With a little over three weeks off from NLL regular season play, there was some talk going around the fans in Banditland about the team possibly showing some signs of rust after their extended break.
The Buffalo Bandits were able to shake off any remaining rust they had and returned to the win column with their first of three 2014 regular season matchups with the Minnesota Swarm Saturday night at the First Niagara Center.
The Bandits (7-2) scored three unanswered goals late in the fourth quarter to come away with the 12-9 victory over the struggling Minnesota Swarm (2-8).
Dhane Smith’s third goal of the game at 11:12 of the fourth quarter gave the Bandits their first lead of the game with a little under four minutes to play in regulation.
“Culp got held down and I kept sprinting. I kind of panicked and did not know what I was going to do. I stuck with what I had and I put the ball into the net.” Smith said.
Smith ended the game with five points (3 G, 2 A) and earned first star honors from the media.
Bandits forward Mark Steenhuis helped use the momentum from Smith’s go-ahead goal by burying a pair of goals in a 54-second span to keep the Bandits lead safe for good. Steenhuis led all runners this evening with six points (4 G, 2 A).
Earning second star honors for tonight’s game was the spirited play of Bandits defender Steve Priolo.
Since Bandits alternate captain Billy Dee Smith would not be playing this evening to care for his Achilles injury, Priolo said, “I found a way to push the ball and help our offense. With Billy Dee out of the lineup tonight, everyone had to step up, myself included.”
Priolo had a huge game tonight with four assists in the first half, six loose balls and even getting into some fisticuffs with Swarm captain Andrew Suitor late in the fourth quarter.
“The team kind of feeds off of that. If I have to do that to get the team going, then so be it.”
The Bandits were showing signs of rust early in the first quarter with missed passes and returning slowly back to defense positioning. The Swarm took advantage of the rusty Bandits by utilizing an incredibly fast transition game to open with a 5-2 lead after the first quarter.
The Swarm transition game would always seem to catch the Bandits off guard and lead to four-on-three, or, five-on-four offensive advantages while the Bandits were trying to regroup defensively. This strategy usually left someone wide open for a very high percentage look at Bandits goaltender Anthony Cosmo.
“We definitely were not prepared for Minnesota’s speed,” said Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley. “Given three weeks off, you can practice as hard as you can, but when you get into game mode, it’s hard to replicate.”
The Swarm’s NLL rookie of the month for February, Logan Schuss, opened the scoring just 30 seconds into the game. Schuss also scored early into the second quarter giving him four points (2 G, 2 A) and earning him the third star of tonight’s game.
With the Swarm leading 6-2 early in the second quarter after Shuss’ second goal of the evening, the Bandits Joe Resetarits would answer back just 44 seconds later in hopes of sparking a second quarter comeback. The momentum swing in favor of the Bandits continued throughout the second quarter as they would go on a 3-0 run to even the score all up at 6-6 heading into halftime. In the three-goal swing, Dhane Smith connected on two consecutive goals while John Tavares received a stellar pass from Steve Priolo on a breakway to end the scoring threat.
The Swarm’s Jordan Macintosh opened the scoring for the Swarm in the second half by winning the opening faceoff and six seconds later beating Cosmo five-hole to retake the 7-6 lead. For the rest of the third quarter, both teams would exchange dual goals back and forth with Swarm transition specialist Tyler Hass’ lone goal of the game giving the Swarm a 9-8 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Hass’ goal would unfortunately be the last goal the Swarm would score for the rest of this evening. The Bandits would eventually go on a 4-0 run with a goal from Jay Thorimbert, one goal from Dhane Smith and a pair of goals from Steenhuis to seal the victory.
Buffalo’s next game will be next Saturday March 15 at the First Niagara Center in a rematch with their Week 4 opponents, the Colorado Mammoth.