The Georgia Swarm (5-1) bested the New England Black Wolves (2-4) for the second time this season on Saturday, Feb. 11 by a score of 17-15 at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena. Georgia currently boasts the best record in the NLL after its 5-1 start.
Trailing 15-13, Georgia went on a four-goal run in the fourth led by three-straight goals from Jordan Hall to shut down a New England team that led for most of the game. The former Black Wolf partnered with Lyle Thompson with 3:32 left to cap off one of the best NLL games of the season.
Every time New England comes to town, Georgia expects a physical, fun game, and tonight was no exception as both teams got and stayed in each other’s faces all night.
“It’s a typical NLL game,” head coach Ed Comeau said. “… I don’t know how many goals were scored in the last five, six minutes, but it’s crazy. They battled hard … we want to keep sticking with what works for us, and we did a great job of that.”
Hall had his best game of the season finishing with six points (4G, 2A) and is tied with the assist lead on the team. Lyle finished the night with 10 points (4G, 6A) and currently leads the Swarm with a team-high 40 points (18G, 22A).
Things started off rough for Georgia. Kyle Buchanan scored first in under 30 seconds, and New England captain Shawn Evans followed up nearly a minute later with another. The Swarm responded with one of their own from Jordan MacIntosh, but Evans would find the back of the net again. Georgia would get within one from a Lyle goal, but New England went on a tear, scoring three unanswered goals – two from Kevin Crowley.
Comeau made the switch between the pipes and inserted Brodie MacDonald with 3:39 left in the first quarter. Bill O’Brien was called for a holding penalty with under two minutes in, and his cousin Lyle capitalized with an underhand power play goal that Evan Kirk was able to get a glove on, but the ball had too much momentum and kept rolling until it touched net. The first quarter ended 6-3 in the Black Wolves favor.
Georgia took the initiative in the second as Jerome Thompson scored his first goal since nearly a month ago, running a slant past three Black Wolves defenders to dive and shoot the ball under Kirk’s legs. New England responded with one more from Crowley, who got the hat trick early. Georgia’s defense stepped up as Chad Tutton shot the ball in transition. Kirk fell down blocking the shot, John Ranagan got the rebound and scooped the ball into the goal – his first of the season – to trim the Black Wolves’ lead to 7-5.
Evans got the hat trick four minutes later, and Georgia’s defense responded by kicking things up another level. Leo Stouros had a great momentum-shifting caused turnover which led to Lyle corralling his own rebound shot, passing it to Randy Staats, and Staats bounced it in. After some penalties from both sides, Lyle and MacIntosh both scored to tie the game up with 14 seconds left in the half. Both teams left the floor with eight goals.
Arguably the best quarter of the night all around, both teams came back from the locker rooms to start the third quarter raring to go. Alex Crepinsek and Ranagan tried to score on a fast break as the Swarm won the first faceoff, showcasing the defense’s aggressiveness. Shayne Jackson fed the ball to Hall, and Georgia took its first lead of the night. New England responded with two of their own, but Georgia had the last say with a Lyle to Staats to Miles Thompson power play goal as both teams ended the third with 10 goals. Staats was back in after a nasty hit left him on the floor, but he left the game soon after his final assist of the night.
Miles echoed his goal in the previous quarter to give Georgia their second lead of the night. MacIntosh got the hat trick nearly five minutes later, and Shayne Jackson followed suit to widen the score by three. But then New England went on a tear, scoring five unanswered to widen the lead to 15-13. Hall stopped the streak with two goals of his own to tie the game with 1:21 left in the game.
“It was really a roller coaster ride,” MacIntosh said. “We had that nice lead in the fourth quarter, and they climbed back into it. We just had a new veteran leader in Jordan Hall kind of take over the game and put us on his back.”
After a lengthy scoring review, the rivals went back at it. Georgia won the faceoff on a New England violation, and Lyle had the ball. Hall beat his defender, leaving him wide open, and Lyle did not miss his chance. He immediately lasered the ball to Hall who scored his season-high fourth goal of the night. Seconds later, the Swarm won another faceoff, and Lyle sprang up in the air at the crease to find the net for the fourth time this game. New England pulled Kirk to go with the extra attacker. Winning the faceoff, the Black Wolves went on the offense, but Bryan Cole caused a turnover and O’Connor cleared the ball. New England tried again with seconds left, but a shot bounced off Jason Noble, and Crepinsek held the ball to waste the clock as the Georgia Swarm defeated the New England Black Wolves 17-15.
“Eddie does a great job of saying not too high, not too low, take a couple of deep breaths,” Hall said about his trio of goals in the final minutes of the game. “I think we all knew what we had to do … I got a couple nice picks on those goals and was just able to score.”
MacIntosh had the best game of his season so far with nine points (3G, 6A), 17 loose balls and went 16-for-27 on faceoffs. Jerome Thompson scored his first goal since the second game to finish with three points (1G, 2A). Jackson and Staats also ended the night with three points (1G, 2A).
“I haven’t really felt like myself in terms of my stamina and my conditioning,” MacIntosh said about his offensive spurt after coming back from an offseason injury. “I’m really lucky that Coach Loudermilk (the Swarm’s strength and conditioning coach) has been by my side here and kind of whipped me back into shape pretty quickly here. Finally feeling like myself and comfortable out there.”
The Swarm defense was stellar tonight. From Ranagan scoring his first goal of the season to Tutton’s aggressiveness getting the ball in transition to rookie Stouros’ great plays and caused turnovers, the defense played well, stepping up after Poulin was pulled in the first. MacDonald made a number of great saves, having to dive from one pipe to the other on multiple occasions to block multiple shots.
The two constant rivals fortunately have a break from one another for a while. Their next matchup will be at Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday, Mar. 12 for the third of four contests in the season.
The Georgia Swarm head back on the road to take on the Toronto Rock at the Air Canada Centre on Friday, Feb. 17. Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Georgia returns to Harrah’s Cherokee Field at Infinite Energy Arena on Sunday, Feb. 19 to take on the Rochester Knighthawks. Faceoff is set for 6:05 p.m.
Play of the Game:
The final tie of the game, Ethan O’Connor broke away in transition, running determinedly towards Kirk. At the same time, Hall had bolted from the bench on the opposite side of the floor from O’Connor. Seeing his compatriot wide open, O’Connor passed to Hall, and Hall delivered with a beautiful, game tying one-on-one goal.