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  • Budd Bailey

Swarm edges Bandits


By Budd Bailey


The Buffalo Bandits and Georgia Swarm didn’t play an indoor lacrosse game on Friday night at the KeyBank Center.


It was more like a tennis match.


You know the type, where the two sides go back and forth while holding serve – waiting for the opportunity to grab the advantage.


It took a while, but the Swarm finally earned enough break points, um, goals, to defeat the Bandits, 9-8, before 16,783.


“I thought it was a great lacrosse game,” Buffalo coach John Tavares said. “I thought both teams played well. I hoped we were going to have a run there in the fourth quarter when we were up, but they answered with (four) of their own goals. … We stuck to the gameplan and had the opportunity to tie it in the end, but unfortunately we came up a little short.”


Indoor lacrosse games sometimes resemble basketball games in that frequently points come in bunches. Teams will score a goal, immediately win a faceoff and score again, and do it some more. Wash, rinse, repeat.


But it wasn’t like that in this case. Four times, Georgia scored to take a one-goal lead. Four times, Buffalo responded with a tying goal. The Bandits did it once at their end. That’s 1-0, 1-1, 2-1, 2-2, 3-2, 3-3, 4-3, 4-4, 5-4 and 5-5 during the first three quarters. It’s rather pretty from a mathematical standpoint. However, it was difficult for the Bandits to keep coming from behind, time after time.


“It’s pretty cliché but it’s true – lacrosse is a game of runs,” Ian MacKay of the Bandits said. “You hope you can get longer runs than that. When it keeps going back and forth you get frustrated. That’s why I take pride in taking faceoffs when we score – trying to get the ball and get the momentum. It’s definitely frustrating when you finally get a run going.”


Along the way, it was easy to notice what wasn’t happening: Buffalo’s two big guns weren’t putting the ball in the net. Josh Byrne didn’t get his first goal until late in the third period, and Dhane Smith didn’t score a goal all night long. Georgia deserved some credit for not letting the Bandits’ stars beat them.


“It was nothing we didn’t expect,” Tavares said. “They were clogging the middle and the shooting lanes, which created havoc in the middle in front of the net. You have to change your shot if there are three or four bodies that you have to shoot through. They did a good job of that.”


“Every team is going to do that, and we’ve got to know that,” Smith said. “For myself, it definitely wasn’t my night. I have to do a better job of leading by example.”


Finally, the game fell out of a pattern in the fourth quarter. Buffalo jumped out to a 7-5 lead on goals by Chris Cloutier and Byrne, but couldn’t hold it. The Swarm had four straight goals in response to go up by two. The Bandits got within one and had the ball in the final seconds, but couldn’t get the equalizer.


It was a heck of a night for one member of the Swarm. Goalie Brian Dobson was a former standout at St. Bonaventure University, just down the road. Now a pro rookie, he stopped 45 of 53 shots. Dobson usually was in good position and didn’t seem to have any panic in his game.


“He was the difference in the game, really,” Tavares said. “I thought our scoring chances were better than their scoring chances. I thought Matt (Vinc, the Bandits goalie) had a great game as well. I’m talking about the qualities of the opportunities that we missed. I’m sure our guys would like to go back and maybe try something else. We don’t care how they go in. We just want them to go in.”


“I feel like we shot our shots,” Smith said. “In the first half, I felt like we were dominating the game for a long time, but we weren’t putting the ball in the net.”


Shayne Jackson was the Swarm’s best player on offense. He finished with four goals and three assists for seven points. Lyle Thompson added a hat trick.


With the loss, the Bandits fell to 1-2 for the season. No one on the defending champions is close to panicking. However, a loss next week against Colorado would mean the team had gone 1-3 to start the season with three of the games at home. That prospect at least might get everyone’s attention in practice this week.


“It’s going to be a hard-fought battle, but it’s going to be at home,” Smith said. “There are no excuses at this point. We’ll put our heads down and work a little bit harder.”


“Every game from here becomes more important,” MacKay said. “We’re going to learn from this one. … We try to break up the season into six games (at a time), and we have two losses in our first six games. We don’t want any more the rest of the way. Two-and-two would be a lot better for sure (than 1-3).”


(Follow Budd on X.com via @WDX2BB)

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