Sometimes a doubleheader is a blessing in disguise. For the Swarm, it does not have to let tonight’s heartbreaker sink in too deep.
The Georgia Swarm (4-6) could not hold onto the lead in the fourth quarter and fell 11-10 to the Colorado Mammoth (6-3). Both teams do not have much time to digest the results as they fly to different venues for games tomorrow.
Colorado kept things consistently close throughout the game, and goaltender Dillon Ward’s dramatic saves and Stephen Keogh’s last second heroics were enough for the Mammoth to earn its first win in Infinite Energy Arena.
“I thought our guys did a good job,” Mammoth head coach Pat Coyle said. “That’s literally the best we’ve played in this rink for sure.”
Special teams were the name of the game. Colorado went 4-for-6 on man-up opportunities and killed five of Georgia’s seven power play chances.
“Five minute (penalties) are tough,” Swarm captain Jordan MacIntosh said. “You’re playing a ton of defense and offensively, you’re trying to run the clock out, so the guys on offense are really not clicking there because you’re trying to kill the clock. That’s the difference right there, special teams, and it’s something we’ve been focusing on.”
“We were playing as a unit back on our D,” Keogh said. “And we’ve got Dillon Ward as our goalie. He’s one of the best in the game. Offensively, when we’re moving the ball and we’re taking good shots and moving our feet, they’re starting to fall for us.”
Randy Staats started the scoring off for the night, but Colorado went to work quickly on the power play, scoring two to take the lead. Jesse King and Staats managed to retake the lead, and Georgia was up at the end of the first quarter, 3-2.
The Mammoth, led by Ryan Benesch, went on a four-goal run to retake and widen the lead to 6-3. The Swarm then went on a four-goal run of its own to put it back up. Georgia was up 7-6 at halftime.
Georgia continued its run into the third quarter as Joel White, playing in his first game this season, made a quick pass to Staats who fed it to Jackson for a goal, widening its lead to two goals. The Mammoth tied things up again minutes later before Lyle Thompson notched his second goal of the night with a running effort. At the end of the third quarter, Georgia still had the lead, 9-8.
King scored his second goal of the night to widen the Swarm’s lead to two goals, but Jacob Ruest and Keogh managed to tie things up once again late in the fourth quarter. Tied at ten and with seconds left, Colorado got the break it needed to not leave Georgia with another loss.
Keogh was being pressed and got off a shot on goal. Swarm goaltender Mike Poulin’s leg blocked Keogh’s final shot, but the ball fortuitously had enough momentum left to slowly trickle over the white line and give Colorado its 11th goal of the night with under five seconds left.
“At the defensive end, we’re just thinking, ‘Okay, what’s next,’ looking at the clock,” Coyle said. “Our bench wasn’t surprised. We just believed that could happen. Excited, for sure.”
Georgia would try to get another shot off as it won the following faceoff, but there was too much distance and too many bodies in the way to potentially tie things up once again. Colorado now returns home with its 11-10 win, its second win against Georgia this season.
Keogh (3G, 3A) and Benesch (2G, 4A) each earned six points apiece. Goaltender Dillon Ward made 42 saves on 52 SOG, finishing the night with an .808 SV%.
Staats led the Swarm in points with seven (2G, 5A). Lyle had two goals and two assists to his name. Poulin earned the loss after making 41 saves on 52 SOG, good for a .778 SV%.
“We’ll go back and look at our power play and see what we can do to create better quality shots and get some finishes,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said about what the team can adjust before Saturday’s game against Toronto. “We have good plays, we have good looks. Sometimes we’re missing the net, sometimes we’re getting shots blocked, not burying chances. Those are great opportunities in this league, and you’ve got to take advantage of them.”
Colorado now returns to Pepsi Center to take on the Buffalo Bandits (6-4). Faceoff is set for 9:00 p.m. ET.
Georgia heads north for a rematch against the Toronto Rock (5-4). Faceoff is set for 7:00 p.m. ET.
Fans can catch Saturday’s games LIVE via NLLTV.com.