How’s about that game from Adam Wiedemann last Friday?
The rookie defenseman turned in a noticeably great game when the Georgia Swarm won a tight contest against the Toronto Rock on Dec. 28. The Belmont Abbey College alum scored his first career NLL goal, dished three assists, and primarily defended Toronto’s best offensive weapons successfully.
Is there a number we can assign to his performance that gives us an idea of how good Wiedemann was? Sure: 8%.
Wiedemann played 25 defensive shifts throughout Friday night, and only two goals were scored while he was on the floor: Kieran McArdle’s shorthanded goal and Rob Hellyer’s fifth tally of the night. Do some basic math, and that comes out to Toronto scoring on just 8% of the Swarm’s defensive shifts which included Wiedemann on Friday night.
He’ll attribute his success to being comfortable with the Swarm defensive unit and the team’s relentless communication while on the floor.
While I can’t tell you exactly what the league average would be for this goals against per defenseman shift stat, I can tell you that 8% is a great number, and Wiedemann led the Swarm Friday night in this statistic.
But that’s just a number and doesn’t tell the full story of Wiedemann’s performance. So with insight from the man of the hour himself, let’s take a look at three plays which sum up Wiedemann’s second NLL game: shutting Hellyer down on a fast-break, his first NLL goal, and his first NLL assist.
(I’ll teach you a trick when it comes to distinguishing between players when they’re on the floor moving around and looking like everyone else: check the shoes. #27 is the only Swarm player to go with a completely black shoe and sock combo.)
THE TOUGHEST ASSIGNMENTS
Wiedemann spent most of his time defending the Rock’s righties on the right side, primarily Tom Schreiber and Dan Lintner. He switched to the left side a few times, but his primary task was preventing the 2017 NLL ROY and Lintner from getting a ball behind Mike Poulin. Every now and then, he’d head to the other side and guard Adam Jones and Johnny Powless.
He was working really well with sliding and swapping assignments, like below when he and Bryan Cole swapped forwards and shut down the lanes, forcing the ball to be passed to the left side.
Wiedemann is the farthest left Swarm player to start this GIF. Remember, black socks and shoes.
But the play we really want to talk about is when Wiedemann stopped Hellyer from a prime fast-break opportunity. Already on the floor as part of the draw team, Wiedemann was positioned perfectly for Hellyer in the shift.
The Toronto forward was streaking off the bench after receiving a long outlet pass from Challen Rogers and had no one but Wiedemann between him and Poulin. Hellyer had just scored a goal before the faceoff, his second of five goals that night, and the man can juke past you with ease if you aren’t careful.
“My role at that point was to stay back off the draw and look for those guys that are kind of leaking down the floor or coming off the bench as kind of a fast-break opportunity,” Wiedemann said. “So when I saw the ball in the air going up to the Toronto bench and knew a guy was coming up, I knew he had to be my guy. I knew it was a one-on-one because there were a lot of guys that flooded up the floor for the ball because it was sent back in the Toronto end.
“Hellyer probably saw me as a rookie and tried to go to the net, and I had to stop him. They had just scored, and you can’t let them get another one right off the bat again. I just played him straight up and kind of watched his body, and fortunately enough was able to defend him, and then everyone else could get back.”
Wiedemann forcing Hellyer back allowed the Swarm defense to get set, killing the fast-break opportunity. The play eventually resulted in Georgia getting the ball back.
It speaks volumes that (a) Wiedemann was given the chances to defend Toronto’s best weapons and that (b) he did it for almost the entire game.
“It shows (the coaches’) trust already just in game 2, which means a lot,” he remarked. “I’m going to keep trying to earn more of their trust and keep playing the way I like to play and keep rolling here with the Swarm, try and go 3-0 this weekend.”
FIRST ONE’S IN THE BOOKS
It’s always a good feeling to score your first professional goal in the NLL.
During one defensive shift near the end of the first quarter, Wiedemann was in the middle of the defensive formation, constantly sliding between Rock players as they moved the ball around.
Communication once again was key in Wiedemann’s success that night. Jones took a hard outside shot that rebounded right to Wiedemann. It went past him into the Toronto end, and he hustled after it ahead of everyone else.
“I saw we were on an advantage, a 3-on-1 turned into a 3-on-2. When I picked up the ball, all I heard was (Jason) Noble behind me just yelling ‘Shoot!’ So I shot, and it went five-hole.”
Particularly impressive was Wiedemann streaking way ahead of everyone. Jones, who was closest to Wiedemann, immediately started heading toward the Toronto bench when the ball was bobbled by Wiedemann. The Caledon East, Ontario native sprinting to the ball so fast meant Toronto wasn’t able to get more than two players on the floor to try and defend the three Swarm players in transition.
“I think people don’t realize – my first three steps aren’t the quickest, but once I get going, I can move pretty good. But I’m working on those three steps all the time and just trying to get faster still,” Wiedemann said. “In the play, the guy ran off to the bench, too, so he kind of gave me a perfect lane to the ball, and I didn’t really have to battle anyone for it, which is a lot easier, obviously.”
SCRUM, LOOSIE, ASSIST
Arguably the biggest play from Wiedemann on Friday came when he handed out his first career NLL assist.
Brad Kri was his assignment on a shift towards the tail end of the third quarter. A missed Dan Craig shot meant the loose ball bounced to the boards on the left side. Craig tracked the loosie down and was trying to corral it when Wiedemann appeared and prevented that. Kri and Chad Tutton also showed up.
A hard Tutton check had Kri fall into Craig and Wiedemann, but Wiedemann was able to avoid getting tangled up, grabbing the loose ball and immediately running up the floor before passing to Cole.
“I saw Colesy, he was way up, and then Chad went and followed him,” Wiedemann recalled. “I looked around, and there were still not too many Toronto guys in the picture. So we just ran down to see what we could get, and that’s what ended up happening. Chad made a great play to give Colesy some room, and then it was just a great shot.”
Teamwork makes the dream work.
Wiedemann was in the right place at the right time throughout the game, constantly getting the loose ball. This play, his positioning was imperative to regain possession and avoid getting tangled up in Craig and Kri when everyone fell down.
“It’s about really body positioning and getting your body in front of the ball, cause just in case you do miss it, you can kick it ahead or it’ll hit you in the stomach or something like that,” Wiedemann said. “It’s also just not being afraid to get into the dirty areas and get a slash or get a check into the boards or something like that.
“The ball is everything in lacrosse. It’s important to have it.”
The Swarm will be hosting Country Night presented by Georgia Lottery on Saturday, Jan. 5. Multi-platinum selling singer-songwriter Jerrod Niemann will perform a halftime and postgame concert in the Swarm’s Goal Zone Club.
Early arriving fans will receive Swarm cowbells presented by Georgia Lottery. Lower Level Tickets to Swarm Country Night featuring Jerrod Niemann start as low as $25 and can be purchased online at GeorgiaSwarm.com/CountryNight or by calling 844-4-GASWARM.