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Swarm can claim first in their division with sweep of doubleheader

Swarm take on Riptide on Saturday and Wings on Sunday, both final meetings of those respective season series

Winners of four of their last five games, the Georgia Swarm (6-4) can leap into first place in the East Division with a successful sweep of their first doubleheader weekend of the 2019-20 season and a New England Black Wolves loss on Saturday, March 7.

They travel up to Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, March 7 to take on the New York Riptide (1-11). Face-off is set for 7:30 p.m. ET. It’ll be the Swarm’s first time this season playing in the NLL Game of the Week, and fans can watch the game for free live on Facebook and Twitter. They can also watch the game live on B/R Live.

The Swarm then quickly return home to welcome the Philadelphia Wings (7-5) to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena on Sunday, March 8. Face-off is set for 4:00 p.m. ET.

The Swarm are celebrating Heroes Night, recognizing those who enrich our lives and keep us safe – active military and veterans from all branches of service, EMS, fire and police first responders, and others who work selflessly to ensure our freedom and peace of mind. Tickets are available at GeorgiaSwarm.com/Hero​ or by calling 844-4-GASWARM.

Sunday’s afternoon contest will air in the Metro Atlanta area on Atlanta’s CW69 and over the radio on Atlanta Sports X 1230AM/106.3FM.

World War II U.S. Army veteran Luciano “Louis” Graziano will be honored during Heroes Night. Believed to be the last surviving witness of the signing of Germany’s formal surrender at the “Little Red Schoolhouse” in Reims, France, Graziano will be selling and signing copies of his memoir, “A Patriot’s Memoirs of World War II – Through My eyes, Heart and Soul,” before the game, and he will be available for postgame autographs alongside Swarm players outside the West Suite Entrance of the Main Concourse of Infinite Energy Arena.

Last Saturday, the Swarm earned their first win against a West Division team this season, a commanding 14-7 road victory against the Vancouver Warriors. It was one of the most complete games the Swarm have played this season, as evidenced by the low score from the Warriors and all seven Swarm forwards recording a goal that night.

This season, Shayne Jackson has been on fire and solidified himself as an NLL MVP candidate. He is third in the NLL in points with 64 (26G, 38A) and second in points per game at 6.4. Randy Staats leads the Swarm in assists with 40, tied for second-most in the NLL. He also has 17 goals. Lyle Thompson’s 48 points are split evenly, and Jordan Hall is close behind him with 46 points (10G, 36A).

Mike Poulin and the Swarm defense responded brilliantly after the offensive showcase against the Calgary Roughnecks two weekends ago. Last Saturday was the fourth time this season they’ve held an opponent to single digits. Over 559:59 min., Poulin has a 6-3 record, 10.29 GAA, and .781 SV%.

Playing their game consistently across a tough doubleheader weekend will be a tall task for the Swarm in Week 15 of the 2019-20 NLL season.

“I say to the guys, ‘We have one game this weekend: we play Saturday night,’” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “That’s really our focus. From a coaching point of view, do we look at game two? Absolutely, but we really want to have all of our attention and all of our focus on game one, and then we’ll evaluate at that point and worry about game two and trying to get consistency in game two. There’s no sense in thinking about game two before you’ve played game one.”

Game one will be against the expansion New York Riptide. The Swarm have split the season series against them and are returning to the site of the Riptide’s lone win this season, which came at the Swarm’s expense. After trading away their top points scorer in Tyler Digby weeks ago, the Riptide are led by Dan Lomas (20G, 19A) and the first overall draft pick in the 2019 NLL Entry Draft Tyson Gibson (15G, 24A), both with 39 points. Connor Kelly is close behind with 36 points (14G, 22A).

Goaltender Alex Buque has struggled all season, and he was chased from the net by the Swarm when the two teams last met. He has a 13.78 GAA and .740 SV% across 561:45 min. Gowah Abrams has started to see more time. Through 160:22 min., Abrams has a 12.72 GAA and .742 SV%.

“It does seem like it was a while ago, but I think it’s still in guys’ memories,” Comeau said about the first game against the Riptide back on Jan. 18. “I feel that our players know that was a game we weren’t consistent and weren’t at our best, and we gave (the Riptide) the opportunity to win, and they did. But I look at them – their last game, they were down big in Rochester, and they battled back. The message about New York right now is their record may not be what they want it to be, but I don’t know that that’s an accurate reflection of their talent and their drive and desire.”

Following the conclusion of Saturday’s game, the Swarm fly south to Atlanta and for the third and final regular season game against the Wings. The Swarm already have the season series against the Wings and seek a clean sweep on Sunday.

Photo Credit: Kyle Hess

The Wings have dropped their last two contests to West Division foes, and their own doubleheader this weekend could put them in the top spot in the East Division if they win both games. They host the New England Black Wolves (7-3) at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night before traveling to Atlanta for Sunday’s showdown against the Swarm.

Kevin Crowley and his 61 points (20G, 31A) lead the second-year club, and sophomore Matt Rambo has been impressive with his 51 points (20G, 31A). Brett Hickey has been great in his return from his injury that ended last season early for him, scoring a team-high 26 goals and tacking on 13 assists.

Zach Higgins is one of the more surprising parts of the 2019-20 NLL season, cementing himself as the Wings starting netminder and a top candidate for Goaltender of the Year. He has a 7-3 record, 9.18 GAA, and .822 SV% across 620:41 min.

“We like to say with back-to-backs, ‘All bets are off,’” Comeau said. “Lots of examples of teams that have played pretty well off back-to-backs, coming off tough travel. There are really no hard facts to say about teams playing the night before. But I think them having to go through what we have to go through – playing a game, busses and planes, different hotel rooms – it makes it a little fairer.

“But fairness, once a game starts, no one cares about fairness. They care about winning and execution and hard work and all those things. It’s a big divisional weekend for us, and it’s certainly a huge game from a standings point of view for both teams this weekend.”

It will be an exhausting and challenging weekend for the Swarm, and this crucial doubleheader could change the narrative in the East Division in their favor. But as always with a doubleheader, Comeau is focused on just one thing: their next opponent.

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