2/6/2019 4:20:00 PM / John Gurtler
For those of you who attended Saturday night's game between the Bandits and Mammoth, I think you'll agree it was an incredibly warming evening. The two teams shared their love and emotions for Tucker Williams, wrapped in, around, and through a very entertaining game.
Yes, the Bandits won 15-12, and we witnessed some great playmaking on both ends of the floor, including nifty goal scoring, defensive moves and great goaltending. Neat to see the future stars of the NLL and veterans alike show their stuff.
Congratulations goes out to former Buffalo Bandit Ryan Benesch for tying retired player Lewis Ratcliff for 10th place on the NLL’s all-time scoring list. Benny joins some familiar names with Mark Steenhuis (still on injured reserve with a groin pull) in ninth, Shawn Evans in eighth, and Shawn Williams in seventh.
Yes, Shawn Williams, father of Tucker, now offensive coordinator for Colorado, was joined with his family, Tamara, Dyson and Delayna on the field for a ceremonial faceoff with respective team captains, Steve Priolo and Dan Coates.
And then totally out of the ordinary, the two teams, wearing their Tucker Out Lymphoma uniforms, joined together at center with a warm embrace to celebrate the life of Tucker, who, at age 8, lost his battle to Burkett Lymphoma four years ago.
This was the first time both teams wore the special uniforms (which were auctioned off) for the sixth annual event to raise money for pediatric cancer care.
This is a huge week for the Bandits as they prepare for a road game with their next-door neighbor in the Eastern Division standings, the Georgia Swarm.
This Georgia team is talented, very talented. But then, so too are the Bandits.
This matchup is pretty even up and down the team and individual statistics.
Here is the long version of the tale of the tape, which includes league numbers leading up to Friday night's schedule of games.
Georgia is 7-2, Buffalo is 6-2. Georgia is 4-0 at home and Buffalo is 2-1 on the road. Buffalo is 4-1 the last five games while Georgia is 3-2. Both have similar 6-1 records leading after one and two quarters. Buffalo is stronger with a 6-0 mark when leading after three.
Both the Bandits and Swarm have the league’s top offenses with 292 and 282 points, respectively. The Bandits have a plus-15 goal differential and the Swam are at plus-12. The Bandits average a league-high 14.38 goals per game while the Swam average 12.33. Both are hovering at around 11 goals against per game.
The Swarm have 19 more loosies than the Bandits, but both are first and second in the league. The Swarm have the edge in faceoffs – 49 percent to Buffalo's 41. Buffalo's power play is 46.5 percent, while the Swarm are clicking at 51.5 percent. The Bandits have the best penalty kill in the league at 62 percent; the Swarm are at 53 percent. Both teams are dead even at shots fired per game at 75.
Goaltender Matt Vinc, 6-0 on the season, has the edge in save percentage (.795, good for second overall), to Mike Poulin's .786 (fifth overall). Poulin is 6-2.
With an extra game played, Randy Staats and Lyle Thompson have taken the one and two scoring position in the NLL. Staats has 56 points (18+38) while Thompson, the top goal scorer in the loop, has 27 goals and 54 points. Thompson had 16 points last weekend in back-to-back games.
Bandits forward Shawn Evans, with eight games played, is third in the league scoring with 51 points (15+36). Dhane Smith, tied for sixth in league scoring is has 12 goals and 30 assists for 44 points. The Great Dhane had another good weekend, finishing with eight points (3+5). Corey Small is tied for ninth with 35 points (17+18). Georgia's Shayne Jackson is 12th with 32 points (12+20).
A quad of Bandit players are backing up the injured Josh Byne (out five weeks with a lower-body injury) and Thomas Hoggarth is seeing to that with his numbers (18 goals and 12 assists). Jordan Durston is 5+18, Chase Fraser, who has two back-to-back hat tricks, is 12+5. Ian MacKay, tied for third in rookie scoring, has 13 points (6+7).
Buffalo also acquired forward Chris Cloutier, the second-overall pick in this year’s draft, from Philadelphia this afternoon. Cloutier is second in rookie scoring with 24 points (7+17) in seven games this season.
Georgia's Holden Cattoni (6+8 last weekend), is third in scoring with 43 points (16+27). Shayne Jackson has 12 goals and 20 assists.
A trio of Georgia rookies are making their mark. Brendon Bomberry, Adam Wiedemann and Joe Tinney are tied for seventh in rookie scoring with five points each.
Defensively, the Bandits are showing their transition game is working quite nicely with Steve Priolo leading the NLL defensemen with 13 points (5+8). Mitch de Snoo (4+3) is fifth and Nick Weiss (2+4) is tied for sixth. Georgia's Connor Sellars (2+3) is tied for sixth in back-door scoring.
Numbers don't win games, but Saturday's visit to Georgia is the biggest test for the Bandits right now.
Saturday night's game from Infinite Energy Arena in Georgia will be on WGR 550 AM and WGWE 105.9 FM in Salamanca. The pregame show will start at 6:30 p.m. and will feature Bandits head coach John Tavares and Bandit Jon Harnett. The game is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.
Streaming is available now on both radio carriers but (spoiler alert!) radio is 20-25-seconds ahead of B/R Live.