ALBANY, NY (March 19, 2022) – At halftime, things looked bleak. The Albany FireWolves held a commanding 8-4 lead. Team leader and goaltending stalwart Mike Poulin was pulled halfway through the second quarter after a flurry of FireWolves goals. Georgia’s offense was as out-of-sync as Dale Dobeck’s drum solo at the #%*&-ing Catalina Wine Mixer.
And then, it happened.
It being a 9-3 Georgia Swarm explosion, punctuated by a 6-2 advantage in the fourth quarter. It being a late third quarter Lyle Thompson hat trick that jump-started a 5-goal, 9-point performance at the lacrosse legend’s old stomping grounds. It being backup goalie Craig Wende stopping 22 of 27 FireWolves’ shots in two-and-a-half quarters to seal an epic 15-12 comeback win that put Georgia (7-6) over .500 for the first time this season and sealed the season series over Albany (6-8), two games to one.
There were more storylines to count in this one:
- Newly-acquired lefty forward Stephan Leblanc joining the Swarm earlier in the week, logging substantial offensive minutes, and notching his first goal in a Swarm uniform on an assist from Thompson in the second quarter.
- Wende’s long outlet pass to Kason Tarbell, who hit Chad Tutton in stride as the North Carolina alum dumped one past Doug Jamieson to give Georgia their first lead since Jeff Henrick‘s breakaway goal opened the game’s scoring just minutes into the night’s affair.
- The Swarm managing to win only 3 of 30 faceoffs, but one crucial Connor Kirst victory at the center dot fed Jordan Hall‘s five-hole gem past Albany netminder Jamieson that put the Swarm up with just over 11 minutes left in regulation, 12-11, to continue the back-and-forth early fourth-quarter sparring.
- Jordan MacIntosh‘s 9 loosies that put him at 1,451 in his NLL career – tenth all-time in league history.
- Reigning MVP Shayne Jackson (3G, 1A) and Bryan Cole (1G, 3A) with huge four-point contributions during the Swarm’s relentless second-half surge.
- Lyle Thompson putting the dagger in the FireWolves’ heart, faking near-side, far-side, then weaving uncoverable toward the goal and dunking past Jamieson to extend the Swarm lead to two goals with just 75 ticks left on the clock.
It all added up to a Swarm team that took a punch – no, make that a haymaker – early on, then picked itself up off the mat to methodically pummel its opponent into submission.
It was the type of performance that teams look back to after magical seasons as the fulcrum on which a season turned. Maybe that inflection point was last week’s 10-9 slugfest over Halifax. But my money’s on tonight – the final magical 45 minutes of this one seemed even more special for the boys in white and blue.
Two MVP candidates squared off with their own battle within the war, as Joe Resetarits notched a first-half hat trick and briefly climbed past Lyle Thompson for the NLL lead in goals. But the prolific FireWolves forward was quiet in the second half as Thompson mounted his surreal attack on the Albany defense. Thompson’s 5 goals give him 39 on the year, leading the League, while Resetarits trails him in second place with 36.
More importantly, the win gave the Swarm an even stronger foothold on a playoff spot, a game-and-a-half (and a head-to-head tiebreaker) ahead of Albany and just a game-and-a-half behind the 8-4 Toronto Rock, who happen to comprise the next two games on Georgia’s schedule.
The Swarm still hold the #4 playoff seed in the East Division with 5 games remaining on the 2021-22 slate, but upcoming games against Toronto provide an opportunity to improve on that seeding.
Certainly, if the Swarm play the way they did in the second half at MVP Arena in Albany tonight, there aren’t many teams who can stop them.