By: Ty Merrow / Georgia Swarm
Georgia (2-0) will look to stay perfect this Friday, January 20th when rival New England (0-2) visit Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena. Faceoff is set for 7:35 P.M. EST.
In 2016, the Swarm and Black Wolves butted heads five times (including the postseason) with New England taking the season series, 4-1. After the Black Wolves sent Georgia home during the first round of the postseason, the Swarm had all offseason to let that biting defeat in overtime sink in. While the front office used that as motivation to field an even better team, head coach Ed Comeau prefers not to dwell on the loss.
“I’m sure some may think about that or talk about that, but last year was last year. Last weekend was last weekend,” Comeau said. “We’re focusing on this week. They’ve made personnel changes; we’ve made personnel changes. We’re focusing on the 2017 Swarm and 2017 Black Wolves.”
This will also be Jordan Hall and John Ranagan’s first time playing against their former team since leaving New England. Both Hall (acquired in a trade during the offseason) and Ranagan (Dec. 19 free agent signing) were a large part of New England’s postseason win over Georgia last year. In that game, Hall recorded five points (1G, 4A); Hall and Ranagan also combined for 11 loose balls and four caused turnovers.
“It’s like seeing an ex-girlfriend out; you always want to look good,” Hall said about facing his old team. “You always want to play well and get the win because it’s the old team. I am looking forward to it, and I’m looking forward to seeing some of the guys, but definitely want to get the win.”
Georgia now looks to become the alpha between these two teams. Hall has recorded 12 points (2G-10A) over two games and is only surpassed on the team by Lyle Thompson with 16 points (4G, 12A). Lyle’s brothers Miles Thompson (6G-2A) and Jerome Thompson (3G-5A) have also been stellar. Collectively, the Thompson Brothers are responsible for a third of the Swarm’s total goals and assists. The Thompson Brothers will also be facing a family member for the second time this season. Their cousin Bill O’Brien is a defenseman for the Black Wolves.
Miles Thompson, assistant captain Shayne Jackson, and 2016 NLL Rookie of the Year Randy Staats have all recorded six goals each. Jackson also has a phenomenal .375 shot percentage, the highest in the league among players with more than 10 points.
Shining on the other end of the floor is goalie Mike Poulin. In a little over 98 minutes of play, Poulin currently sports a goals against average (GAA) of 10.37 and a .785 save percentage (SV%). His stellar saves helped the Swarm fend off the desperate Bandits last Saturday.
“It’s not only about the quantity of saves, it’s the quality of saves and the timing,” Comeau said about Poulin’s performance against Buffalo. “He made a couple saves in the first half that were really saves he had no business making. It could’ve been a couple goals closer without those big saves.”
New England will try and gain footing in the season come Friday night. They will send out the 2013 and 2015 MVP Shawn Evans (3G-6A) alongside Kevin Crowley (4G-4A) and Pat Saunders (4G-1A), who both had career years last season. 2016 Goaltender of the Year Evan Kirk will man the net hoping to handle the fiery Georgia offense.
With New England struggling to gain any traction this season and Georgia firing on all cylinders, the Swarm will return to The Hive looking to continue their win streak. With a win, the Swarm will be 3-0 for the first time since they won six straight at the beginning of the 2008 season.