The Buffalo Bandits (6-6) and the Minnesota Swarm (3-7) will face off in their second of three 2015 NLL regular season matchups on Saturday March 21st at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York. The last time these two teams met was a 2015 week 5 battle at the First Niagara Center where the Bandits emerged victorious with the hard fought 15-12 win at home.
Last week, the Bandits were faced with a home at home series clinching doubleheader against the Eastern Division leading Toronto Rock. Buffalo truly gave everything they had against Toronto on Friday and came away with the satisfying 15-12 home victory at the First Niagara Center. On Saturday, the Bandits were on the road at the Air Canada Centre with one minute away from completing the weekend sweep of the Rock but unfortunately the tables did turn on the Bandits and the Rock squeaked by with the 12-11 overtime victory at home and sealed their season series with the Bandits.
Early in the season, the biggest issue that was facing the Bandits had been their inability to put their opponents away when it mattered most in the fourth quarter. After some minor adjustments to their game, the Bandits during the past three games have truly given fans their money’s worth in the fourth quarter by outscoring their opponents by an 11-3 goal margin.
During the NLL coach’s conference call earlier in the week, Bandits goaltender Anthony Cosmo explained how those adjustments finally paid off into some additions to the win column.
“The first three quarters wear our team down so we try to focus on something like that for the second half of the season. These past two games I thought going into the third and fourth quarter we brought a little bit more passion, a bit more effort and a little more focus. The coaching staff did a great job of refocusing us and then bringing us back to the possibility of winning or even keeping a lead.”
Winning and keeping leads will be of the utmost importance for the Bandits during the remaining six games in their regular season schedule while they make a bid to make it to the playoffs once again. Four of Buffalo’s final six games will be played at Banditland with five of six coming against the struggling Eastern Division hopefuls Minnesota Swarm and New England Black Wolves. Long story short, Buffalo’s playoff destiny lies in their hands.
On the other side of the coin, the Swarm’s 2015 season is just shy of completely going off the rails with the team currently in the throes of a five game losing streak and residing in the NLL Eastern Division’s basement.
Just like the Buffalo Bandits, the Swarm was also saddled with a doubleheader weekend of their own as they faced off against the New England Black Wolves and the Colorado Mammoth. Even though they showed lots of grit and determination against their opponents, the Swarm organization was on the losing end of things as they fell 10-9 to the Black Wolves and 12-8 to the Mammoth.
One of the biggest reasons why the Swarm have been struggling really hard in securing the victory over the past five games has been the loss of some of their key forwards to injury.
Callum Crawford has been out of the Swarm lineup for the past three games while Kiel Matisz and Logan Schuss have only missed one game.
In order for the Swarm to pull off the victory on the road against the Bandits, the Swarm will definitely need to make player health and durability job one. Some good news came on Wednesday during the NLL coach’s conference call from Swarm assistant coach Aime Caines when he said that Crawford’s injury is currently a day-to-day situation.
“We’ve been a little thin out the front door with some injuries, so it’ll be good to get some players back in the lineup,” said Caines. “We look forward to the challenge and we’re going to treat this as a playoff game for us.”
Minnesota is also in the same shoes as Buffalo in that they will need to win out the series against the Bandits to help bring them back into serious playoff contention. The schedule is also incredibly kind to the Swarm in that five of their last seven games will be home at the Xcel Energy Center.
“We know what we have to do in front of us in order to make it to the postseason, so I think as a unit and a team we know our challenges and what we have to do and I think it’s just coming together and putting the pieces together,” said Caines.