Bandits Move Onto Semi-Finals In OT Thriller, Swarm Go Home 4/27/24

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Di Miller, NLL Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©

Featured Image Photo Credit:  Mike Hetzel

The Buffalo Bandits No. 4 Seed played host to the Georgia Swarm No. 5 Seed on Saturday April 27, 2024, in Banditland in front of 17,865 Bandits fans with some Swarm fans in the mix.  Matt Vinc was starting in his 46th career playoff game making him the All Time NLL Leader in playoff history.  On the other side of the floor, this was the first time the Swarm have been back in the playoffs since 2019 after they won the championship in 2017. The first quarter was all Swarm as they controlled the ball, kept their feet moving and got it going quicky just 26 seconds in.  Dobson was absolutely stellar in between the pipes and Jeremy Thompson was perfect at the face-off dot going 4-4. They also dominated in LB 18-11.  The game was neck and neck throughout with seven ties during regulation with Kevin Buchanan (1g, 1a) tying the game with 5:55 left in the fourth.  For the remaining time on the ticker, neither team would put the ball into the back of the net with both Dobson and Vinc were making some spectacular saves.  What some would believe were two blatant penalties against Buffalo with 4:59 left in the game which would have put Georgia on a 5 on 3, the crosschecking from behind and the crosscheck in the front were both ignored and play resumed.  Could that have been a huge turning point for the Swarm?  Quite possibly this oversight cost them the game.  The squads would head into some bonus lacrosse with several possession changes over the four minutes that ticked off the clock and in the end, Josh Byrne (5g, 1a) would wind up from out in front and fire a side arm shot inside the far pipe ending the Swarm season while sending the Bandits into the Semi-Finals where they will face Toronto at First Ontario Centre for the best of three.  Final Score OT:  Bandits 10—Swarm 9.

Georgia would win the opening draw and took advantage quickly.  Their first shot on goal by Brendan Bomberry (3g, 1a) would beat Vinc over the left shoulder 26 seconds in and it was 1-0.  The next goal came in transition off the fast break with Ian MacKay (1g, 1a) scooping the loosie in stride and he fired a high to low shot 3:57 in to tie it up 1-1.  It took only 27 seconds for the Swarm to go up.  Andrew Kew (3g, 2a) on the give and go, headed to the crease, planted his feet and as he was falling down, put it into the back of the net 2-1 Swarm.  For the remainder of the first, neither team could find twine with both netminders standing on their heads for the last six minutes and 20 seconds.  Georgia would have a commanding lead in SOG 17-9 with Jeremy Thompson winning all the draws.  Score at the end of one:  Swarm 2—Bandits 1.

The second got off to a slower start than the first with Buffalo finding the back of the net first.  The Bandits would get the rebound off the Swarm shot on Vinc, MacKay would grab the rebound, head down the floor alongside Nick Weiss (1g), flip toss to Weiss who had a wide open shot and he fired it high to low scoring in transition 4:38 in to tie it up at 2’s.  Less than a minute later, Lyle Thompson (2g, 3a) fired from the right wing, shot over the top of three defenders, Vinc made the initial shoulder save but the ball spun back and rolled into the net for the go ahead tally 3-2 Swarm.  With 6:07 left in the half, Josh Byrne (5g, 1a) would fight off two defenders, scrambled to the net, banked it off Dobson and it would roll into the net for their first offensive goal on the night and we were tied again 3-3.  The Bandits would strike again about two minutes later.  Dhane Smith looked to make the shot, faked, passed to Byrne and he put a sidearm low-to-low shot on the inside of the far post giving them the lead 4-3.  Georgia would put up the equalizer when they got Buffalo trapped in transition.  Jeff Henrick (1g) got the turnover, broke down the floor and shot through the screen putting it five-hole with 3:16 left in the half tying it up again 4-4.  Buffalo would go man up with 1:36 left in the half and would capitalize.  With 52.1 seconds on the clock, Byrne pump faked, fired a laser and tucked it inside the far post for a power play tally and his hat-trick on the night 5-4 Bandits.  But the Swarm would close it out with 28.1 seconds in the frame and nine seconds left on the shot clock.  Bomberry checked up a little short, picked a spot just over the shoulder of Vinc and tickled the twine for the equalizer closing out the first half.  Score at the end of two:  Swarm 5—Bandits 5.

Photo by Mike Hetzel/NLL

Powerplay goals dominated the third with Buffalo putting up three and Georgia putting up one.  Byrne got it started it off 2:29 in and only nine seconds into the man up.  He got the feed from Tehoka Nanticoke, got between two defenders and tucked it past Dobson 6-5 Bandits.  In between the power play tallies, Smith would have a goal called back because he stepped in the crease.  With 9:49 left in the third, the Swarm’s Bryan Cole would get hit with a five-minute major sending Buffalo into their next man up in the frame and they would make them pay.  Thirty one seconds into the power-play, Buchanan kicked the loose ball back to Nanticoke (1g, 2a) and he would fire on the cage for his only goal on the night 7-5 Buffalo.  With time still left in the major, Buffalo used the tic-tac-toe, Smith would feed to Chris Cloutier (1g), who was all alone and he put it over the shoulder for their fourth power-play tally on the night with 7:17 left giving them a three goal lead 8-5.  Cole would remain in the box for the remainder of the penalty, but Georgia would go back to full strength.  Over five minutes of top-notch net minding was going on and neither team was able to put it in the back of the net.  It wasn’t until the Swarm would go on their third man up opportunity on the night that they’d finally see success giving them their first goal in almost 13 minutes.  Georgia used some great ball movement, kept closing the gap, Thompson would feed to Kew and with four seconds left on the shot clock, he’d ping the top corner with 2:03 left in the third closing out the frame.  Score at the end of three:  Bandits 8—Swarm 6.

Georgia would control the fourth putting up three in a row to go ahead right before the end of regulation.  Bomberry drove to the net, was given a ton of room, pump faked and went near side over the shoulder 2:43 in to close the gap 8-7.  They’d put up another power-play tally 7:07 in.  Kew from out in front pinged the top corner for his hat-trick and the equalizer 8-8.  The Swarm would go up 9-8 with 6:34 left in the game when Kew with the quick catch and shoot fired a high to low shot five hole firing up the Georgia bench.  Unfortunately, it took only 31 seconds for the Bandits to take the wind out of their sails.  Buchanan got the rebound off a shot, scooped the loose ball and tucked it around Dobson to tie it once again 9-9.  With 4:59 left in regulation, the men in black and white overlooked what would be two possible major penalties by Buffalo which took place right in front of them.  Nanticoke and Fraser would almost simultaneously cross check from behind Mike Manley and the other cross-checked T.J. Comizio with Comizio being upended and the refs dismissed it as nothing had happened allowing play to resume.  This may have cost the Swarm the game.  Possessions would go back and forth for the next remaining five minutes.  The Swarm would take their time out with 27 seconds left in the game and 21 seconds on the shot clock.  They wasted much of the 21 seconds passing the ball around with no shots on goal.  The shot clock would expire, Buffalo took possession with six seconds remaining, Smith had the ball and fired from almost midfield and put it past Dobson.  With all goals reviewed in the last two minutes, it turned out the ball did not cross the plane of the goal until after the clock read 0.0.  Fans in Buffalo were livid, but the replay and clock did not lie, and the goal was overturned sending the game into OT.  Score at the end of four—Buffalo 9—Swarm 9.

The teams would head into OT with Buffalo winning the draw.  They could not capitalize, and possession would change several times with Dobson and Vinc making some amazing saves.  The game would finally end 4:01 into the extra frame.  Byrne would wind up and fired a side arm shot inside the far pipe for the GWG.  Final Score OT:  Buffalo 10—Swarm 9.

This is exactly the type of game you want to see in the post season.  Georgia gave Buffalo a run for their money and while there were some questionable calls during the game, the Swarm will head home for the season and the Bandits will now get to face the Toronto Rock, the No. 1 Seed for the best of three semi-finals with Toronto having home field advantage to start the series.

Stars of the Game:
Georgia Swarm—Brett Dobson:  55 saves; Sv% .831%
Georgia Swarm—Andrew Kew:  3g, 2a
Buffalo Bandits—Josh Byrne:  5g, 1a


Georgia Swarm—SOG 55; Saves 49; Sv% .831%; FO 11-23; PP 2-4
Buffalo Bandits—SOG 59; Saves 46; Sv% .836; FO 12-23; PP 4-4


The No. 4 Seed Buffalo Bandits (1-0) will head to First Ontario Centre to face off against the No 1. Seed Toronto Rock (1-0) on Friday May 3, 2024, game time 7:30 p.m. EST, for the Semi-Finals “Best of Three” series.

Game Two will be in Buffalo at Key Bank Center on Sunday May 5, 2024, game time 5:00 p.m. EST.

If Game Three is necessary, the teams will meet up again in Toronto on Saturday May 11, 2024, game time 7:00 p.m. EST.

The victor will head to the NLL Championship Series.

All games will be televised on ESPN+ for fans in the USA and TSN+ for fans in Canada.

Di Miller, NLL Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©