NLL: Swarm stall Bandits’ playoff plans

Buffalo Bandits vs. Georgia Swarm at KeyBank Center, Buffalo, NY., March 9, 2019. (Photo by Sara Schmidle)

Maybe the Buffalo Bandits will stick to one game a weekend from now on. After squeaking out a 12-11 win in overtime while visiting the Philadelphia Wings on Friday, they returned home and dropped a 14-9 game to the Georgia Swarm on Saturday. The loss halts the Bandits’ winning streak at six games and prevented them from securing the league’s first playoff spot.

Dhane Smith said there was no excuse for his team’s play on Saturday.

“Anytime coming off a back-to-back it’s easy to make excuses and we were just flat all weekend to be honest,” Smith said. “Philly gave us a run last night and Georgia took it to us tonight. It was a good wake-up call because going six-straight isn’t easy, but we needed that in order to move forward.”

The game started off with a lot of offense: nine total goals in the first quarter. After the Swarm and Bandits traded goals, Georgia scored four-straight goals, putting them out front 6-2. The Bandits scored one final goal before the end of the frame, but the damage was already done. Smith, Clint Fraser and Ethan O’Connor were the goal scorers for the Bandits.

The game slowed down in the second quarter and the defense took over, limiting each team to two goals. The Swarm opened the quarter with a goal, extending their lead to four goals. Even though the Bandits failed to capitalize on a two-man advantage, Thomas Hoggarth scored after the power play and Smith scored his second goal of the game to get the deficit back down to two. However, Georgia had the last word with a goal before halftime, giving them an 8-5 lead.

Much like the first quarter, the third was a back-and-forth game for most of it. The Bandits and Swarm exchanged goals, changing the lead from three to two goals. Two goals would be the closest Buffalo would get, as Georgia scored two-straight goals to extend their lead back to four at the end of the third quarter. Smith tallied his third goal of the game while Jordan Durston scored his third point of the game with his first goal.

The Swarm’s offense continued to show their strength into the final frame, opening the fourth with three straight goals. Durston and Hoggarth attempted to start a late rally for the Bandits with a goal each, but the lead was too much to overcome, and the Swarm won the game, 14-9.

Moving forward, the biggest issue for the Bandits is capitalizing on power plays. The 5-on-3 advantage in the second quarter wasn’t the only one Buffalo missed an opportunity on. In fact, the Bandits went 2-for-7 on power plays in the game. Those advantages were on Chase Fraser’s mind following the game.

“Our offense wasn’t hitting our shots and we weren’t hitting our opportunities tonight,” Fraser said. “We just didn’t play well at all tonight and we have to pick it up for next weekend and get back in the winning column.”

On the bright side, the Bandits still have the lead in the East Division and the best record in the NLL with five games left in the season, so by no means was this game a complete disaster. However, their next opponent is the defending series champs, the Saskatchewan Rush. Fans and the Bandits can expect this game to be a true test before the season ends.