A win against an East Division opponent, a bye week, and now a doubleheader. The Colorado Mammoth (5-3) and the Georgia Swarm (4-5) have similar narratives going into their upcoming busy weekends, but all that will be forgotten once the two teams meet on Friday, March 2 at Infinite Energy Arena.
Faceoff is set for 7:35 p.m. ET.
Colorado is looking for its first win in Georgia since the Swarm moved there. The last time the two the Infinite Energy Arena, Georgia dominated Colorado with a 21-13 win. That history is practically ancient to both teams, though. The Mammoth have strung together a solid record in 2017-18 while the Swarm has struggled to regain its championship form.
“Colorado’s one of the top teams in our league this year,” Swarm assistant captain Shayne Jackson said. “They’re a hard-working group. They’re very well coached, and they’ve got a great goalie in Dillon Ward back there. We’re going to have our hands full. We’ve just got to play our game more than anything, though.”
The two teams met earlier this season on Dec. 23 at the Pepsi Center, and Colorado used a seven-goal fourth quarter to come back and bury Georgia.
Ryan Benesch led the way in scoring with six points (3G, 3A) for the Mammoth. Ward earned the win that day after making 37 saves on 48 SOG, finishing with a .771 SV%.
Lyle Thompson led the Swarm in points with seven (2G, 5A), and assistant captain Jackson recorded a hat trick and two assists. Goaltender Mike Poulin was handed his second loss of the season after making 42 saves on 55 SOG, posting a 13 GAA and a .764 SV%.
“In Colorado, they went on a good run, and we just couldn’t regroup,” Jackson said. “We got too low, down on ourselves, and we couldn’t regroup and come back for that win. I thought last week was a step in the right direction. No matter what happens in a game, we just play our game and play at the speed we want to play, and we should be fine.”
Since that night in Dec., the Mammoth sits in second place in the West Division, while the Swarm sits last in the East Division. Georgia’s placement in the standings, however, still has it a game and a half away from first place in the East.
Before its bye week, Colorado traveled to New England and emphatically handled the Black Wolves, leaving the East Coast with a 19-11 victory. Stephen Keogh and Zach Greer tore through the Pack, Keogh with seven points (4G, 3A) and Greer with eight (3G, 5A).
“The resurgence of Stephen Keogh is huge,” Mammoth head coach Pat Coyle said about what was working for the Mammoth O against New England. “Zach Greer being back in the lineup makes a big difference, just that veteran presence and the energy he brings. Our shots were falling, too, and our power play. We’ve got a good power play. If team’s give us power play opportunities, we’re going to make them pay.”
The Mammoth offense this season is led by Ryan Benesch (20G, 28A) and Jeremy Noble (15G, 31A). Ward has played in all but six and a half minutes of Colorado’s games, sporting an 11.28 GAA and a .778 SV%.
Georgia also enjoyed a bye weekend last week after it bested the Toronto Rock in overtime with a 14-13 score. The team received a significant boost as forward Jordan Hall was activated from the Holdout List and transition player Chad Tutton came off the Injured List.
“We played more of a complete game than we have all year, which is really good to see,” Swarm transition player Bryan Cole said. “We’ve got a couple of younger guys, myself included, that are trying to push the pace and trying to correct some errors week by week. Our offense is starting to click right now, and our defense is starting to figure it out on the backend. Hopefully we can continue to roll.
Jackson sits atop the Swarm’s points leaderboard with 45 (16G, 29A), followed by L. Thompson and his 40 points (14G, 26A). Poulin has made 337 saves over 500:41 min., good for a 13.30 GAA and a .752 SV%.
While its record is not where it wants it to be, Georgia can make great strides this weekend up the East Division standings with two wins. But to get to two, it first has to get one win against a Colorado team that is standing near the top of the NLL right now.
“If we go in thinking, ‘Look, Georgia’s record isn’t that good. This is a great opportunity for us,’ I think that’d be really foolish of us, and it’d probably bite us,” Coyle said.
Fans can catch the game LIVE via NLLTV.com.
After Friday’s game, both teams fly out of Hartsfield-Jackson Airport for their next opponents. Colorado returns home to take on the Buffalo Bandits (6-4). Faceoff is set for 9:00 p.m. ET. Georgia visits Air Canada Centre for a rematch against the Toronto Rock (5-4). Faceoff is set for 7:00 p.m. ET.