The Georgia Swarm (5-9) got back in the win column on Sunday afternoon with an important 17-10 victory against the Colorado Mammoth (10-4) during Native American Heritage Day at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field. The win stopped a five-game skid, and moved the Swarm within one game of the third and final playoff spot in the East Division with four games remaining in the regular season.
Sunday’s game was presented by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and featured in-game entertainment from local tribal members throughout the contest. On the field, Georgia’s Native athletes stole the show, combining for 11 of the team’s 17 goals. Randy Staats earned first star honors after leading the team with seven points (3G, 4A), while Johnny Powless was named the second star with four points (3G, 1A). The duo of Lyle (3G, 2A) and Miles (2G) Thompson were also on point against the Mammoth, as the brothers combined for seven points.
“It feels great, we haven’t won in five games,” Staats said. “We put together a complete four quarters; Brodie played really well, our defense played well, we cleared the ball well, and our offense was clicking too. I think we finally put all those together and the result came out as a win.”
Colorado entered the game as the top team in the West Division with a 10-3 record, but could not manage much offense against the Swarm, producing only 46 shots on net. Goalie Brodie MacDonald, who earned third star honors, collected the win in a complete-game performance and made 36 saves. Georgia and Colorado finished their regular season series tied at 1-1, with both teams winning at home.
“We’ve played well for the last couple games, but we didn’t play full games,” Swarm head coachEd Comeau said. “Tonight we played a full game. We’re in a little different spot than they are in terms of desperation level, so we had to play that way. I’m proud of the guys. They battled hard and didn’t quit, right to the end. That’s the type of effort you need from 0-to-60 to win in this league.”
The Swarm fell behind early 3-1 in the first quarter at the 6:42 mark, but outscored Colorado 6-2 during the remainder of the first half to build a 7-5 lead. Georgia then came out firing in the third quarter, scoring the first three goals to jump ahead 10-5 and force a goalie change on Colorado’s end. After the Mammoth responded with two goals from Adam Jones (4G, 1A) shortly after, the Swarm went on a six-goal run to put the game out of reach at 16-7.
Georgia’s offense also saw strong production from assistant captain Shayne Jackson (2G, 5A),Kiel Matisz (1G, 5A), Chad Tutton (2G, 1A) and Jesse King (1G, 3A). The Swarm finished 5-for-7 on the power play, and won the loose ball battle, 84-to-60.
Georgia’s win on Sunday came at a critical point in the season, as the team faces two divisional opponents next week: a home contest vs. New England (8-5) on Friday at 7:35 p.m., and a road game at Rochester (6-8) on Saturday for a 7:30 p.m. showdown. The Swarm currently trails the Knighthawks by a game for the third and final playoff spot in the East, and the winner of Saturday’s game will hold the tiebreaker advantage in the season series. With that said, the Swarm will control their own destiny in regards to advancing to the 2016 NLL Playoffs.
“Since last game, we’ve been looking at the season as playoffs, do-or-die,” Staats said. “I think we’re going to carry that mentality into the next weeks. We’ve got two big games against two very good teams. We have to bring it for another four quarters and hopefully the result ends up the same.”
Three Stars of the Game:
1) Randy Staats
2) Johnny Powless
3) Brodie MacDonald
Story via GeorgiaSwarm.com. Photo by Paul Sasso.