(UNCASVILLE, CT) – The Georgia Swarm (8-11) put forth a memorable effort Friday night in the East Division Semifinals, but came up just short in overtime to the New England Black Wolves (11-8) and lost by a final score of 14-13.
Friday’s defeat put an end to a thrilling inaugural season in Georgia, which saw the Swarm win four of their final five regular season games to clinch a playoff spot. The game in New England was no different; it just didn’t end in the Swarm’s favor.
No. 1 overall pick Lyle Thompson (4G, 2A) led Georgia with a team-high four goals and tied the game at 13 with 5:10 left in the fourth quarter. In overtime, New England forward Shawn Evans (4G, 2A) scored the game-winning goal 57 seconds into sudden death on a power play shot from the slot.
“We battled really hard in the second half of the season to get here and I’m really proud of the team,” Swarm team captain Jordan MacIntosh said. “Tonight, we played one of our best games of the season. We battled really hard with a good team that we had played a lot of times.”
With 2:04 remaining in the third quarter, the Swarm trailed 11-8 and had gone on a bit of a dry spell offensively to start the second half. Over the next two minutes however, Georgia caught fire and recorded four-straight goals to close out the quarter. Jesse King (1G, 1A) added an exclamation point to the run when he scored with just one second left on the clock, which gave Georgia its first lead of the night at 12-11 heading into the fourth.
“We fought back because we’re a good team,” said Swarm interim head coach Blane Harrison, who took over the team’s head coaching duties Friday night with Ed Comeau unable to travel due to injury. “We respect them, but we don’t fear them. They’re two games ahead of us in the standings and we knew we would matchup really well against them. I wasn’t surprised that we had the firepower, this offense is the second best in the league for a reason. It was just a matter of time before we started to click a little bit.”
The Swarm’s lead quickly vanished though as Kevin Buchanan (2G, 1A) opened the fourth with two goals during a two-minute span to put the Black Wolves back in front. The game remained at 13-12 until L. Thompson scored his fourth goal late in the quarter. Both teams had plenty of chances during the final minutes to take the lead, but both goalies stood on their heads. In the end, Evan Kirk collected the win after making 53 saves on 66 shots, while Brodie MacDonald took the loss after stopping 38 of 52 shots.
Despite losing in dramatic fashion, Swarm players and coaches kept their heads held high following the game in the locker room. As the league’s youngest team in 2016, the Swarm certainly proved their fair share of doubters wrong and finished their inaugural season in Georgia on a high note, winning four of its final five games in the regular season.
“It was a good start down there,” MacIntosh said. “It took a little while for us to really come together as a team and I think those last couple of games at home really showed what we’re going to be in the future.”
“Hopefully the fans enjoyed it, we enjoyed playing for them and it’s a phenomenal group of people,” said Harrison in regards to Georgia’s fanbase. “I got to know them a little bit from last week’s Fan Appreciation Night. They loved the sport, they loved the team, so hopefully we can come back better and stronger from this.”
The Swarm had three players finish with two goals against New England in Randy Staats (2G, 3A), Johnny Powless (2G, 2A) and Miles Thompson (2G). In total, Friday’s game featured seven ties and was close from the get-go as the Swarm trailed 3-2 at the end of the first and 8-7 at halftime.
The entire Georgia Swarm organization would like to send a huge THANK YOU to everyone who supported the team during our inaugural season in Georgia. The 2017 NLL season couldn’t come fast enough; we’ll see everyone back at The Hive next season!
Side Note: Swarm rookie forward Randy Staats was named the NLL’s Rookie of the Month for April on Friday afternoon. Staats also received the award back in January, and finished the regular season with a team-high 95 points (36G, 59A), which set NLL rookie records for most points and assists in a single season. In April, Staats led the league with 43 points and 30 assists and ranked second amongst rookies in goals (13) in six games played.
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