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HIVE FIVE: Swarm at Wings

Five Quick Stings as the Swarm close out their three-game road trip

Everyone feel that? That oppressive cloud that was hanging over us? Looked a lot like a three-game losing streak cloud darkening our skies?

The Swarm made it dissipate after Sunday’s 11-10 overtime win against the New England Black Wolves. They played their brand of lacrosse for 63:53 min. against one of two undefeated teams in the NLL and handed said team its first loss of the season.

The good vibes the Swarm earned from that win will linger into their next game this Friday against the soaring Philadelphia Wings. And the Swarm are going to need those positive feelings around if they want to finish this road trip 2-1 and go into the bye week in style.

The Wings are a fine team. They’ve really turned a corner after their…

FIRST GAME OF THE SEASON

Way back on Dec. 14, 2019, the Wings started their season on the road against a team that had played a game already by that point. For the Wings, they were trying to figure out who they were, and it showed as they lost 12-6. The team with the win?

One Georgia Swarm.

Wooo! | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess

It was the second win of the 2019-20 season for the Swarm, a crazy short stretch where they averaged 13 GF/GAME and 5 GA/GAME. But since that fateful night over month ago, the Swarm and Wings have gone in…

DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS

One straight up; one straight down.

We know the straight down, cause we lived it for a month. The Swarm struggled against the Colorado Mammoth and Buffalo Bandits, being outscored 29-21 at Sting City. When they began this road trip, it was against the winless New York Riptide, what should have been a win by all rights. But epic collapses are epic, and the Swarm fell to the expansion club in overtime.

Last weekend was a reversal of fortunes for the Swarm as they downed the top team in the East Division, but their task is to now sustain it through this weekend.

The Wings have had no such issues. They’ve played in six games since their Season Opener and are 5-1, that one loss a controversial OT loss to the Black Wolves. 

All credit to the Wings, because they’ve played some phenomenal lacrosse. We knew their offense was destructive, but I don’t believe anyone imagined their defense would be…

THE BEST IN THE NLL

Remember the 2018-19 NLL season? Remember when the Wings had a -28 goal differential? Remember when they were last in the NLL in GA/GAME at 13.67? Remember when their starter was Doug Buchan, and he had a 13.17 GAA and .749 SV%?

Well, forget about it, because this isn’t last season’s Wings. Now, this is the Philadelphia Wings with the best defense in the NLL, averaging 8.43 GA/GAME across seven games. There are a few reasons for this:

  • Health on the defensive end. Last year was a revolving door for the Wings as players kept getting hurt, and this year, they’ve not had that problem.
  • All their fresh faces from last year now have a full season under their belt, which is huge. Factor in the addition of a vet like Ian Llord, and it’s no surprise the defense is playing better.
  • Zach Higgins. He’s, ah…he’s the best goalie in the NLL right now.

Higgins is winging it in this photo | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess

If you’ve followed the NLL for the last few years, you know Higgins can play, but he’s never minded the net like he is this season. Higgins spent his first four NLL season with the Swarm before playing for Calgary and Buffalo across 2017-19. He only saw 469:24 min. of action across those three seasons and posted a 12.65 GAA and .772 SV% in that time span.

This season, he leads the NLL in GAA and SV%, as he has an 8.38 GAA and .835 SV% over 422:36 min.

If you picked Higgins to be performing this well before the season, then quit your day job and hit up the nearest casino or grab some lotto scratchers from the nearest gas station, cause you’re clairvoyant. And if you’re that clairvoyant, then you probably also picked Shayne Jackson to…

LEAD THE NLL IN POINTS

The Swarm assistant captain has been one of the most consistent forwards in the NLL over the last few seasons, something you’ve probably heard extolled in a previous Hive Five. He’s had 30 goals every season for the last five seasons and had 80+ points over the last four.

This season is somehow unprecedented. The 29-year-old has a hat trick in every game this season, and his 18 goals are the most in the NLL. His 37 points are tied for the most in the NLL with Philadelphia’s Kevin Crowley.

His shooting percentage is 25% – that’s right, for every four shots he makes, Jackson is scoring a goal.

Let’s look at paces. If Jackson maintains his production, he’ll finish his eighth NLL season with 54 goals (!), 57 assists (!!), 111 points (!!!), and 105 loose balls (!!!!). Obviously, those would all be new career highs.

Reality is harsh and tells you to bet he won’t maintain that production throughout an entire season, but man, whenever you watch the Bowmanville, Ontario native play, you believe he can actually do it. And if you watched the Swarm’s comeback win against the Black Wolves, you know they can go into Philly and…

STRING TOGETHER A PAIR OF WINS

But it won’t be easy. The Wings are legit, and the Swarm have their work cut out for them. As noted earlier, the Wings defense is the best in the NLL right now. The Swarm are tied for seventh with the Roughnecks.

The Wings offense is just behind the Swarm’s, 11.4 GF/GAME compared to 11.7. Their O outshoots the Swarm’s, averaging 57 SF/GAME (shots for per game) compared to the Swarm’s 53.2. Both teams are even in scoring in the first quarter, tend to outscore foes in the second quarter, continue that prowess into the third, but the Swarm typically falter in the fourth compared to Philly’s dominance in the final frame.

But the Swarm average the second fewest SA/GAME (shots against per game) at 48.5; the Wings allow 51.1 SA/GAME.

Shutting down lanes | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess

Where special teams are concerned, there’s not too much separation. On the power play, the Swarm cash in on 55.6% of chances compared to the Wings 44.1%. On the penalty kill, the Swarm stop 60% of opposing power plays, and the Wings kill 57.1%.

The real separation is in goal differential and record, and the Swarm are behind in both. They match up well against their East Division foe, but they will have to work their hardest to finish this stretch of road games 2-1.

If we get the same gritty performance from the Swarm we saw on Sunday and they play their game for a full 60 minutes once again, then we’re in for a treat Friday night.


The Swarm’s next home game will be on Saturday, Feb. 15 against the New York Riptide. Face-off for College Night is set for 7:00 p.m. ET. Fans can get their tickets at GeorgiaSwarm.com/CollegeNight or by calling 844-4-GASWARM.

Georgia Swarm Pro Lacrosse Team