Photo Credit: Kyle Hess
(Duluth, GA) – The Georgia Swarm (3-0) travels to the West Coast in its quest to remain undefeated in 2017 this Saturday evening for a 10 p.m. EST showdown against the Vancouver Stealth (2-2) at Langley Events Centre.
After a dominant home performance against rival New England last weekend, Georgia will be on the road for the next two games as it visits Vancouver tomorrow night and the Colorado Mammoth on Feb 4. Saturday’s contest marks the only meeting between Georgia and Vancouver this season.
The Swarm is currently led in scoring by 2015 No. 1 overall pick – Lyle Thompson – and offseason acquisition Jordan Hall. Thompson (8G, 14A) is off to a fast start, and has helped lead Georgia to its best start since 2008 and is well on pace to surpass his rooking scoring totals. Hall (5G, 14A) showed no mercy against a New England team which traded him during the offseason, tallying seven points (3G, 4A) while collecting three loose balls and causing one turnover.
Between the pipes, Mike Poulin has been phenomenal, winning every game he has played in. In over 158 minutes of playing time, Poulin has a 9.85 goals against average (GAA) and .814 save percentage (SV%). Both he and head coach Ed Comeau credit part of his success to a much-improved Georgia defense.
“Fortunately our guys kept the shots to the outside so I was able to see it,” Poulin said after Saturday’s victory. “We controlled the rebounds which is huge … it goes a long way for a goalie to see less shots. Again, our defense just made my job a lot easier.”
“He’s been great for us,” Comeau said about Poulin. “He’s seeing the ball well, and I think we’re doing a good job of limiting the quality of shots, and those go hand-in-hand.”
Georgia’s defense played its best game of the season so far. Alex Crepinsek collected four loose balls while causing three turnovers. Jason Noble kept on New England’s Shawn Evans, frustrating him all night in addition to collecting three loose balls. Rookie Leo Stouros continued to impress while rookie Liam Byrnes played well in his first NLL game.
The Swarm’s offense continued its unselfish ways. For the third week in a row, nine different players scored a goal. 2016 No. 4 overall pick Bryan Cole scored his third goal in three games, breaking the ice of a defensive first quarter and putting Georgia on the board first. Veteran Mitch Belisle scored his first goal in his season debut, taking advantage of an empty net at the end of the first quarter after a blown 6-on-5 chance from the Black Wolves. Connor Sellars scored the first goal of his NLL career in the fourth quarter after breaking away with the ball on a faceoff win.
Still riding high off their 3-0 start, the Swarm will prepare for the Vancouver Stealth, an opponent it only faces once each season. The Stealth seemed to be starting the season off on the right foot by winning their first two games, but they have since reversed course and lost the last two.
This weekend will not be any easier for Vancouver as they face the two-time defending champion Saskatchewan Rush – who dominated in their home opener last week – on Friday night before having to fly home and take on the NLL’s No. 1 ranked Georgia Swarm the next day.
“Teams that play back-to-back have a remarkably good record on the second end of it playing a team that’s waiting for them,” Comeau noted. “They’re going to be pretty hungry and ready to go at home.”
Vancouver will be sending out their leading forwards Rhys Duch and Corey Small (both 12G, 18A) and hoping their goalies Tyler Richards (13.31 GAA) and Tye Belanger (13.86) start to show some life between the pipes. Standing in their way is a Georgia defense that stepped its game up another level last week and a Georgia offense that feasts on goalies weak and strong.
Broadcast Info: Fans can catch the game LIVE via NLLTV.com. An all-access 2017 season pass costs $34.95 (US) and $39.95 (Canada), while an individual team pass for the year costs $24.95 (US) and $29.95 (Canada).
Georgia returns home to Harrah’s Cherokee Field at Infinite Energy Arena on Saturday, Feb. 11 for a rematch against the New England Black Wolves at 7:05 p.m. EST. For only $27, fans can purchase a lower level ticket and Swarm scarf package. Call 844-4-GASWARM or visit GeorgiaSwarm.com/Scarf for tickets
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