The playoff composition of the East Division is set, no matter the result of the Georgia Swarm’s matchup with the Philadelphia Wings on Saturday at Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth, Ga. The Swarm are one of the four teams in, while the struggling expansion Wings are left outside.
The Eastern Division’s first-round matchups, however, are not set. The Buffalo Bandits control their own playoff fate with a half-game lead over Georgia (12-5) with two games left, while the Swarm can only take care of Philadelphia and wait to see whether Buffalo will concede its final two games, granting Georgia the division and home-field throughout the East Division playoffs.
Georgia won’t sweat over playoff scenarios, what could have been or could still be accomplished with one game and a bye week left. At least, not with Philadelphia still on the horizon.
“They’re a really good team and they could get hot offensively,” transition player Bryan Cole said. “With this game coming up, we have to stay focused and be prepared and execute the way we need to in order to head into the bye week, get tuned up and get some guys healthy so we can be prepared for playoffs.”
Philadelphia, meanwhile, is playing to crush Georgia’s chances of two home playoff games and prevent a five-game losing streak to close out its inaugural season. Philadelphia (3-14) has conceded the most goals in the NLL (232) and is 0-8 on the road this season.
The Wings’ offense, however, is perhaps the most dynamic phase of the game the team presents. While the Wings are last in the East Division, they are third in terms of total goals scored. The Wings are led in scoring by eight-year veteran forward Kevin Crowley. He is tied for first on the team in points with 77, while two faces familiar to the Swarm round out the top three point contributors for the Wings. Kiel Matisz and Jordan Hall, two members of Georgia’s 2017 NLL Champions Cup team, were selected by Philadelphia in the 2018 Expansion Draft and boast 77 and 62 points, respectively.
It’s not a surprise to Cole that two of his former teammates have been consistent leaders for Philadelphia’s attack. The scouting report may be out on both former Georgia Swarm players, but Hall and Matisz can also provide their own scouting reports of Swarm’s tendencies and help Philadelphia spoil Georgia’s hopes of winning the division.
“You know what you’re getting with those guys,” Cole said. “I got to play with them for a few years. Moose (Matisz) is so big and physical, but he has a finesse part to his game. Same with Hall-sie (Hall). He can bump bodies and get through the middle well. He’s also got a pretty slick shot. They’re great players, and luckily we’ve been able to play with them for the last couple of years. We can see what we’ll get from them in the film from this year and take what we’ve had from the last couple of years and see how we can defend them. Obviously, their entire offense is pretty dynamic. They have some pretty good shooters and guys who can get to the middle of the floor. We have to get to the film here and gameplan for their entire offense, not just the two of them.”
Georgia beat Philadelphia 13-11 in the teams’ first meeting. The Wings trailed by one goal late in the fourth quarter when Randy Staats delivered a finishing punch to put Georgia up by two with seconds left.
Poulin in question
Georgia’s goaltender Mike Poulin is day-to-day according to team staff after leaving last week’s game against Calgary roughly 27 minutes into the game. Kevin Orleman took the loss in the net but only allowed five goals in approximately 33 minutes of play. The 22-year-old goalie has served as depth for Georgia for two years since being selected in the second round of the 2016 Entry Draft.
“Back the Braid”
Lyle Thompson, the NLL’s leading scorer, will be at the center of a special pregame ceremony that will recognize players with indigenous roots. T-shirts that read “Back the Braid” will be worn by both clubs as a symbol of solidarity and inclusivity.
“We are proud to be able to continue to raise the awareness of and champion the great history that Indigenous People have with the sport of lacrosse during this special regular-season finale in Atlanta,” NLL commissioner Nick Sakiewicz said.