The Georgia Swarm (0-2) were unable to hold onto a lead for the second week in a row as it fell 14-11 to the Colorado Mammoth (2-0). Saturday night had 13,125 fans visit the Pepsi Center to watch a defensive battle before the home team emerged victorious.
Georgia surged ahead to a three-goal lead in the third quarter but was ultimately unable to hold it against the Mammoth’s persistent offense. Led by Ryan Benesch (3G, 3A) in his first game as a Mammoth player in the Pepsi Center, Colorado’s six-goal run in the fourth allowed the team to retake the lead for the first time since the first goal of the game and then seal the deal with a shorty goal and an empty netter.
“I thought we played well in the first half,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “I thought Mike Poulin played really well. Second half, we built on that lead, but we couldn’t pull away. The Mammoth battled hard and came up with more than their fair share of loose balls, and giving up those possessions really hurt us in the end.”
Colorado and Georgia would only score one goal apiece in the first quarter. Jacob Ruest did his damage off an assist from Ryan Benesch for Colorado, and Shayne Jackson responded six minutes later with a powerplay goal. Poulin and Mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward put on a high-level defensive clinic behind some mutually solid defense.
Things picked up offensively in the second quarter. Jesse King scored his fourth goal of the season with a diving attempt before Benesch tied it up with his first of the night. The back-and-forth continued until the final minute with Lyle Thompson continually pressing until he scored the last goal of the quarter, Georgia up 5-4. Poulin made 21 saves in the first half; Ward made 17.
“For me in the first half, I made a conscious effort to improve my five-hole,” Poulin said. “You always try and play well like the guy you’re playing against, and Dillon Ward I think is the best goalie in the league. It was a bit of a close one in the first half, obviously. I think he and I were going save for save, so you want to just keep battling and give your team a chance. The second half, I personally felt I could have been a lot better down the stretch — twice now. Need to figure it out, certainly need to be a lot better.”
Colorado would tie things up once more to start the third quarter off with a goal from Greg Downing. Georgia then pushed ahead with a three-goal run started by Lyle. With Georgia up 8-5, Zach Greer ended the streak, and Benesch scored again to put the Mammoth back within one as the third quarter buzzer sounded.
Eli McLaughlin kicked off the scoring in the fourth quarter by tying things up again. Kiel Matisz and Jackson retook then widened the lead by two goals, giving Georgia its final lead of the night, 10-8.
The Mammoth offense then kicked into high gear for a six-goal run which handily seized the lead from the Swarm. Joey Cupido netted a shorty after Colorado was man-down due to a penalty, and Jeremy Noble’s empty netter was the final goal the Mammoth would score that night. Jackson managed to notch one more for Georgia before the final 15 minutes were up, but Colorado was able to comfortably hold on to the three-goal lead it had with nine seconds left in regulation. The Mammoth earned its second win of the season, the final score 14-11.
“We’ve got to get back to what we do really well, which is moving our feet and swinging the ball and getting in and out of the middle,” Comeau said. “We clogged the middle a little bit, and that really hurts us when we’re trying to get some off-ball picks and get some movement. We did some real good things and built a lead. We’ve just got to keep going when we have that lead and look to get that next one.”
Lyle led the Swarm in points Saturday night with seven (2G, 5A), 6 LB and 1 CT. Jackson recorded a hat trick and two assists for five points, and Matisz (2G, 2A) and Randy Staats (1G, 3A) rounded out the Georgia offense. Poulin made 42 saves on 55 shots, good for a 13.00 GAA and a .763 SV%.
“The best thing we can do is look forward to the next game,” Poulin said. “We’re going to hop right back into it and have an opportunity to play in front of our fans and get momentum on our side.”
The Swarm’s home opener will be on Saturday, Dec. 30. Faceoff is set for 7:05 p.m. ET. The home opener will feature the unveiling of the Championship Banner, a ring ceremony as the Swarm players receive their Championship rings, and a halftime performance by Atlanta-based GRAMMY® Award-winning hip hop artist 2 Chainz. Tickets for this historic night are available at GeorgiaSwarm.com/2Chainz or by calling 844-4-GASWARM.
Play of the Game:
Poulin finished the night with two back-to-back assists, and one of them was a beaut. He cleared the ball right to Georgia’s first round pick in the 2017 NLL Draft, Zed Williams. Williams had already streaked up the floor to receive Poulin’s pass before netting his first NLL goal and point, giving Georgia its largest lead of the night.