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Stars & Cosmos: Bandits Blast Off On Swarm, 12-8

The Buffalo Bandits (7-6) hosted the Minnesota Swarm (3-8) on Native American Night at the First Niagara Center in front of 14,601 fans at First Niagara Center. The Bandits emerged victorious by a score of 12-8, handing the Swarm its sixth-straight loss, and put a tighter grip on third place in the East Division ahead of Minnesota and the New England Black Wolves.

The Bandits opened the scoring on their first two shots of the game as Mark Steenhuis and Ryan Benesch each buried their chances. Benesch added another tally with a quick stick goal right out in front to increase Buffalo’s lead to 3-0. Alex Kedoh Hill scored just three seconds later directly off of a faceoff win from Jay Thorimbert to make it 4-0. Steve Priolo scored in transition to make it 5-0 and chase Zach Higgins from the goal in favor of Brodie MacDonald for Minnesota. Callum Crawford put the Swarm on the board with 5:05 to go in the first quarter. Miles Thompson and Crawford each beat Anthony Cosmo to make the score 5-3. With 32.3 seconds to go Dhane Smith buried a rebound to give Buffalo a 6-3 lead going into the second quarter.

Smith and Steenhuis both scored in the first five minutes of the second quarter to give Buffalo an 8-3 lead. Kevin Brownell scored in transition to make the lead six and force  MacDonald back to the bench. Shayne Jackson and Dean Hill added a tallies for the Swarm and pulled them within four to end the first half’s scoring. Minnesota outshot Buffalo 33-26 in the first 30 minutes.

The Swarm struck first 2:34 into the third quarter as Thompson cut the lead down to three. Steenhuis completed his hat trick 32 seconds later to give the Bandits a 10-6 lead. John Tavares scored short-handed to give Buffalo their five goal lead back. Smith wrapped up the third quarter’s scoring to give Buffalo a 12-6 lead.

Minnesota hit the back of the twice in the fourth with goals from Corbyn Tao and Jackson and end the game with the score 12-8. Minnesota outshot Buffalo, 54-48.

Buffalo got out to a very quick start and never looked back. Minnesota’s head coach Joe Sullivan was not happy with the tough spot they put themselves in early.

“That was not the start we were looking for. 5-0 is not going to win you anything. [Buffalo scored] four goals on seven shots,” Sullivan said. “It’s at that point where guys are literally going to get themselves pulled out of the lineup. If they’re not going to compete better than that, they’re not going to play.”

Crawford (2+2), Jackson (2+2) and Miles Thompson (2+2) all had four points for the Swarm. Zach Higgins stopped 28 of the 36 shots he faced while Brodie MacDonald saved 9 of 13.

Dhane Smith earned his 100th assist and remains a top 10 scorer in the league. He was happy with the accomplishment, but was more excited about the team’s offensive production.

“I had no idea it [100 assists] was coming up, it’s awesome,” said Smith of the achievement. “It’s nice to see the ball moving so well, we were flying. We all contributed.”

Bandits goalie Anthony Cosmo was the game’s First Star and ended the night with 46 saves on 54 shots.

“I thought we came out a little lucky, to be up 5-0, we started really hot,” said Cosmo. “We stayed settled. We weren’t overzealous. We didn’t try to do too much. Our defense played well with what they were given.”

Buffalo seemed to control the whole game; their head coach Troy Cordingley attributed the win to discipline and goaltending.

“Discipline won that game. If we were taking dumb penalties or what-have-you, it would have been a lot closer,” said Cordingley. “’Cozzy’ was outstanding and made big saves when we needed them.”

Buffalo has Week 13 off before returning to action at home against the Black Wolves on April 4th at 7:30pm. Minnesota also plays New England next on Sunday, March 29th at noon when they head to the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:

1) Anthony Cosmo
2) Mark Steenhuis
3) Dhane Smith

By Steve Bermel (@BanditsBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Bill Wippert.