Sunday evening’s National Lacrosse League regular season finale was just what we expected from two East Division rivals battling it out for the regular season championship. For both, New England and Georgia, they had already clinched a playoff berth but the winner of Sunday’s game would earn first place in the East and a first round playoff bye.
Georgia jumped on New England early and took a 5-0 lead late into the opening quarter. While the Black Wolves defense was clearly and understandably focused on reigning NLL MVP, Lyle Thompson, his supporting cast proved they should not be overlooked. Randy Staats scored the game’s first two goals, on his way to a seven point performance (2G, 5A).
Lyle and Miles Thompson also got on the board in that early 5-0 run for the Swarm before Kyle Buchanan finally broke through for the Black Wolves with 4:07 to go in the opening frame. Buchanan and Lyle Thompson would trade goals early in the 2nd quarter as New England took over the game after a sluggish 1st quarter.
After an early 5-0 deficit New England went on a 7-2 run to end the 1st half and knot the game at 7-7.
Much like the game’s opening quarter, Georgia opened the 2nd half with a 5-1 stretch to take a 13-8 lead into the final quarter. In contrast to the 1st half, New England was not able to recover and could not break through to narrow the deficit. Though the Black Wolves outshot the Swarm 52-48, the Swarm’s many offensive threats were able to make the most of their opportunities as six players had at least two goals in the game.
Lyle Thompson and Kyle Buchanan each had a game-high, four goals. Thompson led both sides with eight points (4G, 4A). Stephan Leblanc put in another strong effort for the Black Wolves as he led his squad with seven points (2G, 5A). Aaron Bold stopped 32 of 48 shots for New England and Mike Poulin had 41 saves in the win for Georgia.
The Black Wolves will now be the three seed and start their playoff run on Friday night in Rochester at 7:30 p.m.