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Bandits rookie has a blast in win over Swarm

Sometimes dreams come true in professional sports.

And sometimes reality is even better than could be imagined.

Jerome Thompson experienced the latter on Friday night as a member of the Buffalo Bandits. He had four goals and an assist to lead his team to a 15-12 victory over the Minnesota Swarm before 12,756 in First Niagara Center.

Thompson was a 2011 Bandits draft choice who didn’t reach the National Lacrosse League until this year. On this night, he showed he belonged with the game’s best.

“It felt good out there,” he said. “I’ve had a little bit of a rough road. I didn’t get my big dream of playing at Syracuse” University, “and it pushed me back a little bit. I fought hard to get back in, but I feel good now. I really wanted to play in this league.”

If his performance wasn’t enough, his team beat the squad of brother Miles, a first-round draft choice of the Swarm last season. Earlier this season, Jerome and the Bandits beat another brother and his team, Jeremy of the Edmonton Rush.

“I guess I’ve got bragging rights at home,” Jerome said with a laugh.

The senior Thompson had to come up with 24 tickets for his family and friends, who traveled from outside of Syracuse to watch the game. The group had the chance to see a peculiar game, featuring the Bandits at their very best and their very worst.

Buffalo’s entire team was clicking during the opening 30 minutes, which saw the team jump out to an 11-3 lead. In the first half alone, Thompson had four goals on five shots, Ryan Benesch had a hat trick, and Mark Steenhuis had a pair of goals.

Coach Troy Cordingley called it the best half by a Bandits team since he arrived here for the 2014 season.

“The way the ball was moving, everybody was touching the ball,” he said.

“We found a little bit more energy today” than the team had last week, Steve Priolo said. “I couldn’t tell you why. I think we were packing it defensively a little bit more and letting them shoot from outside. The ball went up the floor quick, we were passing the ball to the offensive guys, and it would be in the back of the net.”

The Bandits calmed down offensively after that, but appeared to be in control with a 12-4 lead with two minutes left in the third quarter. Still, easy nights are few and far between in the NLL.

“You’ve got to make it interesting,” Benesch said with a smile. “It stopped my heart a little bit though.”

The Swarm cut the lead to only three goals on three different occasions in the final period.

“We played not to lose,” Cordingley said. “They’re good. They had something to prove, and we were awful.”

Callum Crawford had two goals and six assists to lead the Swarm. Minnesota was close enough to make everyone rooting for Buffalo a bit nervous.

“There was a lot of encouragement on the bench,” Benesch said. “You can’t get down on each other in that situation. ... You have to know when to pick each other up.”

The Bandits only allowed one goal in the final five minutes to earn the win, as Steenhuis and Priolo scored crucial goals to keep the Swarm at a distance.

Buffalo headed to Rochester for Saturday night’s game with the Knighthawks with a 3-2 record. They packed a lesson from Friday’s game they need to remember in Rochester – offense isn’t everything.

“The biggest thing to take from the game is that they are going to score some goals, and we still have to stop them,” Priolo said. “Scoring goals is nice, but for me it’s stopping the goals, stopping the runs.”