The Buffalo Bandits (0-1) will open the home portion of their 2013 schedule tonight against the Minnesota Swarm (0-0) at 7:30 p.m. at First Niagara Center. The Bandits are coming off a season-opening 13-8 loss to the Philadelphia Wings on Friday.
The Swarm head into their first game of the 2013 season after what they hope will be an impressive offseason. The Swarm had four first-round draft picks in the 2012 draft, and are expected to starting five rookies in Buffalo.
Transition players Brock Sorenson and Kiel Matisz, forward Shayne Jackson, and defender Alex Crepinsek - all four of the Swarm’s 2012 first round picks - headline the list of their new additions.
Sorenson was captain of his Ohio State lacrosse team in junior and senior seasons; Crepinsek helped lead R.I.T. to three straight conference titles from 2010-2012; and Matisz set a single-season school record for points at Robert Morris University.
“When I look at the draft picks we added this year, I couldn’t be more excited,” Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan said.
“Any time you can add four first-round picks to your roster, it’s a good thing,” Swarm defender Jeff Gilbert said. “Training camp was very competitive.”
The biggest player for the Swarm is still returning forward Ryan Benesch who led his team - and the NLL - in scoring last season with 46 goals and 49 assists.
The Bandits also went through a bit of youth movement in the offseason. Although first-round draft pick Dhane Smith is the marquee addition for the Bandits, players like Hayden Smith and Carter Bender, also added in this year’s draft, will look to contribute to the team.
“We had to get more athletic and get younger guys in here,” Bandits assistant coach Rich Kilgour said of his team’s offseason changes. “Minnesota is one of the teams that pretty much ran us out of the building last year, so we wanted to get younger and more athletic.”
Even though the new-look team was not able to prevail in their debut on Friday, Dhane Smith wasted no time scoring his first NLL goal and new Bandit Aaron Wilson added two goals of his own. Sean Williams, who played with the Bandits from 1999-2001, also scored in his return to a Bandits uniform.
Despite Friday’s season-opening loss, the Bandits have a record of 7-2 all-time after losing their first game of the new year.
The Swarm, meanwhile, will look to continue the momentum they had built up last season, going 9-7, just the third winning season in franchise history. Their season ended after losing to Edmonton in the Western Division finals, the farthest the team has gone in the playoffs.
The game is set for a 7:30 p.m. start at First Niagara Center (KB1520/The Lacrosse Network). Fans can purchase tickets through Tickets.com or at the First Niagara Center box office.
- Alex Bielman