Bandits return to action on Friday, February 26 when they visit the Saskatchewan Rush at 8:30 p.m. ET. The Swarm will travel to play the New England Black Wolves on Sunday, February 28 at 3 p.m. ET.
Three Stars of the Game:
1) Johnny Powless
2) Dhane Smith
3) Zach Higgins
By Steve Bermel for NLL.com. Photo by Bill Wippert.