By Alex Beilman - Bandits.com

The Buffalo Bandits did everything right in the first half, but were unable to finish off the league’s top team, and suffered a 17-16 loss on the road Saturday night at the hands of the Georgia Swarm at Infinite Energy Center. The Bandits opened an early lead, leading 5-1 at one point, but the league’s top offense proved too much over the course of 60 minutes.

The Bandits (6-10) received strong performances from their best players, with Ryan Benesch contributing six goals (6+2) and an eight-point night from Dhane Smith (3+5). The Thompson brothers, as has been the case most of the year, carried the Georgia attack. Miles netted seven points (3+4) and Lyle led the side with eight points (4+4).

The Bandits appeared to be riding the high of their win in Toronto the night previous, and came out firing. The visitors scored four of the first five goals, with Pat Saunders opening the scoring just 50 seconds into the contest off of a feed from Dhane Smith.

Smith fed Benesch just 44 seconds later for a 2-0 Bandit lead. Bryan Cole scored to make it a 2-1 game, but Benesch, Anthony Malcom (2+3) and Smith strung together a three-goal run for Buffalo to give the Bandits a 5-1 advantage.

Goals from Johnny Powless (4+4) and Lyle Thompson sandwiched a Mitch Jones (2+2) power play tally, and the Bandits came out of the quarter with a 6-3 lead.

Benesch opened a high-scoring second quarter with a goal just 31 seconds into the frame. Mark Steenhuis (2+4) followed him just over three minutes later with his first of the evening, and the Bandits appeared to be in control with an 8-3 lead.

However, the Swarm’s attack was not going to be silenced the entire game. Shayne Jackson (3+1) posted a quick brace over the span of 24 seconds, and Powless would score just 90 seconds after that to make it an 8-6 game.

Lyle Thompson netted another goal to bring the Swarm within one at the 11:12 mark of the second period. Malcom and Benesch, though, tried to pull the Bandits away again, as they scored 33 seconds apart to give their side a 10-7 lead.

Miles Thompson capped off a hectic half of lacrosse, by scoring an extra attacker goal with just four seconds on the clock. Despite the push from Georgia, Buffalo looked to have things under control with a 10-8 lead at the half.

Dhane Smith would open the third quarter scoring with a tally 4:40 into the frame. The Bandits were up 11-8 and things looked good as the seconds ticked off the clock.

Again, though, Georgia’s offense was able to create something out of nothing, as they rattled off another four-goal run through goals by Powless, Miles Thompson and Kiel Matisz. Just as the Bandits seemed to be in a good spot, they found themselves trailing 12-11.

Smith and Benesch struck back in the last minute of the third, scoring once each to restore a 13-12 Bandits lead headed into the final stanza.

It was the Swarm, though, that found the accelerator in the final period of play. They would score five of the next six goals, and found themselves with a 17-14 lead by the 8:49 mark of the fourth quarter.

The Bandits were able to put on a late comeback push. Steenhuis and Benesch each managed tallies in the last five minutes to get the score to 17-16.

Mike Poulin stood tall from there, foiling a few more Bandits opportunities as the game ticked down to the final 30 seconds. A save with 21 seconds left helped the Swarm gain possession. The Bandits were able to force a loose ball to Dhane Smith with about 10 seconds on the clock.

Smith rocketed down the floor to collect the ball, cut inside and attempted to go over Poulin with a jump shot. The winning goalie was up to the challenge, and the ball deflected off his shoulder and into the corner to secure the win.

The loss drops Buffalo to 6-10 on the year, and may spell the end of their playoff hopes, pending the result of New England’s visit to Saskatchewan. At best, the Bandits can finish 8-10, which means New England cannot win any of their remaining games, and Rochester (5-9 at the time of this writing) cannot get to eight wins.

The season will press on next Saturday, as the Bandits will get a chance for revenge when the Swarm visit KeyBank Center for the second time this season.