You know what was one of the best facets of the Georgia Swarm’s 13-11 win against the Philadelphia Wings last Saturday?
The special teams.
The Swarm’s power play and penalty kill units were operating beautifully on Jan. 12. The penalty kill unit held the Wings to only one goal on seven power play opportunities, including wasting away most of two 5-min. majors (I know the gamesheet says Philadelphia had just five chances, but those two 5-min. majors gave Philly the opportunity to score two power play goals, and in my mind, should be counted as two penalties. Looking at the gamesheet and seeing the Wings were 1-for-5 on the power play makes you think the Swarm had only 10 min. worth of penalties or five minors, and that isn’t the case).
Georgia’s defense has been turning in a solid season so far, currently second in the NLL in GA/GAME and tied for second in killing penalties. And not to take anything away from their consistency, but seeing the Swarm power play go 4-for-6 is much more satisfying, especially given how long it has been since we’ve seen the Swarm be that efficient on the power play.
The Swarm’s four goals last Saturday are the most power play goals they have scored since their game against the Buffalo Bandits on March 18, 2018. Georgia was 4-for-5 that night with the man advantage, but the team ultimately finished the 2017-18 season with the worst power play unit in the league, cashing in on only 34.25% of their chances.
If you go back to 6:59 p.m. ET on Saturday, the Swarm were seventh in the league in overall power play, sitting at 36.4% efficiency. After four quarters and an equal amount of power play goals, the Swarm jumped up to third in power play efficiency at 47.06%.
So what was working for the Swarm’s man advantage? Let’s break the four goals down.
HOLDEN CATTONI PPG – 3:14 2Q
It didn’t take long for the Swarm to make the Wings pay after Liam Patten’s 2-min. minor for roughing. In fact, it took just seven seconds.
Georgia set up its power play pentagon, but an unaggressive Wings penalty kill didn’t move much as Holden Cattoni just rocketed the ball shortside from the high right slot.
That rocket right there is part of why the Swarm traded for Cattoni.
MILES THOMPSON PPG – 11:54 2Q
Dubbed the “no-look”…
…Miles Thompson received a beauty feed through traffic from Cattoni after Cattoni looked left and passed right. Slick.
But let’s take a look at that again from a different angle.
The Wings defense was content to stay in place for the most part. But goaltender Doug Buchan had left a sweet window perfect for Miles to sneak a catch-and-release shot through. Buchan’s right foot was a little more forward in the crease than when Cattoni scored due to him positioning his body more towards Shayne Jackson on the low right slot and Cattoni.
That’s a huge window for Miles and too much space for Buchan to cover as he tried to stop the shot.
RANDY STAATS – :47 3Q
The Swarm had a 5-on-3 advantage coming back from halftime. When the Swarm gained their first possession of the second half, Lyle Thompson stayed near the mid-line to collect the ball if it bounced that far back, and the Swarm created a 4-on-3 situation. Randy Staats, Cattoni, Miles and Jackson were the four. Miles and Jackson manned the low posts and are prolific catch-and-release shooters, so they’ll receive most of the three Wings defenders’ attention. For Zac Reid, this meant he had to split time between Cattoni and Staats. The two Swarm players played hot potato before Staats did what Staats does.
Being on the wrong end of a 5-on-3 is difficult. Teams benefiting from those situations can grind a 3-man defense down with their fifth man corralling any loose balls before the mid-line. It’s also difficult to get in the way of opposing shooters, to shut down lanes and make them uncomfortable. Look at all the room Staats has from a different angle below, especially after Anthony Joaquim slid to shut down the passing lane.
You give Staats space, he’s going to score. That’s just simple math.
LYLE THOMPSON – :24 4Q
Lyle scored the Swarm’s last PPG of the night because he had too much breathing room to operate in. But how he got that breathing room is important, and it’s thanks to Miles and Cattoni crashing and distracting.
The play starts when Miles runs in and taps Reid in the numbers before getting on the top of the crease to tie up Dylan Evans and Patten. Miles’ move also drew Steph Charbonneau too far inside. That left Reid with Cattoni, who tied up the Wings defenseman beautifully.
Cattoni tying up Reid’s left arm meant that Reid’s hack at Lyle hit him in the side but didn’t disrupt him. With the new alley created for him, Lyle had what amounts to too much time for Lyle to do Lyle things.
Following the win on Saturday, Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said the following about his team’s success with the man advantage:
“We placed our shots where we needed to. We moved the ball well. There’s no magic formula. A lot of the plays we run are great plays, but they require someone to put a shot on goal in a good spot, and we did that tonight. Our guys were dialed in, and we took advantage of their opportunities.”
Taking advantage of those opportunities – in addition to being very strong while man-short – is what helped the Swarm win their fourth-straight game and remain the only undefeated team in the NLL. For the win streak to continue, more of the same will be needed. With a doubleheader on the horizon, taking chances as they’re given will be even more imperative to come out on top Friday and Saturday.
The Swarm continue their road trip with a doubleheader this weekend. Georgia will take on the Toronto Rock on Friday, Jan. 18 before heading east to face the New England Black Wolves on Saturday, Jan. 19. Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET in Toronto and 7:00 p.m. ET in New England.
Fans can catch both games on the B/R Live app available through iTunes, Google Play, Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire.
Georgia returns to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena on Sunday, Jan. 27 to take on the Saskatchewan Rush. Faceoff is set for 4:05 p.m. ET. 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.