Playing for nothing but pride, the Vancouver Stealth (2-16) visited Infinite Energy Arena on Saturday night and left it all on the floor against the Georgia Swarm (10-7). The inspired play resonated with the Swarm, but Georgia was able to ultimately rally back in the second half and win 11-10.
“Full credit to Vancouver,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “Playing for nothing other than pride, and they showed they had a lot of pride. They played hard, and they gave us everything that we could handle.”
“Our team put it all on the line tonight,” Stealth Head Coach and Assistant General Manager Jamie Batley said. “We showed up. We had an amazing effort with a young lineup. It showed us we can play against the defending champion and play against a great NLL team with this lineup.”
Georgia would come out firing before Vancouver scored seven-unanswered goals. The Swarm would claw its way back to tie things up, and the two teams traded goals until Georgia decided the game courtesy of a Miles Thompson goal.
The first quarter started off all Swarm as Jesse King and Shayne Jackson would feed each other and score the Swarm’s first two goals of the night. After the second TV timeout, the Stealth started to take over the game. Corey Small scored a power play goal, and Evan Messenger followed up to tie the score at two apiece.
Those two goals started off a seven-goal run for Vancouver. Rhys Duch led the wave of Stealth scoring with a shorthand goal, and Vancouver tacked on three more quickly before the first five minutes of the quarter were up. With the extra attacker, Duch scored the seventh Stealth goal of the night.
“We were moving and some of our transition was really working,” Batley said. “Just really moving the ball. We got some good looks. We got some good shots. Poulie probably wanted to have a couple of those back. That’s this game. We go on a seven-goal run; they go on a four. That’s the way the game is. You can’t get too high and too low.”
Georgia seemed like it stopped the bleeding through sheer luck. Lyle Thompson made a one-handed shovel pass to Randy Staats that missed, but Matt Beers ran into the ball and sent it in. A coach’s challenge from Vancouver overturned the call as Staats was in the crease when the ball hit the net. Lyle used a power play goal to finally put Georgia back on the board, and the two teams went to the locker rooms with Vancouver up 7-3.
“Vancouver just outworked us in that span,” Jackson said about the first half. “They were getting the loose balls; they were getting resets. Their faceoff team was doing a great job giving them possessions, and we just came flat. Our offense, we were stopping moving our feet and moving the ball. When you do that in this league, you’re not going to have too much success. It’s a good sign that we came into the half, and we were able to shake that first half off and pick it up the second half.”
Georgia shook off the first half by coming out firing, notching four goals in the first 5:27 min. Miles scored his first goal of the night, Jackson his second from a feed from King, Jordan Hall with a changeup, and Bryan Cole capped the run with an empty netter, taking advantage of Vancouver trying to switch goaltenders. The Swarm had abruptly tied the game at seven goals.
“After the break there, Georgia came out,” Stealth goaltender Eric Penney said. “They got a few quick ones there, and then we stopped the run, and climbed our way back. It was back-and-forth from that point on. It’s lacrosse, right? Cliché, but it’s a game of runs. If you can stop those runs when you need to, it’ll be beneficial.”
Casey Jackson stopped the Swarm’s run and retook the lead for the Stealth. King fed Jackson with a long behind-the-back pass to tie things up again. Lyle used a wide-open opportunity to slam a power play goal in, giving Georgia the lead for the first time since 12:31 min. in the first quarter. Pat Saunders had the last word in the third quarter, and the netminders switched goals for a final time that night, tied at nine.
Jackson kicked off the fourth quarter by assisting King with a goal, retaking the lead for the Swarm again. It was short-lived as Small tied it up with a laser. Jackson had one more assist in him, feeding the game-winning goal to Miles. Georgia took advantage of a Duch 5-min. major penalty to keep the ball away for the final three minutes and emerged victorious, 11-10.
“It’s a one goal game in a game where we scored an empty netter when they had a mix-up,” King said. “Second Q wasn’t great for us, but I think we were able to come together pretty well in the second half. We fed off the crowd, probably the best crowd we’ve had all year, so credit to them as well, and our defense just sticking with us.
Jackson led the team with seven points (3G, 4A), followed by King and his six points (2G, 4A). Goaltender Mike Poulin made 35 saves on 45 SOG, finishing the night with a .777 SV%.
Small and Duch led Vancouver with four points (2G, 2A) each. Penney spent 59:08 min. in front of the net and made 46 saves on 56 SOG. He left Infinite Energy Arena with a 10.15 GAA and an .821 SV%.
The Swarm opened the 2017-18 NLL season in New England and will close the NLL season there on Sunday, April 29. Taking on the New England Black Wolves (9-8) for the third and final time this season, the winner in Mohegan Sun Arena Sunday afternoon will claim the No. 1 seed in the East Division. Faceoff is set for 5:00 p.m. ET. As the NLL Twitter Game of the Week, fans can catch the game live on live.Twitter.com/NLL or at NLLTV.com.
“That’s the type of intensity and the type of battle we expect tomorrow night,” Comeau said about the adversity faced tonight and how it prepared the team for tomorrow’s game against New England. “This was a good night for us, and certainly the intensity gets us to that point where we know what’s at stake for us and for them, and we’re going to have to bring it. We can’t have a lapse like we did tonight.”