In an indoor lacrosse game that was waiting to be taken, Dhane Smith took it.
The second-year member of the Buffalo Bandits scored the game-winning goal with 3:48 left, which propelled his team to a 12-9 win over the Minnesota Swarm on Saturday night. The close, competitive game entertained the 15,330 in attendance in the First Niagara Center.
The game was tied, 9-9, when Smith went to work.
“I saw that the ball came loose when Chad Culp got it,” Smith said about his third goal of the night. “I sprinted down the left side, and I panicked a little bit. I decided to stick with my best move, and I put it in.”
“His transition is unbelievable,” Bandits coach Troy Cordingley said. “He’s so fast, and has such soft hands around the net. He makes big plays.”
Just like that, the Bandits had their first lead of the game. Mark Steenhuis soon added his third and fourth goals of the night, and Buffalo had won its second straight.
It took that sort of effort in the final minutes to separate the teams. Until then, the difference between them was paper-thin.
“That was a battle,” Cordingley said. “They’re a desperate team. They were looking for another win. They’re a good team, and they came at us hard until the bitter end.”
The Swarm (2-8) wasted little time in taking charge in Saturday’s game. Logan Schuss scored for Minnesota only 30 seconds into the contest, and built the margin to 6-2 early in the second period.
After Joe Resetarits scored for Buffalo, Smith struck twice to get the Bandits back within striking distance. The 21-year-old has filled a variety of roles this season, and seems to excel in all of them.
“I love it,” Smith said about his many roles. “They say defense wins championships. Offense is fun, but it’s tiring. I’m young enough not to complain about that.”
Buffalo tied the game before halftime. Then the teams traded goals through most of the second half. Significantly, Buffalo got its transition game going during that span. Leading the way was defender Steve Priolo, who had four assists.
“The transition game is stressed all the time,” Priolo said. “We’ve got a strong defense, and we’re pushing the ball when we can. Even when we’re not scoring, we’re applying pressure.”
“Steve is the best defender in the league, bar none,” Cordingley said. “He’s just outstanding.”
Priolo had to watch the final six minutes after a fight with Minnesota’s Andrew Suitor, which did create some energy from the crowd. Less than two minutes later, Buffalo grabbed the lead for good.
The win was Buffalo’s fifth straight at home this season. The team had lost six in the First Niagara Center to end last season, and reestablishing a home-field advantage was a 2014 priority.
“Every team is like that. They want teams to know when they come into their rink, they’re in for a battle,” Cordingley said. “That’s what we’ve done this year.”
The win also improved Buffalo’s record to 7-2 at the season’s midway point. That sounds good to a team that went 6-10 in 2013.
“We’ll take it,” Cordingley said. “The season is a marathon, not a sprint. We want to continue to get better.”
Buffalo’s next chance to do that comes next Saturday at home against Colorado.