The Buffalo Bandits (2-2) head into an important back-to-back weekend against two East Division opponents in NLL Week 5. On Friday, the Bandits host the Minnesota Swarm (2-1) at First Niagara Center before travelling a few miles east to play the Rochester Knighthawks (1-2) at the Blue Cross Arena on Saturday. Watch both games live on NLL LIVE in the U.S. and TSN.ca in Canada.
The Bandits find themselves in the thick of the East Division race through four weeks. Two wins over the weekend could see them in first place, while two losses could put them in last.
“Nobody’s going to run away with this division,” said Bandits assistant coach Dan Teat. “We’re 0-2 against the East. These are games we feel we need.”
Despite being I-90 rivals with the Knighthawks, the Bandits realize how important their game is on Friday night as well.
“We need to take advantage of our home games,” said Teat. “If you look past a team like Minnesota, you’re in for a really long night.”
Last year’s matchups between Buffalo and Minnesota saw the Swarm win two out of three games. In Buffalo, the Bandits won 12-9, while the two games in Minnesota both finished 10-9 in favor of the Swarm.
After a disappointing second half against the Toronto Rock last week, the Bandits realize they need to stay out of penalty trouble and keep the energy rate high.
“We were tight on their hands in the first half,” said Bandits transition player Kevin Brownell after the game against Toronto. “We got away from that, we gave them too much time and space.”
“It all starts with discipline,” said Bandits transition player Mitch Wilde. “Five-on-five, I like what I see in our team defense.”
Bandits forward John Tavares has been placed on injured reserve due to a lower-body injury and is now eligible to return in Week 8.
The Swarm handed the New England Black Wolves (2-1) the team’s first loss last week, rendering Minnesota undefeated on the road and looking to sustain the winning streak this weekend.
“We got off to a good start on Saturday and we kept rolling,” said Swarm assistant coach Aime Caines. “Everything is starting to really click.”
The successes on the road are something Minnesota credits to their increased confidence, strengthened cohesiveness and improvement on special teams.
“I really think it’s confidence,” Caines said. “Playing really aggressive and playing within the system – they’ve been doing a great job.”
“We’re all just moving the ball, we’re all just playing really unselfish right now,” said Swarm forward Shayne Jackson. “It’s been going in for us so far, so hopefully we can keep it going in Buffalo.”
Although the Swarm have much to boast in the individual accomplishments of rookie sensation Miles Thompson, captain Andrew Suitor, assistant captains Callum Crawford and Jordan MacIntosh, and the ignited forward Shayne Jackson, the team will rely on a balanced attack by each player to continue their pursuit to win.
“We focus on playing as a full offensive unit, it’s not going to be just one guy putting the team on his back,” Jackson said. “We’ve got to all work together.”
The Swarm have an arsenal of players ready to step up, including Alex Crepinsek, the Minnesota defender who scored two goals in last week’s contest. The 2014 NLL Rookie of the Year, Logan Schuss, is back on the roster for Minnesota and ready to make his mark. Each player on the Minnesota team will be key for a full attack during each minute of the game on Friday night.
“They’ve got a big, strong defense and a great goaltender, so we’re going to have to work hard and play together,” said Jackson. “We’re going to have to stay the course for the full 60 minutes.”
While the Swarm have been enjoying the victories they’ve accomplished over the last few weeks, they will come into this weekend prepared and ready to take on the challenge of a prepared Buffalo team.
“There are some things we need to tighten up, but we’re pretty happy right now. Going into Buffalo, we just want to roll with that,” Caines said. “We’re looking forward to it and we’re preparing all week so it’s going to be a good one.”
Story by Steve Bermel (@BanditsBeat) & Maria Jollie (@SwarmBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Bill Wippert.