Game Previews

HIVE FIVE: Swarm vs. Bandits

Five Quick Stings for the first Swarm game of 2020

I’ll let you in on a little secret: Hive Fives before games where the Georgia Swarm wear special themed uniforms are the easiest, because one of the Quick Stings will be about said uniform.

It’s not cheating, especially given how fantastic the uniforms look this year and the good cause they benefit. But they’re just a part of the fun coming our way this Saturday, Jan. 11 when the Buffalo Bandits stop by Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena.

Saturday will be the lone time this regular season that the Bandits play the Swarm, and these games tend to be physical and either shootouts or blowouts.

But before we get into all that, we need to just admire these uniforms and talk about…

LACROSSE OUT CANCER

My face makes the heart-eyes emoji every time I gaze at these beauties.

This will be the Swarm’s first time hosting Lacrosse Out Cancer Night, and they’re purpling everything up: the uniforms, the Arena, the graphics. “Purple Rain” will be shown on the jumbo screens throughout the game. “Smoke on the Water” will get some airplay. So much purple.

Those last two might have been made up, but everything else is true – all purple everything, and it’s all for a great cause. The multiple purple colors in the Swarm uniform represent those who are still fighting cancer and those who have passed from the disease. The Swarm are encouraging fans to wear purple and sport the purple cancer ribbons to show solidarity. The names on the back of the jerseys were provided by Rally Foundation – a 501(c)(3) nonprofit which raises awareness and funds for childhood cancer research – and are children who lost their battles to cancer.

Fans can get a purple ribbon of their own at The Swarm Shop in the main concourse of Sting City or at Fan Central, and all proceeds benefit Rally Foundation.

During the game, the Swarm will host a silent auction at Fan Central for the signed jerseys and shorts of Swarm practice players. The bidding runs through the third quarter of the game.

Finally, the Swarm will auction off the signed, game-worn uniforms following the game’s conclusion, and fans can bid on said memorabilia for up to 10 days.

And again, proceeds from the uniform auction go to Rally Foundation to help them in their goal of eradicating childhood cancer once and for all.

There’s still a game to be played on Saturday, however, and we should focus on the teams at some point, I guess.

Who’s coming to town again? The Bandits? Oh. What happened to them when they last played? Lost 15-10 to their division rival Halifax Thunderbirds? Oh. Could be worse. What’s that? The score was 15-6 with four minutes left in that game?

OH

That game was even after the first 15 minutes, both teams with four goals. But a 6-0 run for the visiting team put the Bandits in a 10-4 hole at halftime, and after mustering up only two goals compared to Halifax’s five in the third quarter, the Bandits were out of things before the fourth quarter even started. Those final four minutes of the game made the score seem better than it was.

This isn’t to rag on anyone. The Swarm had a 10-8 lead going into the fourth quarter of their game against the Colorado Mammoth two weeks ago and were unable to stop them from a 5-1 comeback victory. Bad quarters sunk both clubs, and they’ve had a bye week to stew on what went wrong instead of immediately getting back into the action. This is more setup for the fact that we have a redemption game to start the new year off.

No one likes losing, and the best panacea is a curly W. But only one team will get back on track. For the Swarm, that means getting the…

DEFENSE PERFORMING STRONG

Realistically, the Swarm’s first two games of just 5 GA/GAME is impossible to maintain throughout the course of a season, but there was a lot the Swarm did right in those two games that we didn’t see as much of against the Mammoth.

DATE OPPONENT RESULT S SOG SOFF SWARM SAVES SWARM PK
11/30/19 Knighthawks W, 14-4 67 46 21 42 6-for-8
12/14/19 Wings W, 12-6 77 52 25 46 4-for-4
12/28/19 Mammoth L, 13-11 59 45 14 32 2-for-5

The obvious areas are the shots were more on target for the Mammoth and the Swarm penalty kill did not do as good a job.

While their shot total was down (expected as these two teams are great at disrupting and forcing bad shots), the Mammoth were hitting the goal at a high rate, and their team shooting percentage of 22% indicates the Swarm were probably giving the Mammoth too much room and time in which they could pick their shots. The Wings and Knighthawks made more shots, but given their low offensive output, the Swarm were controlling where those teams shot at, taking away those up close and personal shot that are tougher to defend.

While man-down, that offensive success for the Mammoth meant the Swarm weren’t at their best. They had only allowed two power play goals all season despite being on the penalty kill 12 times. Against the Mammoth, the Swarm could only stop two of their five power play opportunities.

Getting in lanes and forcing your opponent to make the shots you want them to make was the key to the Swarm’s early season success.

Exactly like what Leo Stouros is doing here against the Mammoth on Dec. 28, 2019. Side note, don’t sleep on Stouros. He’s playing really great and understated defense for the Swarm this season | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess

Again, maintaining that efficiency throughout a season is impossible, but it works significantly better than giving your opponent the time and space they need to make the shots they want to make.

That’s just one key for the Swarm. Another is to score a lot, but that’s obvious. Unfortunately, they’ve got a tough netminder to score against in…

MATT VINC

Let’s keep it simple. He’s the only seven-time NLL Goaltender of the Year in NLL history, winning it last year off a 1036:24 min., 10.02 GAA, .803 SV% campaign.

In the last four seasons against the Swarm, the 37-year-old is 4-5 with an 11.18 GAA and a .775 SV%.

Respectable numbers to put up against a dynamite O like the Swarm’s | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess

Granted, he’s not the only thing the Swarm have to worry about. Their captain – defenseman Steve Priolo – will be back after missing their last game due to injury. Buffalo has a former MVP in Dhane Smith to contend with and dangerous weapons like Josh Byrne and Cory Small. Sophomore forward Chris Cloutier was particularly impressive when the Bandits and Swarm had a preseason game against one another, and he’s continued that into the 2019-20 season.

Add in the fact that the Bandits O comes to life when visiting Sting City – they have a 16.8 GF/GAME at Infinite Energy Arena – and the Swarm have their work cut out for them as they try and get their third win of the season.

That goes both ways. Mike Poulin is playing great in his 15th season in the NLL, Lyle Thompson is doing Lyle Thompson things, Shayne Jackson has been on a tear of his own. And how about Zed Williams against Colorado? Three goals on 12 shots. The University of Virginia alum’s got a…

WICKED SHOT

That’s too much space to give Zed, guys | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess

One of the high notes for the Swarm from their last game was how Williams stepped up against a tough defense. He took as many shots in that one game as he had in the previous two, and he was finding success wherever he wanted. The last time the Swarm played Colorado, Williams was doing his damage up close with a spin move and crease dive. On Dec. 28, the 24-year-old was netting shots from mid- to long-range.

Last year against Buffalo, Williams had 5 points (3G, 2A) across two games. He averaged 6.89 S/GAME last season, and his three goals on 16 shots showed he had more confidence in ripping the ball at that point in the season.

It’s tough to predict if he’ll have a big game against the Bandits this time around. As last season showed us, Williams will chip in with about two points a game before having one bigger game to bolster his season points total. The Swarm offense needs to see some more goal-scoring contributions from players outside of Lyle and Jackson, and netting shots against a generational goaltending talent like Vinc is a huge confidence booster.

But if I’m placing money on any Swarm forward doing something super slick on Saturday…well, it’ll always be Lyle first. He’s just that good. But Williams is a close second, and below is why.

(Honestly, I just wanted to finish this Hive Five with this video of Williams with his insane goal against the Bandits in preseason.)