After a month-long hiatus, the Georgia Swarm (4-3) finally returned to Infinite Energy Center on Saturday night to host the expansion New York Riptide (1-8). The Riptide’s initial season has been a struggle, but the lone victory came at the hands of the Swarm almost a month ago in New York in a 13-12 battle that saw the Swarm blow a 10-6 lead in the final ten minutes of the contest. Needless to say, the Swarm had some extra motivation beyond just trying to win their third consecutive division game.
And while the game started slowly, in the second quarter it became quite apparent that the Swarm were determined to not only not let what happen a month ago repeat itself, but they had some anger and frustration to take out.
A 2-1 Georgia lead after one quarter became a 9-2 contest after just ten minutes in the second period as the Swarm used the period to take complete control of the game and establish clear dominance over the freshman franchise. The Swarm reached a new season high for goals in one quarter when they tabulated their seventh, eclipsing the previous high of six set in the season opening game at Rochester. They ultimately ended the quarter with nine goals.
The Riptide, however, did come out scoring first with assistant captain and co-leading scorer Tyler Digby slipping one past goalie Mike Poulin for an early 1-0 lead.
After struggling offensively in the first quarter beyond the first TV timeout, the Swarm finally knotted the game up with Zedd Williams scoring his 8th goal of the season off Shayne Jackson’s 24th assist.
Almost immediately though, Brendan Bombery drew a penalty giving the Riptide a man advantage. The Swarm penalty killing unit though did the job, as it has done on nearly 60% of all man disadvantages this season. In fact the best scoring chance of the penalty belonged to the Swarm as Chad Tutton nearly scored a shorthanded goal late into the penalty.
Once back to even strength the Swarm wasted little time putting another one on the scoreboard, and again it was Williams.
It appeared for a moment the Swarm were poised to go up 3-1 following a long rebound resulting in a 2-on-1 transition opportunity, but an errant pass ended the threat.
The Swarm would turn the ball over in the Riptide zone on each of their next possessions as New York defenders were active in the passing lanes, particularly Myles Jones. One such interception resulted in a breakaway for the Riptide, but Mike Poulin stonewalled the prime scoring opportunity to preserve the 2-1 lead after an opening quarter in which both offenses struggled to capitalize on opportunities presented to them.
The Swarm however saw fit to put a stop to that in the second quarter, a quarter that on the year has been their most prolific scoring quarter. Less than a minute into the quarter Jordan Hall added some flair to the scoring on an unassisted dunk goal from behind the net.
Less than a minute after that, Zed Williams picked up the hat trick on another Shayne Jackson assist and suddenly the offensive woes of the first quarter no longer seemed to be such an issue and the Swarm went up 4-1.
The scoring appeared contagious and Digby picked up his 14th goal of the season for New York, drawing them back to within two.
But the lead was quickly back to three as Miles Thompson scored for the Swarm, marking the fourth goal scored between the two teams in just over 2:30. So much for the offensive doldrums that opened the game.
The onslaught from the Swarm continued as they mercilessly attacked Riptide goalie Alex Buque, resulting in a breakaway goal for assistant captain Jason Noble, just his second goal of the season.
Lyle Thompson found the scoring to be a lot of fun and he too wanted to join the party, firing one from straight on that found the back of the net. Jackson again assisted on the goal, his fourth of the night.
After scoring just two goals in the opening fifteen minutes, the Swarm tallied five in the first five minutes of the second quarter and blew the game open at 7-2.
Jordan MacIntosh made an extraordinary leaping theft of a Riptide pass and quickly passed ahead to Alex Crepinsek who added another transition goal for the Swarm. For Crepinsek it was his first time getting on the score sheet this season.
Less than :30 later, it was MacIntosh on the breakaway drilling one past the overmatched Buque, extending the lead to 9-2.
Finally, with 2:16 left in the half, the Riptide found something to hopefully build on going to the locker room as Tyson Gibson (at this point the team’s second leading scorer after entering the night tied with Digby for the team lead) scored his 13th goal of the year, bringing New York back within six.
But any momentum New York hoped to take from the goal was short lived. Adam Wiedemann came unmolested into the Riptide zone and found a comfortable spot to launch a shot on goal that found the net.
The game had become much more physical in the second quarter, likely due in large part to the offensive success the Swarm were enjoying. It culminated in John Ranagan taking a penalty for New York late in the half that would give the Swarm a man advantage that they, to no one’s surprise, took advantage of. This time it was Randy Staats doing the scoring, moving into double figures for the year, and the team’s leading point scorer Jackson added yet another assist to his season total.
While memories of what happened in blowing the four goal lead a month ago were present, this 11-3 lead at the half felt much different than that 10-6 advantage, beyond the margin being more than just twice as large. The Swarm completely dominated the Riptide in the second quarter, doing what you would expect a championship contender to do at home to an expansion team.
Of course coach Ed Comeau wasn’t going to start counting chickens before they hatched. At half time he expressed the disappointment in the slow start, particularly coming off a bye week. He also made note that he expected to see the same intensity for the remainder of the game, with the overarching goal to be to start and finish strong.
The third quarter, probably much to the chagrin of Comeau, started much like the first quarter did, as neither offense could really muster much of an attack. Of course, wielding an eight goal lead, trading empty possessions didn’t really hurt Georgia any.
And like the first half, the Riptide opened the scoring in the second half following a review that awarded Andrew Suitor a goal, drawing the Riptide to within seven. The Riptide would add two more goals in the frame to make things a little more interesting than perhaps Georgia would have preferred.
While it took over 11 minutes, the Swarm would also finally notch a goal in the third quarter, Lyle Thompson handling the honors.
Despite their offense screeching to a halt, the 12-6 lead held by Georgia entering the 4th quarter looked like it should be more than enough for the Swarm to carry to their third straight win.
But New York would not simply go away, Dan Lomas scored with 10:48 remaining in the game, and suddenly the contest didn’t look much different than the one played a month ago.
The intensity that Comeau wanted to see for the second half was not there, and the Riptide were taking advantage of it, owning possession time and creating more scoring opportunities for themselves, and capitalizing on them.
A minute later Randy Staats scored his second goal of the game, as if to look to the New York bench and simply say, “Not today”.
But again, New York refused to wilt. Connor Kelly, fresh off a four goal night against Calgary in their last outing, scored to bring New York back to within five at 13-8, with still over 9:00 left to play.
But unlike in the third quarter when the Swarm seemed unable to answer most of New York’s scoring, Shayne Jackson and Lyle Thompson again hooked up with Thompson notching a hat trick of his own pushing the lead back to 14-8.
Despite a New York goal in the final ninety seconds of the contest, the lead was more than enough for the Swarm to salt this one away by a final score of 14-9.
The win was particularly special for goalie Mike Poulin, as being the 39th of his career it was a new Georgia Swarm record for wins in net.
With a 5-3 record in hand the Swarm will again be at home next Saturday night hosting the Calgary Roughnecks in their only meeting this year. Meanwhile, the Riptide (1-9) will be back in action in two weeks at home against the New England Black Wolves.