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HIVE FIVE: Swarm at Riptide, vs. Wings

Five Quick Stings for the Swarm's first doubleheader of the season

The last time the Georgia Swarm had a doubleheader weekend, it was way back on Feb. 1 and 2 of 2019 against the New England Black Wolves and Rochester Knighthawks. We’ve fondly enjoyed not having to deal with all that action across two days so far this season, but alas, all lax lax things must come to an end and become busy lax things eventually.

This weekend is such a time. The Swarm head up to Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, March 7 to take on the New York Riptide, then head home on Sunday, March 8 to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena to take on the Philadelphia Wings.

Both games are the ends of the respective season series, and this weekend can see a lot of movement between three teams in the East Division, as both the Swarm and Wings have a…

DOUBLEHEADER WEEKEND

While the Swarm play the Riptide on Saturday, the Wings welcome the Black Wolves to Wells Fargo Center for their third and final meeting. And here’s where things get fun.

Either the Swarm or Wings can take first place this weekend. For the Swarm to leap into first place, they have to win both games this weekend, and the Wings have to down the Black Wolves. That’ll make the East Division look like this:

TEAM

W L

W%

Georgia 8 4 .667
New England 7 4 .636
Philadelphia 8 6 .571
New York 1 12 .077

It looks nice, but the Wings certainly don’t like that plan and would rather see their goal of sweeping this weekend turn in these results (assuming the Swarm best the Riptide on Saturday so I don’t have to do more math. If they lose, they’re at .500):

TEAM

W L

W%

Philadelphia 9 5 .643
New England 7 4 .636
Georgia 7 5 .583
New York 1 12 .077

This is the best part of the season. We’re getting down to the wire, and now we can see what it will take to finish where you want, all the things that moving forward have to go right. The Swarm certainly plan to have a handle on this weekend, and part of that plan means they’re besties with the Wings on Saturday night.

Just Saturday, though.

Of course, the Black Wolves and Riptide can ruin both plans with a win on Saturday, and as Swarm head coach Ed Comeau is fond of saying during doubleheaders…

WORRY ABOUT GAME ONE

You can’t win on Sunday until you’ve played Saturday.

So, for now, the Swarm’s attention is fully dedicated to taking on the Riptide. And Saturday’s game has been on the Swarm’s mind for quite some time, which was what we said in the last Hive Five previewing a game against the Riptide.

But now it’s at the site of the loss, and while that game may feel like forever ago, it’s something the Swarm are thinking of, according to Comeau.

Last Saturday’s 14-7 win against the Vancouver Warriors was a good sign of the Swarm playing their game for nearly 60 minutes. The Riptide have been a tenacious team all season and known for late-game rallies. The Swarm will have to jump to an early lead and keep their foot down for the full 60 minutes.

One wrinkle worth pointing out is that the Riptide have let goalie Gowah Abrams play more this February, and it wouldn’t really surprise me to see him…

MAKE THE START

Again in the last Hive Five, we looked at Alex Buque and what he has done throughout his career against the Swarm. It didn’t matter too much since the Swarm chased him from net quickly on Feb. 15, boosting/lowering his career numbers against the Swarm to a 13.59 GAA and .741 SV% (from a 13.13 GAA and .746 SV%, respectively. That big a swing in GAA means a goalie got hit a little hard that night).

Buque went right when Noble was clearly going down | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess

Given Buque’s numbers this season for the Riptide (1-8, 13.78 GAA, .740 SV%), it’s a very real possibility that Abrams gets a shot to start for just the third time in his career. It’s a smaller sample size, but he has a 12.72 GAA and .742 SV% across 160:22 min. this season.

Part of that prognostication is because Abrams has played pretty decently against the Swarm. His first NLL career start was against the Swarm in 2019, and it was also his first (and the Wings’ fourth) win. When he was placed in net against the Swarm on Feb. 15, Abrams finished his 40:07 min. in net with a 10.47 GAA and .720 SV%.

Across his two games against the Swarm, Abrams has played 100:07 min. for a 1-1 record, a 12.59 GAA, and a .738 SV%. Might as well see what the kid can do.

It’s not like he’ll have an easy time. The Swarm offense is, after all,…

THE BEST IN THE NLL

At 12.7 goals for per game (GF/GAME), the Swarm lead the NLL in that category. On their heels are the Black Wolves, whose offense has a 12.6 GF/GAME.

One thing the Swarm can boast that no other team can, however, is that they have four players with 40+ points this season: Shayne Jackson (28G, 36A), Randy Staats (17G, 40A), Lyle Thompson (24G, 24A), and Jordan Hall (10G, 36A).

(Not counting Colorado since one of their 40-points scorers – Tyler Digby – came via trade from the Riptide, where he accumulated most of his points this season, and has played just a game with his new club. It’s my Hive Five; I make the rules.)

It’s been a particularly strong run of three games for the Swarm O, as well. They’re averaging a solid 15.0 GF/GAME and have demonstrated success at even strength (versus the Calgary Roughnecks), transition (versus the Riptide), and on the power play (versus the Warriors).

Swarm offense…so hot right now, Swarm offense | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess

The offense continuing its run of success is going to be key in the Swarm trying to sweep their way through this weekend. The Riptide will be challenging enough and should be the Swarm’s lone focus, but it doesn’t change that waiting for them in the wings are…

THE…the Wings…

I don’t like that joke, either.

Not really waiting in the wings since they’ll be playing, but just because the Wings are the back end of a doubleheader doesn’t mean the Swarm aren’t aware of who’s awaiting them Sunday afternoon.

The Wings have dropped their last two games, both to West Division teams. Making up lost ground with some donnybrooks against division rivals would put them in a great position, as we touched on earlier.

Kevin Crowley (20G, 41A) has been the leader for their offense, and Matt Rambo (20G, 31A) is going, “What’s a sophomore slump?” Brett Hickey (26G, 13A) has been finding the net often for his team, a great sign given he missed most of last season due to injury.

Safe to say there are a lot of guys to double cover on the Wings | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess

Defense has been one of the best parts of Philly’s game this season, as they allow just 9.5 goals against per game (GA/GAME). It’s amazing what health and a strong netminder can do for a team, as Zach Higgins (9.18 GAA and .822 SV%) has led this defense from the worst in 2018-19 (13.67 GA/GAME) to the third best in 2019-20.

The Swarm have a tough foe to face of Sunday, but fortunately, it’ll be even playing ground as both teams have to travel down to Atlanta for Sunday’s afternoon game at Sting City.

Regardless of the results of the Wings and Black Wolves game on Saturday night, the Swarm have to control the controllables. Take care of business on the road first, then take care of business at home. The rest will handle itself.


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