It was a tale of two halves, but the Georgia Swarm (4-0) were able to remain the only undefeated NLL team with a 13-11 win against the Philadelphia Wings in Wells Fargo Center on Saturday.
In front of 12,688 fans, the Swarm would score eight unanswered goals and finish the first half up 9-5 before killing penalties in the second half to hold on for the win. With the win, Atlanta sports teams earned a clean sweep this weekend in Wells Fargo Center following the Atlanta Hawks 123-121 win against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday.
“We’re happy to be at that number,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “More importantly, we’re really working on getting better. That’s our goal, getting better. Our offense was a lot better this week, our man-short was good, our special teams were good. That’s really the focus. We think if we can do that stuff, the results will hopefully take care of themselves.”
Lyle Thompson (3G, 3A) and Randy Staats (3G, 4A) both scored hat tricks as the Swarm defense stopped every Wings power play opportunity except for one. The Swarm’s own power play unit clicked, finishing the night 4-for 6.
“We placed our shots where we needed to; we moved the ball well,” Comeau said. “There’s no magic formula. A lot of the plays we run are great plays, but they require someone to put a shot on goal in a good spot, and we did that tonight. Again, our guys were dialed in, and we took advantage of their opportunities.”
While Philadelphia started the game’s scoring with two goals, Georgia went on an eight-goal run through the first half. Rookie Matt Dunn recorded the first goal of his NLL career, and Lyle netted his first two goals of the night. The end of the first quarter had the Swarm up 5-2.
The run continued with a pair of goals from Zed Williams. Holden Cattoni capped the run with Georgia’s first power play goal of the night before Kevin Crowley stopped the bleeding for the home team in his season debut. Josh Currier and Crowley would add two more goals to the Wings first half total. Miles Thompson had the last say of the first half with a power play goal, and the Swarm went to the locker room up 9-5.
The Swarm found themselves working to kill Wings power play opportunities often in the second half. Staats widened the Swarm’s lead by five goals before the Wings went on a three-goal run of their own. Up 10-8 at the end of the third quarter, Georgia would start the final quarter on the power play.
Lyle took advantage of the situation with his hat trick goal, putting Georgia’s lead back to three goals, but Blaze Riorden netted a goal during Georgia’s second 5-min. major penalty of the half. Steph Charbonneau scored off the fast break, putting Philadelphia within one goal.
“We did a great job of making (Philadelphia’s) shots a little tougher than they would have liked,” Poulin said about the Swarm’s penalty kill unit. “We got in shooting lanes so that they couldn’t just have an open look. They had to adjust. If they were aiming one way, we got in the way to make them shoot somewhere else.”
With another penalty coming the Wings way, the Swarm brought out an extra attacker before a change of possession, and Cattoni netted his second goal of the game. Riorden recorded his hat trick 14 seconds later to bring the Wings back within one with 8:01 min. left in the game.
A defensive battle ensued between the two teams for the last eight minutes. Ultimately, Staats had the final say of the night with his hat trick goal with 48 seconds left in the game. Georgia ran the clock out, winning 13-11.
“(Philadelphia) played well,” Comeau said. “They had to play desperate. We knew that. When they made the goalie change, it really gave them an energy boost; they played well. The second half, we were man-short for 10-plus minutes, and that gets you really out of sync, and it puts you on your heels.”
“It was a little tighter than we would have liked, but to have a little breathing room here and get a fourth win, it’s exciting no matter how it happens,” Poulin said. “It feels good.”
Poulin made 49 saves on 60 SOG, an .817 SV%. Staats’ seven points led the men in blue and yellow Saturday night. Lyle and Cattoni (2G, 4A) both finished with six points, and Williams had himself a five-point (2G, 3A) night.
For the Wings, Riorden led the way with six points (3G, 3A). Former Swarm forward and now Wings team captain Kiel Matisz was next in points with five (1G, 4A). Dave Buchan earned the loss after being sent in to guard the goal at the beginning of the second quarter. Over 43:15 min., Buchan made 29 saves on 36 SOG. He finished with a 9.71 GAA and an .806 SV%.
The Swarm continue their road trip with a doubleheader next weekend. Georgia will take on the Toronto Rock on Friday, Jan. 18 before heading east to face the New England Black Wolves on Saturday, Jan. 19. Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET in Toronto and 7:00 p.m. ET in New England.
“It’s a big divisional game, so (the Rock) are going to try and come out and make amends for the win that we got there last game,” Poulin said. “They’re going to want to knock us off of our mantle here as a 4-0 team. There’s a bit of a rivalry heating up the way we play close games, so I’m sure they’re going to be pumped up. As the Swarm, we shouldn’t have an issue getting going too any time we’re playing in Toronto.”
Fans can catch both games on the B/R Live app available through iTunes, Google Play, Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire.
Georgia returns to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena on Sunday, Jan. 27 to take on the Saskatchewan Rush. Faceoff is set for 4:05 p.m. ET. Billed as the Meeting of the Champions presented by IceByrd Frozen Yogurt, the last two teams to win an NLL World Championship will meet for the only time this regular season.
Early arriving fans can receive a Stinger Snowglobe. Tickets are available at GeorgiaSwarm.com/Champions or by calling 844-4-GASWARM.
PLAY OF THE GAME:
Finding the Wings a little too close for comfort in the second half, Staats hat trick goal was a veritable sigh of relief for the team. Staats spun past his defender, and Lyle set a pick to give Staats space. With plenty of room, Staats shot the ball at the far post, beating Buchan with 48 seconds left in the game.