By Ty Merrow
Photo Paul Sasso
In addition to a highly-anticipated return home to The Hive, the Georgia Swarm (8-3) welcomed back Randy Staats, Miles Thompson, and Joel White to its ranks with a dominant team-performance, shutting down the Calgary Roughnecks (4-8) with a vengeance 17-8. 3,793 fans watched Georgia – bedecked in St. Patrick’s Day-themed uniforms – best the Roughnecks who defeated the Swarm two weeks ago in Scotiabank Saddledome.
This marks the first time Georgia has won against Calgary since March 3, 2012, a 15-11 away victory. With the Toronto Rock falling to the visiting Colorado Mammoth earlier in the night, the Georgia Swarm now enjoys a two-game lead in the East Division and currently holds the tiebreaker.
“We got healthy at a good time after being on a two-game losing streak,” head coach Ed Comeau said. “I think our defense and our goaltending was really good. We kept them to no five-on-five goals, and that’s pretty hard to do in this league. I really thought we embraced how we wanted to play, the way we’ve talked about playing, and they did a great job of it.”
Miles led the team in goals, scoring four after missing last week’s game against New England. Staats started the scoring for Georgia and finished the night with five points (2G, 3A). Johnny Powless had the most points in the game with seven (3G, 4A). After being held to only one assist last week, Lyle Thompson was able to find the back of the net and end the night with five points (1G, 4A). Captain Jordan MacIntosh had himself a night, going 18-for-27 on faceoffs in addition to scoring two points (1G, 1A) and tying a season-high in loose balls by collecting 17 of them.
Mike Poulin got the win between the pipes. With a more transitional defense helping him out, the team held the Roughnecks to only eight goals, Poulin’s performance featured several highlight reel saves, highlighted by holding Calgary to only four goals in the last three quarters.
The first quarter fittingly began with a lightning-quick goal in under 30 seconds from Staats. Kiel Matisz followed suit nearly five minutes later with a bouncing shot under Calgary’s Frank Scigliano, and Powless took advantage of the power play to put Georgia up 3-0 with under eight minutes left in the quarter. Unfortunately, Swarm penalties started to hurt the team. After Tyson Bell broke the ice for Calgary, the Roughnecks scored on three successive power plays to end the first quarter with the lead, 4-3.
MacIntosh retaliated in the second quarter with a beaut under Scigliano, fed to him by White. Calgary would draw a penalty later, and it was Georgia’s turn to take advantage. Reunited with his brother, Lyle passed to an open Miles on the opposite side of the pipes, and Miles lasered the ball into the net. Matisz had the ball less than a minute later and threw a long pass to Jordan Hall. Hall fed it to Ethan O’Connor for a one-on-one matchup that O’Connor succeeded at, putting the Swarm up 6-4. Some good defense from assistant captain Jason Noble helped Georgia get the ball back again, and Miles followed up after a good pass from Staats.
Wesley Berg would break up Georgia’s onslaught but only momentarily. Powless would pass to Miles, and Miles scored again, earning the hat trick in under five minutes. Mitch Belisle found himself with the ball near Georgia’s goal and ran it back for a diving unassisted goal. Unfortunately, he collided with Scigliano, and Scigliano left the game for the rest of the half. Christian Del Bianco would replace him between the pipes. Around the two-minute mark, MacIntosh made a low shot that Del Bianco fell down to block. Powless immediately scooped it up and dunked it in right above Del Bianco. With a minute left, Lyle finally broke his goal-less streak with a shot so quick Del Bianco barely twitched as it passed him. Georgia went to the locker rooms up 11-5.
Scigliano started the third quarter back at goal but found himself stung quickly. With a wide-open lane due to Staats drawing two Calgary defenders towards him, assistant captain Shayne Jackson rifled the ball in. Chad Tutton followed up a little over 40 seconds later with a one-on-one leap at the crease that saw him dunk the ball in behind Scigliano. Up 13-5, Georgia saw Belisle go to the penalty box, and Curtis Dickson scored another power play goal for Calgary, the team’s only goal in the third quarter.
Miles’ last goal of the night saw him scoop up a rebound and fall sideways to shoot the ball below every Calgary player in the vicinity. Staats last goal of the night was a power play goal, a haymaker which put Georgia up 15-6.
Jackson started the scoring off in the fourth quarter with a diving goal under the goalie. Dickson scored again to stop Georgia’s run, a diving goal of his own. Miles found himself pushed forcefully down onto his back and had to be helped off the field, but he came back out minutes later to finish the game. Calgary managed to barely take advantage of Georgia being man-down for five minutes, an unassisted power play goal from Bell to cut Georgia’s lead in half. Jon Harnett bumped his stick into Miles after the refs blew the whistle for a change of possession and found himself in the penalty box. Powless retaliated quickly with a power play goal, a pointed message to Calgary. Georgia spent the remaining 30 seconds killing the clock.
When the final buzzer sounded, Swarm players flooded the field around Poulin at goal. Elated to finally snap the two-game losing streak, players paraded around the field pumping the crowd up. Improving to 8-3 in the season, Georgia had gotten its vengeance against Calgary, 17-8.
“Tonight we dressed eight O-guys and I think we did a great job of moving the ball and staying spread,” a broadly grinning Staats said after the game. “Especially with those guys, I think we built a lot of chemistry last year … that chemistry just keeps building and building, and it’s a great thing out there.”
Georgia outshot Calgary in the shots on goal department, a staggering 70-41 split. With its 17 goals, Georgia finished the night with a .243 shot percentage. After Calgary’s three power play goals in the first quarter, the Swarm allowed the Roughnecks to capitalize on only one more attempt in six chances. Georgia went five-for-nine on power play opportunities. The team collected a season-high 105 loose balls. Poulin took only .683 shots per minute the entire game, proof that Georgia dominated Calgary.
“It was awesome,” White said. “Just to be back out there with the guys is just amazing, not a better group to come back to. It was a pleasure to be out there, very thankful for the opportunity to come back, and just a great team W, so we’re pumped.”
The team continues its homestand next week as it welcomes Toronto to Harrah’s Cherokee Field at Infinite Energy Arena on Friday, March 24. Faceoff is set for 7:35 p.m. Fans are encouraged to stay after the game for an historic free post-game concert featuring John Driskell Hopkins, one of the founding members of the Zac Brown Band. The Swarm will also be celebrating #FlashbackFridayNight and has a special “Ticket & ZUBAZ Pants” package available. Tickets for this historic night are available by calling 844-4-GASWARM or by visitingGeorgiaSwarm.com/Flashback.