By Steve Bermel / NLL.com Correspondent
Photo by Bill Wippert / Buffalo Bandits
The Buffalo Bandits (0-2) dropped their second home game in a row on Saturday night, losing 18-14 to the Georgia Swarm (2-0) at the Keybank Center in front of 13,915 fans. The Bandits struggled once again to find any rhythm while the red hot Swarm continued to score in bunches.
The first quarter couldn’t have gone much better for the Swarm. Georgia jumped out to a 5-0 lead on the back of a five minute power play before Anthony Malcom got the Bandits on the board shorthanded. Jerome Thompson netted his second goal of the game before Daryl Veltman answered for Buffalo on the man advantage and ended the first frame with the score 6-2 in favor of the visitors.
“We capitalized on our powerplays early,” said Swarm head coach Ed Comeau. “Our defense and goaltending were really good early. Mike Poulin made some saves that kept the game from being a lot closer.”
The Bandits, once again, were not happy with their start.
“I don’t know what it is, but we’ve been super flat off the hop in our first two games,” said Bandits forward Ryan Benesch. “The bad part is, these games are at home. These three home games, we need wins in all three.”
The Swarm continued to pressure the Bandits in the second quarter. Georgia expanded their lead on goals from Chad Tutton and Shayne Jackson before Ryan Benesch and Mark Steenhuis answered for Buffalo. Lyle Thompson and Mitch Jones traded goals and the half ended with the Swarm leading 9-5. Georgia also out shot the Bandits 36-23 in the first half.
Brad Self scored the first goal of the third for the Bandits before the Swarm ripped off six straight goals. Benesch and Steenhuis each potted a goal before the end of the period to bring Buffalo within seven goals at 15-8.
The Bandits carried a five minute major into the fourth quarter. They failed to score a goal on the power play, but gave up a shorthanded goal to Jackson. Mitch Jones answered for Buffalo with a shorthanded goal of his own which sparked a five goal run for Buffalo. The Bandits comeback effort came up short as the Swarm added two empty net goals to wrap the game 18-14.
The ability to crawl back into the game might be taken as a positive, but Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley would like to see more effort for the full 60 minutes.
“When you start to play desperate, take chances and work a little harder, you’re rewarded,” said Cordingley. “If we had that effort the entire game, things would be different. It’s a step in the right direction, but five good minutes isn’t going to win the game.
“We’re struggling right now, we’ve got a lot to fix, there are issues everywhere,” he added. “We haven’t had good performance in two games. We have a little soul searching to do, it doesn’t get any easier for us.”
The Swarm scored first and never looked back, but their team knew the game wasn’t over until the final horn.
“We knew Buffalo wasn’t going to quit,” said Comeau. “We started to watch the clock for the last five minutes or so.”
The Swarm have now scored 18 goals against both of the 2016 NLL Champions Cup Finalists and are undefeated on the season. The Saskatchewan Rush and Bandits are both 0-2 on the season thus far.
“When we looked at the start of our season, we thought it was going to be a tough two games. We’re really happy to be 2-0,” said Comeau. “We also know things can change quickly in this league. We’re just going to worry about the Swarm and focus on New England next week.”
The reigning NLL MVP Dhane Smith left the game in the first quarter with a lower body injury and did not return. His status was still unknown after the game and his loss was felt immediately.
“Losing Dhane hurts. He’s the best player in the league and he’s a leader,” said Bandits assistant captain David Brock. “We hope he’ll be healthy for next week because we certainly need him.”
The Bandits return to action next Saturday, January 21st at KeyBank Center when they host the Vancouver Stealth at 7:30 p.m. EST. The Swarm return home to face the New England Black Wolves on Friday, January 20th at 7:35 p.m. EST.
Three Stars as Selected by the Media:
1 – Lyle Thompson
2 – Jerome Thompson
3 – Mark Steenhuis