The Buffalo Bandits (3-2) held off a second-half comeback by the Minnesota Swarm (2-2) for a 15-12 win at First Niagara Center on Friday night. The game marked the first time rookie brothers Jerome and Miles Thompson faced off as NLL opponents. Miles has had a strong start to his campaign with the Swarm while Jerome slid back into the lineup for Buffalo to replace the injured John Tavares and made the most of his opportunity.
There were several super performances on the Superhero themed night in front of 12,756 in Banditland. Mark Steenhuis (3+4), Ryan Benesch (3+2) and Jerome Thompson (4+1) stood out for Buffalo while Callum Crawford (2+6) and Logan Schuss (2+3) shined for Minnesota.
Steve Priolo opened the scoring in transition for the Bandits 1:27 into the game just moments after Swarm goaltender Zach Higgins made a huge stop on a Joe Resetarits breakaway. Miles Thompson responded for the Swarm to tie the game at one. Minnesota took the lead 2-1 on a power play goal from Jordan MacIntosh. The Bandits’ leading scorer, Benesch, scored to tie the game at two with 5:17 to play. Steenhuis gave Buffalo the lead back less than a minute later. Not to be outdone by his brother, Jerome Thompson scored two goals to give Buffalo a 5-2 lead heading into the second quarter, including a buzzer-beater power play goal at the 14:59 mark.
The Bandits opened the scoring in the second quarter on an Alex Kedoh Hill tally in transition at 3:27. Benesch made the score 7-2 less than a minute later. Minnesota made a goaltending change to Brodie MacDonald and Steenhuis quickly scored his second goal to make it 8-2. The Swarm stopped the Bandits’ seven goal run with a goal from Shayne Jackson. Jerome Thompson completed his hat trick and Chad Culp scored on an underhand shot. Benesch finished his hat trick on his birthday to wrap up the scoring in the first half and leave the score 11-3 in favor of Buffalo.
Buffalo outshot Minnesota 35-21 in the first half.
Jerome Thompson gave Buffalo 12 with his fourth goal of the game 3:07 into the second half. Jackson, Kyle Matisz and Miles Thompson scored three in a row to for Minnesota to cut Buffalo’s lead to six and close the third quarter.
Schuss etched his first goal of the game 3:04 into the fourth quarter to get Minnesota within five. Moments later Nick Weiss answered with his first goal of the season for Buffalo in transition. Crawford, MacIntosh and Mitch Belisle added goals to make the score 13-10. Steenhuis, Schuss, Priolo and Crawford see-sawed goals to make the final score 15-12 in favor of the Bandits.
The game was a tale of two halves. The first half saw Buffalo control all aspects of the floor while the second half saw the opposite.
“In the second half, we played not to lose,” said Bandits’ Head Coach Troy Cordingley. “We were awful.”
“[In the first half] the ball was moving, everybody was a part of that offense,” added Cordingley. “The second half, we totally got away from that.”
Despite turning the game around at the half, Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan was not happy with the loss.
“You’ve got to put a full 60 minutes in if you want to come into Buffalo and try to win a game,” said Sullivan. “The system works, you just can’t do it for 30 minutes.”
Both coaches were impressed with the Thompson brothers.
“Miles has been a great player for us, he’s getting better every game,” said Sullivan. “He’s getting tougher checkers, so it’s going to get harder on him.”
“Jerome is such a gifted player, he capitalized on some really nice plays,” said Cordingley. “He’s been around the game for a long time and we’re pleased with the way he played for us tonight.”
With Tavares on IR, Priolo was selected as an assistant captain and contributed 3 points (2+1) Friday night.
“I just try and play my game the way it is,” said the Bandits defenseman. “It’s nice to have a guy my age, I’m 26, with a letter on his jersey.”
Minnesota outshot Buffalo 59-57. The Bandits now head to Rochester for a Saturday night fight with the rival Knighthawks at Blue Cross Arena. The Swarm will return to Xcel Energy Center on Feb. 6 to face the Knighthawks for Native American Heritage Night.
“It’s tough to play three-straight on the road so we’re looking forward to being at home again in front of our home crowd, and get that boost and that energy from our crowd,” Caines said. “It’s going to be a great welcome home for us.”
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Jerome Thompson
2) Ryan Benesch
3) Callum Crawford
Story by Steve Bermel (@BanditsBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Bill Wippert.