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Buzzer Beaters: Bandits Eliminate Swarm, 12-9

The Buffalo Bandits (8-7) put an end to the playoff hopes of the Minnesota Swarm (5-10) with a 12-9 road win in front of a crowd of 8,986 at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night. The Bandits are undefeated against Minnesota this year (3-0) and secured their first win at “The Hive” since March 2011.

“We worked together as an offensive group. We moved the ball, we moved our feet, and attacked the net when needed,” said Bandits forward Ryan Benesch. “When we do that, we’re a tough team to stop and we play like a team and it’s just nice to see.”

The Bandits were the first to score with two quick goals within the first minute and a half. They set the precedent for an aggressive offense by building a 5-0 lead before Minnesota responded. Buffalo maintained the lead until the final whistle, with an aggressive offensive energy from attacking forwards Ryan Benesch (4+3), Dhane Smith (2+5), and Jay Thorimbert (2+1).

“Our offense was real good, I think the ball was moving real well, we shared the ball,” said Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley. “Every time you have a guy like Beni (Benesch) in your lineup, he’s a real special player and he just capitalizes most of the time.”

The Swarm were without assistant captains Callum Crawford (0+3) and Jordan MacIntosh for most of the night. MacIntosh left the game with an ankle injury in the first quarter and Crawford sustained an upper body injury on the last play of the first half. Despite the injuries, the Swarm needed the win for their last chance at a playoff spot. They came up short, but battled to close the gap and kept pace well into the fourth quarter.

“It was a slow start but I think we did get back. We pulled back within a goal once and stayed within two for quite awhile, but when you lose a guy like MacIntosh and Crawford early in the game, you’re gonna always be pretty hard-pressed,” said Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan. “With only having 16 runners, 14 runners means that every shift from then on in, everybody had to play. They couldn’t take a break on offense. So, I think the guys mustered as much as they could. They got nine goals, it was a big challenge.”

Shayne Jackson (5+1) was the Swarm highlight of the night, with a career-high five goals, four of which were scored in the first half. Jackson was recently named an assistant captain for Minnesota, joining Crawford and MacIntosh in their leadership roles.

“Tonight, it was a big game but he always is a big impact player,” Sullivan said. “Tonight he got rewarded for all of his hard work and his leadership. That’s what we expect from him and a lot of the other guys so it was nice to see him get the accolades tonight.”

“It’s an honor to play for a team like this and an organization like this. To wear an assistant captain and in a league like this, it’s nothing but an honor. It’s been a dream come true,” Jackson said. “Shots just went in tonight, but at the end of the day I’d take a win over five goals any day.”

Although Jackson found a way to get through the Bandits defense, they made it difficult for the Swarm to find the net and were able to keep the Swarm to 1-for-6 on special teams.

“Our defense was real good. I know they had a lot of shots, but our defense and our short man was good tonight,” Cordingley said. “Our defense was dictating where they would shoot from, which gives us a better advantage.’

Anthony Cosmo saved 34 of 43 shots from Minnesota, while Zach Higgins stopped 25 of 36 shots for the Swarm. Buffalo went 1-for-2 on the power play with two shorthanded goals.

The Bandits have time to recuperate with a bye week as they prepare to continue the run for a playoff spot. They will focus on strengthening and implementing their system of play as they fight for wins.

“We need some wins, we have to try to make the playoffs ourselves,” Cordingley said. “To make sure that we stick to the plan and make sure that we’re 100% buy-in here, that’s how you win in this league.”

The Swarm continue its homestand to close out the season as they host the Calgary Roughnecks at 8 p.m. ET next Saturday. The game can be seen live on UniversalSports.com in the U.S. and on TSN GO in Canada. The team is looking for a recuperating week that will allow them to come back and have their impact on the playoff standings.

“They’re a real good team and I know they’ve struggled with injuries this year,” Cordingley said. “They’ll be back.”

“We’re playing spoiler now,” said Jackson about the Swarm’s elimination from the playoff race. “So you play to win and we’ve got to get ready for Calgary next week because they’re trying to make the playoffs and we can slow them down a bit.”

Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:

1) Ryan Benesch
2) Dhane Smith
3) Shayne Jackson

Story by Maria Jollie (@SwarmBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Scott Pierson.