The Georgia Swarm (4-2) traded goals with the New England Black Wolves (3-1) all night, but the home team came away with the 13-12 win on Saturday night in Mohegan Sun Arena.
The Swarm were without team captain Jordan MacIntosh due to illness, and Bryan Cole was ejected early in the game. Georgia and New England constantly swapped goals before Tyler Digby’s hat trick goal in the fourth quarter became the game-winner.
“With MacIntosh out of the lineup and Cole getting kicked out early, we battled hard,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “Back-to-backs are tough in this league, and we hung in there right to the end, but end of the day, we made too many mistakes. We talked before the game about not only do we have to work hard, we have to work smart, and we made a lot of mistakes that ended up in our net. In this league, when you make those types of mistakes, a number of them in a night, it usually doesn’t end well for you.”
Randy Staats’ seven points (3G, 4A) and Lyle Thompson’s four goals helped keep the Swarm in the thick of things all night long.
Stephan Leblanc opened the game with a quick goal, followed barely a minute later by Staats. Leblanc netted another before Miles Thompson and Lyle took the lead for the Swarm with two power play goals. Georgia was up 3-2 at the end of the first quarter.
A defensive battle ensued for the first eight minutes of the second quarter before Ryan Fournier used a transition opportunity to tie things up for New England. Two Black Wolves power play goals and a shorthanded marker from Shayne Jackson and another power play goal for the Swarm knotted things up at six goals apiece at halftime.
Miles found the back of the net early in the third quarter to retake the lead, but once again, Fournier benefitted from an unassisted transition chance. Blows kept being traded, but the Black Wolves finally ended the tit-for-tat with a three-goal run in the last three minutes of the quarter. Callum Crawford netted his second.
Lyle tried to will his team back to victory, netting the next two goals in the game. But Digby’s power play goal with 2:52 min. left in the game was the dagger, and the Swarm were unable to cash in afterwards. The Swarm dropped their second-straight game, this time by a score of 13-12.
“We’ve got to get the ball on net,” Comeau said after the team recorded 33 shots that missed the net. “That’s the message. It’s been that all year. Our O guys just have to do that … (I)t’s about execution, and we have to be much better at it.”
Staats led the team with his seven points, followed by Lyle (4G, 1A) and Miles (2G, 3A) with five points apiece. Staats and Lyle boosted their season points totals to 32 (11G, 21A) and 31 (18G, 13A) respectively. Mike Poulin made 41 saves on 54 SOG, a .759 SV%.
Crawford (3G, 3A) and Reilly O’Connor (0G, 6A) led the Black Wolves in points, each with six. Digby’s five-points (2G, 3A) night was next in scoring for the home team. Alex Buque earned his second win of the season after stopping 37 SOG, finishing with a .755 SV%.
The Swarm return home to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena this Sunday, Jan. 27. They will take on the Saskatchewan Rush (2-1). Faceoff is set for 4:05 p.m.
“Obviously not the result we wanted on the weekend, but we’re still in good shape,” Comeau concluded. “We’ve got to bounce back and be ready. Sask is a good team, and for a number of guys, this will be their first time playing them. We just have to make sure we get our homework in, do our film study this week, get our conditioning in and be ready to go. Especially being at home, we want to be good at home, and this is an opportunity for us to answer with a game at home.”
Billed as the Meeting of the Champions presented by IceByrd Frozen Yogurt, the last two teams to win an NLL World Championship will meet for the only time this regular season.
Early arriving fans can receive a Stinger Snowglobe. Tickets are available at GeorgiaSwarm.com/Champions or by calling 844-4-GASWARM.
Play of the Game:
The Swarm and Black Wolves were fighting to dig a loose ball out of the boards at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Lyle came up to the pile and snagged the ball out, took a few steps to get open, and emphatically whipped the goal from near the Swarm’s bench to the net behind Buque. His hat trick shot looked more like a home run swing, opening the scoring in the fourth quarter in style.