By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist
It is said that all good things must come to an end.
Apparently this principle is particularly true when you are sleepy and tired.
The Buffalo Bandits saw a six-game winning streak come to an emphatic end on Saturday night. They dropped a 14-9 decision to the Georgia Swarm, disappointing a season-high crowd of 15,061 at the KeyBank Center on Saturday night. Buffalo hadn’t won six in a row since 2016.
“Some nights you’re the hammer, some nights you’re the nail,” co-coach Rich Kilgour said. “We’ve been the hammer a lot this year, but tonight we were the nail.”
The Bandits knew this would be a tough test, starting with the schedule. Buffalo played on Friday night in Philadelphia. That one turned out to be an emotional comeback win that was decided in overtime on a goal by Chase Fraser. Then it was head to the hotel for a nap before taking an early flight back to Buffalo. From there the team rested a bit more and then took the floor. Meanwhile, the Swarm was relaxing in Buffalo as it prepared for the game.
“It’s tough, but every team has to do it,” Dhane Smith said. “Yes, you’re not able to sleep right after the game, and the travel is tough, but you can’t make excuses.”
“Last night was a very emotional game,” Fraser said. “With the hard travel coming in, we were exhausted. But we did get outworked tonight.”
The tone for this one was set in the early going. The teams alternated goals through the first seven minutes, leaving the score tied, 2-2. It seemed like the Bandits had a chance to take the lead when Matt Dunn of the Swarm was given a penalty for checking from behind. However, not only did the Bandits not score with the man advantage, but it gave up not one but two goals to the Swarm.
Georgia gave up the lead for the rest of the game, so that was an obvious turning point.
“You get that that power play, and you’re thinking we’re going to get one here or at least come out even,” Kilgour said. “But we came out minus. Some nights that happens. They blocked a lot of shots, and give credit to them.”
Then in the second quarter, the Bandits had an obvious opportunity to cut into a 7-3 Georgia lead. Georgia was called for a major and a minor penalty at the same time, giving Buffalo a 5-on-3 power play for two minutes and a 5-on-4 for the three minutes after that. The Bandits came up offensively empty during that stretch.
It was sort of indicative of the type of night it was for Buffalo. Goalie Mike Poulin of the Swarm was solid in goal with 41 saves on 50 shots. But the Bandits’ offense just wasn’t sharp for a change, as passes weren’t completed and shots went wide. That’s a recipe for a tough night.
“The offense wasn’t hitting our shots,” Fraser said. “We were missing opportunities.”
The Bandits did show a little life after halftime, as they twice cut the lead to two goals. But the third period also saw several minutes of almost continuous up-and-down play that left the fans breathless. Imagine what the already tired Buffalo team must have been feeling.
In any event, Georgia scored two goals in the final three minutes of the third period, and then added the first three goals of the final quarter. It was 14-7 by then, and the last 10 minutes became an exercise in waiting to put the period on the end of the winning streak.
Smith has five points
Smith had three goals and two assists to lead the Bandits, while Thomas Hoggarth and Jordan Durston had two goals each. Shawn Evans, the league’s second leading scorer, was held to two assists. Randy Staats led the Swarm with four goals and an assist.
The game represented something of a missed opportunity for the Bandits. A win would have put them at 11-2, well ahead of an 8-5 Georgia team. Instead, Buffalo is 10-3 and a dangerous Georgia squad is only a game back at 9-4. Toronto also was in the mix at 7-2 before a late Saturday night game in Calgary.
“We were flat all weekend,” Smith said. “Philly gave us a run yesterday, and Georgia took it to us. It was a good wake-up call for us. Going 6-0 isn’t easy, but maybe this will get us on track.”
Next week’s opponent won’t be easy either. Buffalo will head west to play at Saskatchewan next Saturday night. The Rush started slowly, but was in first place in the division entering Saturday’s games.
“It’s always tough to play there,” Kilgour said. “They always have a great crowd. It’s loud. It’s tough to talk on defense. We’re going to have to be on point. They’re starting to come around … so it’s going be a battle. … There’s not an easy game in this league. They all are tough, but there are tougher games. Saskatchewan will be a tougher game.”
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)