The Georgia Swarm (7-7) donned special Cherokee-themed uniforms and took down the New England Black Wolves (6-7) with a 17-12 win. In front of 5,039 fans at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena, Georgia came out firing in the first half and maintained its lead throughout for its seventh win of the season.
The Swarm celebrated Native American Heritage Night presented by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and early arriving fans received a Miles Thompson bobblehead. Lyle Thompson scored his 100th career goal in the first quarter on the way to recording a hat trick.
Georgia got back to .500 ball with a 10-3 first half, but New England came back strong in the second half and made things too close for comfort. A Black Wolves’ major penalty late in the game was the nail in the coffin for the visiting team, who rallied to get within three goals at 15-12.
Despite the second half scares, Georgia remained disciplined and did not disappoint the home crowd.
“It’s definitely something we said to the guys,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “We’ve got to be better. We’ve got to finish games, play two full halves.”
In the first quarter, the Swarm kicked things off with a transition goal from Jordan MacIntosh. New England’s Kevin Crowley retaliated to tie things up, but Georgia rattled off five more goals to close out the quarter with a 6-1 lead.
Georgia continued its six-goal run with a transition goal from Bryan Cole before Brett Manney managed to break up the Swarm’s run, 8-2. Joel White answered with a goal that was similar to Cole’s before Callum Crawford scored the first goal in his hat trick. Shayne Jackson and Miles Thompson netted their respective second goals, putting Georgia up 10-3 at halftime.
Back from the Injured List, Randy Staats opened up the second half by overpowering his defender and scoring to give Georgia an eight-goal lead. Crawford scored again to shorten the gap before Lyle and Staats gave the Swarm a nine-goal lead, its largest of the night. New England rattled off a three-goal string to climb back within six goals. Scoring his first career NLL goal, Leo Stouros netted the ball in transition, and Crowley closed out the half with 24 seconds left. Georgia still had the lead, 14-8.
The Black Wolves refused to be put down as Adam Bomberry and Crawford got New England to double digits in goals. Jackson got his hat trick with a falling goal to widen the lead to five, but the Black Wolves crept close again with two more goals. Lyle followed suit and recorded his hat trick, putting the home team up 16-12.
New England did not seem out of the game until Joel Coyle hit Cole into the boards and was ejected. Man-up for five minutes, the Swarm used a Jesse King power play goal to seal the deal and ran the clock out. Georgia held on to get back to .500 with a 17-12 victory.
“We have a lot to learn after that win, especially being that we were up by so much and kind of gave up a little bit in the third,” Stouros said. “We kind of had a little bit of a lull, and they came back. I think if we stay out of the penalty box and stuff like that, we wouldn’t give up that lull, but other than that, we came back and battled and took out the win.”
Kiel Matisz led the Swarm in points with seven assists, and Lyle (3G, 3A), Jackson (3G, 3A) and Staats (3G, 1A) each had a hat trick. King followed with five points (2G, 3A), and on his bobblehead night, Miles finished with four points (2G, 2A). Goaltender Mike Poulin earned the win after making 30 saves on 42 SOG, good for a .714 SV%.
“We built on it from last week, especially early where our spacing was good,” Comeau said about the offense. “We moved the ball. We played aggressive on picks and had some really good looks. I thought their goalie made a lot of good saves, and we had a lot of shots. The key for us offensively is we’re not going to rely on one guy and our spacing and our speed need to be real good.”
New England was led by Crawford with six points (3G, 3A), and Crowley added an assist to his hat trick. In addition to his four assists, goaltender Aaron Bold finished with 46 saves on 63 SOG, a .730 SV%.
After the rough play of the Black Wolves, Georgia takes a well-deserved bye week to heal up before returning to The Hive. The Swarm takes on the Toronto Rock for the third time this season on Sunday, April 8. Faceoff is set for 4:05 p.m. ET.
Georgia will be hosting Faith & Family Night, featuring performances from North Point’s InsideOut Band. Presented by Howard Brothers Hardware, North Point InsideOut will perform both a 10-min. halftime and a 45-min. postgame concert in the Atlanta Classic Cars Mercedes-Benz Goal Zone Club. Early arriving fans will receive a Lyle Thompson Drawstring Backpack presented by Howard Brothers Hardware. Fans can get tickets at GeorgiaSwarm.com/Faith or by calling 844-4-GASWARM.
Play of the Game:
Stouros has been playing scrappy and good defense all season, but when he finally got his chance to score, he took advantage of it. Chad Tutton caused a turnover, and Stouros was in the right spot to scoop up the loose ball. He ran towards Bold and netted his first NLL goal with a twister shot shortside. Stouros credited Tutton for laying the foundation for his goal.
“It’s good, monkey off the back,” Stouros said about recording his first goal. “I wasn’t really thinking about it as a D guy, really, cause my job is to play defense, but it was nice to get it and not worry about it. The win was the main thing, and we ended up getting it, so that’s what comes first.”