The Georgia Swarm (5-7) returns home for its third annual Heroes Night presented by Axiom Corporation to welcome the Buffalo Bandits (6-5) to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena on Sunday, March 18. Faceoff is set for 4:05 p.m. ET.
In honor of our nation’s heroes, the night will feature a 12-minute musical military tribute at halftime and a postgame performance from Wolfy’s America. Early arriving fans will receive a camo rally towel courtesy of Axiom Corporation. Fans can purchase tickets at GeorgiaSwarm.com/Heroes or by calling 844-4-GASWARM.
Despite falling in overtime to Rochester last weekend, the Swarm remains just two games out of first place in the East Division and have strung together strong defensive efforts over its last few games. Sunday kicks off its three-game homestand. Four of Georgia’s last six games are at home and against East Division foes.
“Every guy would say the same thing, that our expectations are a lot higher than where we are right now,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “Ultimately, we’re getting good chances. Teams are really gearing up to play us defensively, and the onus is now on us to figure out what teams are doing differently than they did last year or how we’re playing differently and really try to solve those issues.”
Georgia’s roster has changed quite a bit since it last played Buffalo. The team added forward Jordan Hall and transition players Chad Tutton and Joel White. The defense for Georgia has improved by leaps in its past four games since Hall and Tutton returned, posting a 10.5 GA/GAME compared to a 13.38 GA/GAME over its first eight games.
Goaltender Mike Poulin has been strong behind the improved Swarm defense, posting a 10.27 GAA and a .807 SV% over the last four games.
“Two factors that contribute to your goals against number are your penalty kill and your ability to stop things in transition,” Comeau said. “Our penalty kill has been good the last two games, and we’ve held teams to limited transition opportunities. That makes a big difference.”
Buffalo has a busy weekend ahead of it, playing against the Saskatchewan Rush on Friday before traveling to Georgia for its Sunday game against the Swarm. This will be the second and final meeting this season between Georgia and Buffalo.
When the two clashed in Feb., the Bandits turned in dominant 18-9 win in front of goaltender Zach Higgins. The former Swarm goalie stood on his head that night, making 54 saves on 63 SOG and finishing with an .857 SV%.
“Buffalo did a great job on us last time,” Comeau said. “Their goalie was great. We’re going to need find a way to solve their goaltending whether it’s Higgins or (Alex) Buque in net, and we have to make sure we’re shooting effectively when we get those good quality chances that we are able to generate.”
Buffalo’s roster has gone through a bit of a shakeup since then. The team made a blockbuster trade with the New England Black Wolves two weeks ago where the Bandits sent Crawford and a second-round pick in the 2019 draft to New England for former two-time MVP Shawn Evans and a fourth-round pick in the same draft.
Georgia’s offense is still trying to gain traction late into the season. Assistant captain Shayne Jackson still leads the team in points with 57 (22G, 35A), followed closely by Lyle and his 52 (22G, 30A).
Buffalo’s offense is led by 2016 NLL MVP Dhane Smith and his 64 points (25G, 39A) and Jones with 53 points (20G, 33A).
Between the pipes, Buffalo has been going back and forth between Higgins and Buque. In 204:46 min., Higgins has a 12.89 GAA and a .762 SV%. Buque has seen more time in front of the net and has a 12.95 GAA and a .765 SV% in 458:40 min. Buque turned in an exceptional game against Colorado two weeks ago, only allowing eight GA while finishing the night with an .822 SV%.
With Buffalo seeking its first win since Feb. 10, the Bandits can make up a lot of ground this doubleheader weekend. But Georgia stands at the end, looking to bounce back itself and hopefully find consistency in its championship defending season.