Leap year day will bring new experiences for the Georgia Swarm (5-4), as they head to Rogers Arena on Saturday, Feb. 29 for the first time ever to take on the Vancouver Warriors (4-7). Face-off is set for 10:00 p.m. ET.
The Swarm have only played the Warriors once since their rebranding for the 2018-19 season, and it was at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena on Jan. 5, 2019. Plenty of time has passed since that 10-8 Swarm win. Both teams are coming off losses and will be looking to make up ground in their competitive divisions.
In a Saturday morning matchup, the Warriors went to Pechanga Arena and stormed to a 7-2 lead against the San Diego Seals. They were unable to stop the home team’s rally as the Seals rattled off a 10-goal run and secured the 15-10 comeback victory. It marked the Warriors’ third loss in their last four games.
The Warriors have landed on Eric Penney as their starting netminder this season, and his 3-7 record runs opposite of his solid play – he has an 11.23 GAA and .798 SV%. over 577:07 min. If the season ended today, those would be new career bests for the 26-year-old.
Out the front door, the Warriors are led by Mitch Jones (28G, 36A) and Keegan Bal (13G, 33A). Jones is making a case for the 2019-20 NLL MVP.
The Swarm have an MVP candidate of their own in the consistent Shayne Jackson with his 59 points (23G, 36A). Jackson has the best shooting percentage out of the top 50 scorers in the NLL at 24.2%, and his points per game is the second-best in the NLL at 7.4.
“Mitch is having a great season in Vancouver, scoring a lot of goals,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “He’s really the leader of that offense, and we know we’re going to have to do a good job to try to – not even contain him, just try to minimize his impact in the game. I’m sure they say the same thing about Shayne. It’s exciting to have two players with that caliber competing on the same night.”
The Swarm are coming off an offensive slugfest with the defending champion Calgary Roughnecks last weekend. In it, the Swarm netted 11 goals in the second half of the game to force overtime, but they were unable to cash in after regulation and fell 18-17.
That 17-goal night boosted the Swarm’s offense to the top of the NLL, averaging 12.56 goals for per game. They are the only offense in the NLL to boast having four 40-plus points-scorers.
Randy Staats (15G, 33A), Lyle Thompson (21G, 21A), and Jordan Hall (8G, 32A) round out that quartet with Jackson. Miles Thompson and Zed Williams are providing much-needed depth scoring. Williams is coming off a career-high five-goal game, his first goal of the night landing him on the NLL’s Top 5 Plays of the Week presented by StringKing for Week 13.
While the Swarm’s offensive numbers benefited from last Saturday’s free-for-all, the defense was not so lucky. The Swarm are allowing 11.11 goal against per game, fifth-most in the NLL. Goaltender Mike Poulin has 509:39 min. between the pipes and a 10.71 GAA and .774 SV%.
Despite sitting in last in the West Division, the Warriors are still within 1.5 games of second in the division and 3.5 back of first.
“We know offensively they’ve got lots of big weapons, and if they get a good night defensively from their goaltending and D guys, they stand a good chance of putting up a lot of goals and get themselves a win,” Comeau said. “Any team that’s battling to still try and get into the playoffs and give themselves a chance, being at home is pretty critical for them to be at their best. We’re going to expect them to come out hungry and ready to play. For us, we need to find a way to be consistent from start to finish.”
The Swarm are not looking to do them any favors on Saturday, as they too are competing in a tight division of their own. While in third place in the East Division, the Swarm are just a game back of the first place Philadelphia Wings.
The 2019-20 season is half over for the Swarm, and a positive step forward on Saturday will help the Swarm greatly as they seek a fifth consecutive trip to the postseason.
Fans can catch the action live on B/R Live.
The Swarm’s next home game will be against the Philadelphia Wings on Sunday, March 8 at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino at Infinite Energy Arena. Face-off is set for 4:00 p.m. ET. The Swarm are hosting 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.