HIVE FIVE: Swarm vs. Bandits Preview

HIVE FIVE: Swarm vs. Bandits Preview

5 Quick Stings for the Swarm’s fourth annual Native Heritage Night

 

by Ty Merrow

The Georgia Swarm’s season is half over. Can you believe it? Nine games down, and only nine left to go.

While it feels like we got here quickly (we did), that doesn’t mean things can be taken easy. The Swarm have a huge East Division battle this Saturday, taking on the 6-2 Buffalo Bandits with the statistically best offense in the NLL.

Saturday is going to be big for a few reasons, and we’ll cover them in this Hive Five. But for now, we should first take a look at the…

EAST DIVISION STANDINGS

Much like last season, things are close, only this time, it’s personal different.

2018-19 East Division Standings on Feb. 8, 2019
Team W L W% GB GF GA
Toronto 6 1 .857 93 78
Georgia 7 2 .778 111 99
Buffalo 6 2 .750 .5 115 91
New England 3 3 .500 2.5 66 74
Rochester 2 5 .286 4 78 90
Philadelphia 1 6 .143 5 82 95

What we can see is that there really isn’t that much separation between Toronto, Georgia and Buffalo. But a gap is starting to form between the top three East teams and the bottom three.

While that may seem good for the Swarm, there are a few things to note. First, New England still has two-thirds of its season left to play. Second, Georgia is the only NLL team to have played nine games so far this season. Third, don’t you remember last season? Let’s take a look at how the standings were at the Swarm’s ninth game of the 2017-18 season.

2017-18 East Division Standings on Feb. 21, 2018
Team W L W% GB GF GA
Buffalo 6 3 .667 128 120
Toronto 5 4 .556 1 133 107
New England 4 4 .500 1.5 90 119
Georgia 4 5 .444 2 109 123
Rochester 4 6 .400 2.5 131 117

Only 2.5 games separated first place and last place in the East last season. And after the Swarm went 7-2 in the second half, Rochester 6-2, Buffalo 2-7 and Toronto 3-5, these standings flipped quickly. That’s right, the top two teams at the middle of last season didn’t make the postseason.

With the NLL expanding the postseason format from three teams to four teams per division, the chances of that happening again are slight, but the reality is that you can’t count out any of these teams. Rochester last season rebounded from six-straight losses at the beginning of the season to the NLL Finals.

The Rock have a bye week, so they won’t move around any in the standings. A win for Georgia or Buffalo means that team stays right at the heels of the still Toronto, putting them in a better position to potentially take first place in the East Division back.

It’ll be a fight all the way to the end | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess

But before that happens, we need to watch some players tear it up, and fortunately, Saturday will feature a number of the league’s…

TOP POINTS-GETTERS

More graphs!

NLL SCORING LEADERS
Rank Player Team GP G A PTS
1 R. Staats GA 9 18 38 56
2 L. Thompson GA 9 27 27 54
3 S. Evans BUF 8 15 36 51
4 R. Hellyer TOR 7 17 27 44
H. Cattoni GA 9 16 28 44
6 D. Dobbie CGY 8 18 24 42
T. Schreiber TOR 7 15 27 42
D. Smith BUF 6 12 30 42

Five of the top eight scoring leaders in the NLL will play in the same game come Saturday. Staats leads in assists and points, with Lyle in close second on points and leading in goals.

Shawn Evans held Staats’ top spot for most of the season, but that was in large part due to him having 28 points in the first three games of the season, which is insane. Over the next five games, Evans has posted 23 points, or 4.6 PTS/GAME.

The Swarm will have to watch out for Dhane Smith, too. He missed two games earlier this season due to injury, but the 2016 NLL MVP has also been on a tear, posting a 7 PTS/GAME pace.

Georgia also has to watch out for…

MATT VINC

The Bandits’ big free agent acquisition of the offseason, Matt Vinc was brought in to provide stabilization between the pipes for a team that was seventh in 2017-18 and ninth in 2017 in goals against. And for the most part, he’s done just that.

In 446:54 for the Bandits, Vinc has a 6-0 record to go with his 10.74 GAA and .795 SV%. With him at net, Buffalo is fifth in the league in GA (11.38 GA/GAME).

Vinc was chased from the pipes twice this season: against Toronto on 12/21 after allowing 11 GA in 43:29 min. (15.18 GAA, .711 SV%) and against Rochester on 1/26 after allowing 13 GA in 43:25 min. (17.97 GAA, .639 SV%).

The St. Catherines, Ontario native also has two games where he held opponents to low single digits: holding Rochester to only four goals on 1/5 and New England to five goals on 1/27.

Vinc’ll have his work cut out for him no matter what uniform he wears against the Swarm | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess

The Bandits waited until Wednesday afternoon to spring a surprise trade, and it created an interesting fact regarding the…

2018 NLL ENTRY DRAFT

Buffalo made a trade with Philadelphia that saw the Bandits acquire forward and No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NLL Entry Draft Chris Cloutier for transition player Ryan Wagner and a first-round selection in the 2021 NLL Entry Draft.

Surprising nature of the trade aside, acquiring Cloutier creates a fun fact for the Bandits. They now have the No. 2 (Cloutier), No. 3 (Matt Gilray) and No. 4 (Ian MacKay) picks from the 2018 NLL Entry Draft on their team.

It’s trades like that that take me way back to long ago on Sept. 25, 2018 when the Swarm made some noise of their own in the 2018 Entry Draft. The Swarm traded forward Jesse King and the No. 23 overall selection in that draft for Holden Cattoni and the No. 7 overall pick in the same draft. The Swarm used that No. 7 pick to grab Brendan Bomberry and followed up with the No. 8 overall pick Adam Wiedemann.

It’s fun to reminisce sometimes, to look back on the past and see from whence we came. But as fun as it can be, sometimes we need to take a look back to educate ourselves and learn from history. For fans coming to Saturday’s game, they can do just that as the Swarm celebrates…

NATIVE HERITAGE NIGHT

The Swarm are hosting their fourth annual Native Heritage Night presented by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort. Native craft demonstrators and vendors fill the concourse of Infinite Energy Arena and educate fans on facets of their culture and history. The night also features speeches from Principal Chief Richard Sneed and Miss Cherokee personalities, among others.

At 4:30 p.m., the Swarm’s seven Native players –  Lyle, Miles and Jerome Thompson (Onondaga Nation), Randy Staats (Six Nations, Mohawk Turtle Clan), Zed Williams (Seneca Nation), Brendan Bomberry (Six Nations, Mohawk Turtle Clan), and LeRoy Halftown (Seneca Nation) – will participate in a speaking session and talk about their heritage and answer fan questions.

In light of recent events in the lacrosse community concerning Native players, it’s more important than ever to educate ourselves about their culture, especially because we wouldn’t have this great sport without them. Gates for the pregame events open at 4:00 p.m., and there’s no extra cost to attend. It’s a fantastic night just to learn about Native culture and hear about how important lacrosse is and the impact it has had on seven of the most talented players you will meet.

Visit GeorgiaSwarm.com/NativeHeritageNight for more details and to RSVP.