(Vancouver, B.C.) – The Georgia Swarm (4-0) squeaked out a gutsy road win against the Vancouver Stealth (2-4) Saturday night to remain the only undefeated team in the league. An excellent game from both sides ended with Georgia emerging victorious 14-12.
With this win and a Toronto Rock loss earlier in the night, Georgia took sole possession of first place in the East Division. The Swarm is off to their best start since the 2008 season and collected their first-ever victory in Vancouver (0-2 previously).
After cruising through its first three games of the season, Georgia spent most of the night trying to pull ahead of a desperate Vancouver squad who were trying to end a three-game losing streak.
“We knew offensively that they’re a really good team and they could score goals,” head coach Ed Comeau said. “I thought defensively we struggled for a little bit, then we settled down and Mike Poulin made some great saves for us. To win in this league, you need all facets in your game contributing: special teams, offense, defense, goaltending, transition. We got contributions in every one of those areas tonight to help us get a tough one on the road.”
Vancouver scored first in the game after six minutes of trading shots from both sides. Less than two minutes later, Randy Staats would even the score on a power play. What seemed like momentum on Georgia’s part fizzled as the defense played poorly and allowed Vancouver to pull ahead with four unanswered goals. At the end of the first quarter, Vancouver led 5-1.
Georgia turned the tide in the second quarter on a goal from Lyle Thompson. Vancouver’s Justin Salt would answer in kind, but it was Georgia’s turn to run away with it. Shayne Jackson, Miles Thompson, Kiel Matisz, and Staats all contributed to a run of six unanswered goals. Staats also had four assists during this streak. Poulin only allowed one goal on 14 shots during the quarter, and the Swarm left the floor at halftime flying high, 8-6.
Unfortunately, Georgia could not keep their run going, and a difficult match for both teams ensued. Vancouver tied the game up within the first two minutes of the third quarter. Staats and Vancouver’s Peter McFetridge ended up wrestling on the ground after both fell tangled in Vancouver’s corner and ended up in the penalty box for two minutes. Both teams kept trading goals, but Vancouver had the last laugh in the quarter with two goals from the NLL points leader Corey Small and former Swarm forward Logan Schuss. The third quarter ended with Vancouver up 11-10.
The fourth quarter ended in Georgia’s favor, a frantic effort from both sides. Georgia outscored Vancouver 4-1 in the quarter. Neck-and-neck at 12, Lyle was part of some fast passes that left him open enough to get the ball to the back of the net. Georgia took the lead, and Alex Crepinsek provided one last bit of insurance by scoring the final goal of the game with a minute left to go, an empty netter after goalie Tye Belanger was pulled so Vancouver could go man-up.
Tough as the game was, Georgia’s offense still put up impressive numbers. Jackson ended the night matching his season-high goals total with four of them, Matisz finished with the hat trick (3G, 1A), and Staats dominated while also recording a hat trick (3G, 6A). Jordan Hall played silent assassin by recording six assists. After a rough first quarter, Poulin finished the night with 45 saves on 57 shots.
“I’ve got to give credit to Vancouver. I thought they were outstanding,” Comeau said. “They played really well … Their goaltending was good; they ran hard; they gave us everything we could handle, and fortunately, we got some big stops late in the fourth when we needed it and came out with some timely scoring. It was a tough game. We worked hard, stuck with them, and got the win.”
Georgia continues their road trip with a visit to the Pepsi Center in Denver to take on the Colorado Mammoth (2-3). Faceoff is set for 9:00 p.m. EST. The teams met up last year twice and split the series. Fans can catch the game LIVE via NLLTV.com.
On Feb. 11, the Swarm return home to Harrah’s Cherokee Field at Infinite Energy Arena for a rematch against the New England Black Wolves (1-3). Tickets are available by calling 844-4-GASWARM or visiting GeorgiaSwarm.com/Scarf.
PLAY OF THE GAME:
The final tiebreaker in a tight contest, Lyle earned the play of the game with some help from Hall and brother Jerome Thompson. Jerome drew two Vancouver defensemen to him, gave a slick underhand pass to Hall who had another Vancouver player move towards him. Hall quickly gave the ball to Lyle. With three Vancouver players on the wrong side of the floor, Lyle easily scored the game-winning goal on Belanger to keep the Georgia Swarm undefeated in 2017.
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