Playing five games in 16 days is – to put it mildly – not an ordeal any coach in the NLL would like to go through.
But for Georgia Swarm (5-2) head coach Ed Comeau, that condensed stretch is his and the Swarm’s reality, and that reality begins this Friday, Feb. 1 at Infinite Energy Arena against the New England Black Wolves (3-2).
After that game’s conclusion, the Swarm travel to New York to take on the Rochester Knighthawks on Saturday for the first time since the 2017-18 East Division Finals.
Complicating things further is Friday’s game holds the tiebreaker for both the Swarm and Black Wolves due to it being the third time Georgia and New England have met this season, each having won against the other.
“There are a lot of implications to this game,” Comeau said. “We obviously want to keep our home streak at home intact. We’re going to expect them to come out firing, and we need to have a very similar effort to like what we had this weekend in order to get a win.”
The Black Wolves would very much like to erase the bitter taste in their mouths with that win after suffering a 15-5 defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Bandits last Sunday.
Head coach Glenn Clark believes the defeat came from the team assuming that Buffalo would be coming into Mohegan Sun Arena gassed after a tough game against the Rochester Knighthawks the night before. When that did not happen, and things started going south, the Black Wolves reverted to bad tendencies.
After the worst loss since the franchise moved to New England, Clark did not mince words with his players.
“What I said to them after the game was, ‘Nothing I can say to you will give you more of a wake-up call than this. You lived it, you were embarrassed, you were embarrassed in front of your home fans, so if that doesn’t send a message to you that you need to be ready to compete and play hard and play through difficult obstacles, then nothing will,’” Clark said.
That same Sunday, the Swarm came out firing against the Saskatchewan Rush, using a five-goal run in the first seven minutes of the game to chase Evan Kirk from the pipes and ultimately prevail with a 13-10 win. A nine-point night (2G, 7A) from Randy Staats and 46 saves from Mike Poulin helped lead the Swarm back into the win column and second place in the East Division.
“It was a big one for us,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “We needed to answer back after losing two on the road. Coming home, we needed to play well. We talked about getting off to a good start, and obviously, we did that. In this league, teams expend a lot of energy getting out from being behind, and I think we did a good job of being able to maintain that lead. Although they (the Rush) closed the gap on us, we were still able to seal the deal.”
Now trending in the right direction, the Swarm ready themselves for their fourth and fifth game in the last 16 days, concentrating first on Friday’s contest against the New England Black Wolves.
Meeting for the third and final time this regular season, the Black Wolves evened the season series against the Swarm with a 13-12 home win on Jan. 19. Goaltender Alex Buque earned his team their third win of the season in that game with a 37-save performance.
Buque has split time in front of the net with Doug Jamieson this season. The five-year veteran has spent 151:32 min. in net and has a 2-0 record, an 11.48 GAA and a .768 SV%. Jamieson has a 1-2 record to go with his 13.74 GAA and .759 SV%.
Out the front door, the Black Wolves are led by Callum Crawford with 29 points (13G, 16A), followed by Reilly O’Connor with 22 points (11G, 11A).
The Swarm are led by Staats and his 41 points (13G, 28A). Lyle Thompson is close behind in points with 38 and leads the team and NLL in goals with 20. Poulin improved his season record to 5-2, has an 11.14 GAA and a .780 SV% and currently leads the NLL with 277 saves.
Per usual with a doubleheader, the Swarm have their players focused on the first game of the back-to-back. With tiebreaker implications weighing on Friday’s game, the Swarm know how important it is to start the weekend on the right foot.
“We try to focus the guys on really being focused on that first game of a doubleheader,” Comeau said. “Usually, that second game the adrenaline kind of kicks in, and guys are able to rise to the challenge. We’re not going to do anything extra this week, that’s for sure, really focus on some good rest and recovery and be ready to go for Friday night.”
The Black Wolves will use Friday’s game as an opportunity to get back on track and are embracing the challenge ahead.
“The message I left with the group was we’re going to learn a lot about us, how we bounce back from adversity against a very good team,” Clark said. “We have an opportunity to prove that Sunday was an off night, was a bit of an anomaly for us, and we get the opportunity to do it against one of the better teams in the league.”
Faceoff is set for 7:35 p.m. ET. Fans can catch the game on the B/R Live app available through iTunes, Google Play, Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire.