The Georgia Swarm (6-9) continued to stay hot on Friday night with a 16-9 rout of the New England Black Wolves (9-6) at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena. With their second consecutive victory, the Swarm kept pace in the East’s playoff picture, and will head to Rochester (6-8) tomorrow evening for a crucial divisional matchup at 7:30 p.m. The winner on Saturday will win the regular season series between the two teams, and will hold the tiebreaker advantage in the event that both teams finish with the same record.
Georgia started off strong against New England and never looked back after building a 4-0 lead early in the first quarter. In total, the Swarm had four players finish with hat tricks against the Black Wolves in Shayne Jackson (3G, 5A), Johnny Powless (3G, 4A), Kiel Matisz (3G, 1A) and Lyle Thompson (3G, 3A). Georgia’s leading scorer Randy Staats registered a game-high nine points (2G, 7A) and Brodie MacDonald collected his second victory in a row after making 37 saves on 46 shots. The Swarm also finished the night 6-for-9 on the power play, and outshot the Black Wolves 60-to-46.
“I think we’ve said all along to reach the playoffs, we have to be that intense, that focused and play with that urgency,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “I think we did it again tonight. We had the lead and we were able to play hard. New England is a good team; they have some guys that are capable of scoring lots of goals in a short period of time.”
The Swarm had dropped their previous two contests against New England this season, but came out looking like a team that is peaking at the right time on Friday. The Swarm led comfortably 11-4 at halftime after Jackson and Matisz posted hat tricks in the first half, and MacDonald stifled one of the league’s top offensive units.
In the third quarter, Swarm transition player Joel White scored an incredible end-to-end shorthanded goal all by himself. White managed to dodge several defenders, and after a few spin moves and swim dives, White bounced in the Swarm’s only goal of the quarter. The play was featured on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays as the No. 7 play of the night; this marks the second time the Swarm has appeared on #SCTop10 in 2016.
“I picked up the loose ball, tried to get around one guy and ran into another and spun out and was lucky enough to come away with the ball still,” White said. “Got in front of the net and threw it at the ground and it went in.”
White and the Swarm’s defense have now posted two solid outings in a row, which is an encouraging sign for a unit that had struggled at times in 2016.
“It’s a new group back there so I think we’ve been feeling each other out and really battling and cleaning things up throughout the season,” White said. “We’re starting to hit our stride towards the end of the season. Now we’re making a run for the playoffs and that’s what we wanted to do this entire season.”
The Swarm’s opponent tomorrow night, Rochester, has lost three straight since defeating the Swarm 11-4 back on March 18. Georgia collected a win in Rochester back on Jan. 30 by a score of 13-9, which was the second game of a back-to-back. If the Swarm can win their third straight game tomorrow, the team will hold the third and final playoff spot with two games remaining.
“They are a real good team,” Comeau said. “They’re sitting there waiting for us. They’ll be well rested and ready, but we find in this league quite often on back-to-back, the energy you get from the first night flows into the next night.”
White added, “Historically, in this league it seems like the team that plays two games in a row comes out with some intensity in the second game, which is nice.
“Our offense is flying around out there so it’s pretty fun to watch. We have to bring the same intensity we’ve had the past two games here and try to continue this roll.”
Three Stars of the Game:
1) Shayne Jackson
2) Brodie MacDonald
3) Johnny Powless
Story via GeorgiaSwarm.com. Photo by Paul Sasso.