In a clash between two of the top teams in the NLL and East Division, the Georgia Swarm (7-2) and Buffalo Bandits (6-2) will meet at Infinite Energy Arena on Saturday, Feb. 9 to help create space between them. Given that the Toronto Rock (6-1) sit idle this week, a win for either Georgia or Buffalo helps to keep the winner closer to the top team in the league.
The Swarm are coming off a dynamic doubleheader weekend, taking a 10-8 defensive battle against the New England Black Wolves on Friday before overwhelming the Rochester Knighthawks 16-12 on Saturday.
The Bandits got off to a fast start against the Colorado Mammoth last Saturday and won their sixth game of the season 15-12.
It will be the first time the two teams have clashed this season, and both have gone through numerous changes on the floor.
“We expect (the Bandits) to be very good,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “From what I’ve seen on video when we’re scouting other teams and seeing Buffalo play, they’ve got a pretty dynamic offense, and they’ve got a defense with a lot of guys down there that can turn miscues, shots off net, turnovers, transition opportunities into goals. We’re going to have to be very good in both ends of the floor, and certainly we’re going to have to shoot very well on Matt Vinc.”
Vinc is a familiar foe for the Swarm from his goaltending days in Rochester, but Saturday will be the first time the Swarm see him in Bandits orange. In 446:54 min. this season, Vinc has a 10.74 GAA and a .795 SV%.
Leading the charge to chase Vinc from net will be Randy Staats (18G, 38A) and Lyle Thompson (27G, 27A). Staats leads the NLL in points and assists, and Lyle is next in points while leading the league in goals. The duo are responsible for over a third of the Swarm’s total points this season and are coming off huge weekends, with Staats posting 15 points (5G, 10A) and Lyle 16 points (7G, 9A).
“Our offense, if we continue to play like we did against Rochester, and we shoot the ball really effectively, we can put up numbers on (Buffalo’s) defense, but it’s not going to come easy,” Comeau said. “They make you really work for everything you get, and we’re going to have to come ready to work hard.”
Between the pipes, Mike Poulin has been consistent for the Swarm. He has a 10.75 GAA and a .786 SV% over 479:59 min. Kevin Orleman saw his first NLL action last Saturday, making 33 saves against the Knighthawks for his first NLL win.
Offensively, the Bandits are led by Shawn Evans and his 51 points (15G, 36A). While he missed two games at the beginning of the season, Dhane Smith sits second in scoring for Buffalo at 42 points (12G, 30A) and is averaging 7 PTS/GAME.
The Bandits also made a huge trade on Wednesday, acquiring forward Chris Cloutier – the No. 2 overall draft pick in the 2018 NLL Entry Draft – for transition player Ryan Wagner and a first-round selection in the 2021 Entry Draft.
The late addition to the Bandits roster should not affect the Swarm’s main goals for themselves, to turn in another strong defensive showing and constantly move the ball and their feet for a full 60 minutes on Saturday.
“We want to play dynamic; we want to play fast, as well,” Comeau said. “But we want to be the one that dictates the pace, not necessarily letting them dictate the pace of the game. That’s the ultimate goal, and come Saturday night at 9 o’clock, we’ll probably have a better idea of whether we did that or not.”
Faceoff is set for 7:05 p.m. ET. Saturday’s game will be broadcast on the B/R Live app available through iTunes, Google Play, Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire.