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Strong Swarm Start Dissolves in Second Half, Leading to Second-Straight Heartbreaking OT Loss to Wings

Duluth, Ga (January 29, 2022) – The string of four-straight 12-11 games between the Georgia Swarm (2-4) and Philadelphia Wings (5-3) came to a resounding end Saturday evening at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Gas South Arena. This one wasn’t close early on, with the Swarm dominating the first quarter and jumping out to a 6-2 halftime lead. But the Swarm’s 24-minute scoring drought in the second half spoiled an incredible effort by netminder Mike Poulin and the Swarm defense, as Philadelphia once again edged Georgia in overtime, 8-7.

Poulin was brilliant in net, saving 40-of-48 shots behind a stingy Swarm defense led by Chad Tutton (two turnovers, 7 loose balls) that harassed Philly forwards all night long.

Reigning MVP Shayne Jackson opened the scoring at 11:24 in the first quarter, followed by a perfect Poulin outlet to Bryan Cole a minute later for an uncontested breakaway to put the Swarm up 2-0.

Mike Poulin continued his incendiary play, before Blaze Riorden appeared to put the Wings on the scoreboard with 6:27 left in the first, slipping a shot at the top of the crease through the five hole to pull Philly within one. But the goal was called off for a crease violation, and just 17 seconds later Shayne Jackson made it 3-0 with a rocket past Wings’ netminder Zach Higgins.

In the second power-play shortly after Jackson’s goal, Cole took advantage of the man-up opportunity and buried his second goal of the night to put the Swarm ahead 4-0.

For the second straight week, the Swarm reversed their fortunes from the first four games of the season by staking themselves to large first quarter leads (5-1 last week at Rochester, 4-1 tonight against the Wings). The Swarm outshot the Wings 16-8, with Poulin shooing aside 7 of those 8 Wings’ shots on goal.

The Wings’ Brett Hickey cut the lead in half, 4-2, with just two minutes into the second quarter, temporarily silencing the raucous Gas South Arena crowd, who had been celebrating with Kindred At Home Healthcare Heroes bam sticks and raising the decibel level to deafening levels.

Bryan Cole almost notched a hat trick early in the second with another breakaway opportunity, but Higgins made a nifty save just as Cole’s offering was about to cross the goal line.

Midway through the second quarter, the Wings committed the cardinal sin of leaving Lyle Thompson all alone in front of the Philly crease, and Ryan MacSpadyen found the all-world forward, who went top shelf over Higgins’ left shoulder for his first goal of the game, putting the Swarm in front 5-2.

Another power play opportunity presented itself with just under two minutes remaining in the half, and Thompson fed Brendan Bomberry, who hammered home the third Swarm power play goal of the game to put the Swarm up, 6-2, with under a minute remaining. Georgia brought a four-goal lead into halftime for the second time in as many weeks.

The Wings only had 16 shots on goal in the first half, with Poulin smothering 14 of them. On the flip-side, Georgia peppered Philadelphia goaltender Zach Higgins with 28 shots, sneaking six of them into the Wings’ net.

The Swarm entered the game at 33.3 percent in power plays (8-for-24), but converted 3-of-3 in the first half and finished 3-of-4 (75.0 percent) in man-up situations.

Then the third quarter happened.

The Wings’ Ben MacIntosh slipped a rare winner past Poulin to cut the Swarm lead to 6-3 with 10:06 in the third quarter then added another less than four minutes later to narrow things up at 6-4. Just a minute later, Philadelphia’s Matt Rambo extinguished Georgia’s once commanding lead to just one goal, as the Swarm gave up three straight unanswered goals to start the second half.

The Swarm did not score in the third frame, then gave up two more goals in the final quarter as the five-straight unanswered second-half goals gave Philadelphia their first lead of the night, 7-6, .

The Swarm finally broke their nearly 20-minute scoreless draught with a Jordan Hall goal that tied things up at 7-7 with 4:55 left in the game – Georgia’s lone goal of the entire second half.

Despite some furious action in front of both nets, the score remained deadlocked and – appropriately enough between these two bitter rivals – the game went to overtime, just as it did three weeks earlier on January 8.

The Wings once again came up with the face off and called an immediate time out, eerily similar to last game’s scenario, setting up a potential game-winning goal for the visitors.

But the Swarm defense held, and Georgia had two full 30-second clocks in the Wings’ end and narrowly missed a game-winner with a Jackson blast that careened off the pipes.

The teams traded several possessions and dangerous saved shots, before Brett Hickey broke the hearts of the 7,353 in attendance with 8:26 left in the extra frame to seal the Wings’ 8-7 OT victory. The Swarm’s last three losses (Philadelphia, 12-11; Buffalo, 12-10; and Philadelphia, 8-7) have come by a total of just 4 goals.

The defeat robbed the Swarm of an incredible opportunity to pull even on the year at 3-3 and, more importantly, to stake claim of the fourth and final playoff spot in the incredibly competitive eight-team East Division.

Instead, Georgia fell to 2-4, having dropped two games to the bitter division rival Wings (5-3) early in the season. The Swarm have their work cut out for them to regain footing in the East, but they can do so with 11 of their last 12 games against division opponents, including back-to-back home and away games against the 3-2 Albany FireWolves next weekend.

As in the first meeting between Georgia and Philly, Wings’ stalwart Trevor Baptiste paced visiting Philadelphia to a healthy 15 of 20 (75 percent) face off wins. During the Swarm’s January 8 overtime loss to the Wings, Philly dominated in the same category, winning 27 of 34 (79 percent) of face offs. In two games against the Wings this season, the Swarm have won just 12 of 54 face offs (22 percent).

The Swarm were without emerging rookie forward Tanner Buck for the second straight game (illness).

UP NEXT: The Swarm host the Albany FireWolves at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Gas South Arena on Friday, February 4 at 7:30 p.m.

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