The Georgia Swarm scored four consecutive goals in the final quarter to erase a two-goal deficit while the Buffalo Bandits saw their late comeback effort fall short in a 9-8 loss inside KeyBank Center on Friday.
Heading into the fourth quarter tied 5-5, Chris Cloutier and Josh Byrne scored 24 seconds apart to put Buffalo in front, but Georgia had other plans as Lyle Thompson scored twice and Shayne Jackson and Andrew Kew each tallied a goal to give the Swarm a 9-7 lead with 1:41 remaining in the game.
Dhane Smith hit the post with just over a minute left before Tehoka Nanticoke found the back of the net as Bandits goaltender Matt Vinc was on the bench for the extra attacker with 22 seconds left on the clock. Ian MacKay won the final faceoff to give Buffalo possession, but the Bandits were unable to get a shot past Georgia goaltender Brett Dobson.
Dobson stopped 46 of 54 shots faced as the Swarm improved to 3-1 on the season while the Bandits fell to 1-2.
“He’s the difference of the game really,” Bandits coach John Tavares said. “I thought our scoring chances were better than their scoring chances. I don’t know what the final shots on goal were, but I think we had about 10 more. I’m talking about the quality of opportunities that we missed. I’m sure there are guys who would like to go back and try something different.”
Vinc finished with 33 saves on 42 shots in the NLL’s lowest-scoring game of the season so far. The veteran goaltender recorded 13 saves in the opening quarter to limit the Swarm to just one goal in a 1-1 tie after the first.
Smith had a game-high seven points with seven assists on the night while Chase Fraser (2+2), Josh Byrne (2+2), Chris Cloutier (2+0), and Kyle Buchanan (1+1) all posted multi-point performances.
Buchanan’s goal opened the scoring in the second quarter as he received a pass from Smith over his shoulder and went behind-the-back to beat Dobson with a highlight-reel worthy goal. His goal gave the Bandits a 2-1 lead before the two teams exchanged tallies throughout the second and third.
— Buffalo Bandits (@NLLBandits) December 30, 2023
The Swarm’s four-goal run in the fourth, led by Jackson, proved to be the difference in the Bandits’ loss.
Here’s more from the game.
Emerson Clark made his season debut for the Bandits after signing a one-year deal with the team on Dec. 12. The 5-foot-10 forward recorded an assist, two penalty minutes, and two shots in his first game in Banditland.
“I liked his hustle,” Tavares said. “He made some smart plays, got some loose balls for us and I thought he fit in well.”
Smith etched in the record book
Smith moved into 10th all-time in the NLL record books for career assists with his seven-assist night. The Bandits’ alternate captain now has 623 career assists, passing Gavin Prout on the all-time list.
Smith was held off the scoresheet for the second consecutive game and looks to find his scoring again when the Bandits take on Colorado next weekend.
“It’s definitely tough but at the end of the day, I’m going to get my shots,” Smith said. “They’re going to fall eventually. I’m not really too worried about myself. Yes, I need to score sometimes, and tonight was one of those nights and I’ll take this one for sure. But again, my game is to help everybody out on the floor and not grip my stick so tight.”
Buffalo ended the night 3-for-4 on the power play and successfully killed off 4-of-5 penalties of their own. The penalty kill came up big in the final minutes of the third quarter as the Bandits forced a 30-second clock violation during a 5-on-3 opportunity for the Swarm.
“It’s our opportunity to score goals and obviously on man downs those are momentum swings when we can keep them off the board on the power play,” MacKay said. “When they went on that 5-on-3 and we were able to kill that off, it felt like we kind of turned the momentum a little bit there and it was running for us a little bit.”
The Bandits will host the Colorado Mammoth on Jan. 6 at KeyBank Center in a rematch of the 2023 NLL Finals. The two teams will face off twice this season after making back-to-back Finals appearances in 2022 and 2023.
Colorado currently holds an 0-2 record after losing twice to Georgia to start the season.
“Obviously, we’re going to learn from this one and move forward on to Colorado,” MacKay said. “Start game planning and getting ready. It seems like we’ve finally got a little bit of a rivalry going with them and maybe the league’s helped that with playing them twice this year. But at the end of the day, it’s another game and you got to prepare for anyone.”