The 2017-18 NLL Season starts off with a divisional rivalry as the defending champion Georgia Swarm travel to Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday, Dec. 8 to take on the New England Black Wolves. Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET. Fans can watch the game LIVE via NLLTV.com.
Georgia finished its last session of Training Camp this past weekend, taking on and besting the Rochester Knighthawks Saturday night in preseason action with a 12-5 victory. The Swarm started off strong with a 29-minute-long stonewalling of the KHawks defense, holding Rochester to only two goals in the first three quarters. Mike Poulin ended the night allowing only one goal in the 30 minutes he played.
The Swarm offense was as unselfish as ever, featuring three goals from defensemen and transition players. Miles Thompson led the scoring that night with a hat trick, and Kiel Matisz and Johnny Powless each found the back of the net twice.
“I was happy with our defense,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “We played the way we’ve talked about. We played aggressive, we played physical, and our goaltending made some big saves when we needed it. That’s a good combination in this league. Shooters are so good that when you give them time and space, often the ball will wind up in the back of the net. So taking away that time and space and making sure that we were physical, that was a real big positive for us.”
Having improved to 1-1 in the postseason and finding its footing, the team now turns its attention to Connecticut to take on the Black Wolves. Last season, the two East Division rivals clashed four times with Georgia taking three contests.
New England features a relatively unchanged offense, featuring two-time NLL MVP Shawn Evans, Kevin Crowley, Kevin Buchanan and Kyle Buchanan. The team is most changed on the defensive side of things. In the major blockbuster trade of the offseason, New England traded for goaltender Aaron Bold and defenseman John LaFontaine, sending goaltender Evan Kirk to the Saskatchewan Rush. The Black Wolves also brought in defensive veterans like David Brock as a free agent and Adam Bomberry in a trade with Rochester.
“(New England’s) going to be a very different team than what we’ve seen in the past,” team captain Jordan MacIntosh said after Saturday’s win. “All we can do is prepare for the players we know are going to be there and start the season off with a bang.”
Georgia plans to light that fuse with its mostly unchanged roster. The team will feature four new faces in Zed Williams, Frank Brown, Warren Hill, and Kevin Orleman, the latter two between the pipes. Poulin will remain the starting goaltender, and the rookies will have the veterans like the 2017 NLL Defensive Player of the Year and assistant captain Jason Noble, John Ranagan, Alex Crepinsek, Connor Sellars, and Bryan Cole to help bring them into the fold.
With the exception of Jesse King stepping back into the lineup, Georgia’s offense remains the same with creative scorers like the Thompson Brothers, assistant captain Shayne Jackson, Randy Staats, Matisz, and Powless.
“Opening night is always a tough night, especially for the new players in the league,” Comeau said. “We’re hoping we go to New England, which usually has a pretty loud crowd there, a tough place to play, and give it our best, hopefully come out of there with the win.”
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.