(ATLANTA) – The Georgia Swarm (1-0) won its fourth-straight Home Opener Saturday night, starting the 2018-19 season with a 16-12 win against the New England Black Wolves (0-1).
After finding itself down 3-2 after the first quarter, the Swarm stonewalled the Black Wolves in the second quarter, using the opportunity to retake the lead and never relinquish it all game.
“You can’t just start strong; you have to finish strong,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “We let (New England) back in a little bit, but fortunately we pulled away at the end. I think they had multiple possessions, and we took shots and got rebounds. That’s difficult for a defense, and they played with a lot of energy and buried some chances in transition, so full credit to them. They’re missing some guys, but they came out to play.”
Things started off Georgia’s way with a goal from Shayne Jackson and another from Chad Tutton, but Tyler Digby would even things up with back-to-back power play goals a little over a minute apart from one another. Seth Oakes gave New England the lead with an outside shot, and the first 15 min. ended 3-2 in the Black Wolves’ favor.
It would be the last time New England scored in the first half. Poulin and the Swarm defense stonewalled the Black Wolves, and the Georgia offense kept resetting the shot clock and pouring on the shots. Jackson netted a power play goal, and Randy Staats found the left side of the net on a solo chance. Miles kindly received a pass from brother Lyle to net his 100th career goal, then he shot in his 200th career point with another goal off a Cattoni rebound. Georgia went back to the locker room up 6-3.
“Just kind of play with pride is always his message,” Black Wolves goaltender Doug Jamieson said about what Clark told the team in the locker room at halftime. “You can never give up in this league; we’re professionals. So, you’ve got to keep battling, full sixty minutes every time.”
The Swarm continued to pour on the pressure in the third quarter with Cattoni’s first goal in a Swarm uniform, but the Black Wolves netted two more to close the gap. Zed Williams buried his first goal since moving to the forward position, and Jordan MacIntosh followed up with a shorthanded goal off a long outlet pass from goaltender Mike Poulin. Rookie Joel Tinney notched his first career NLL goal, Staats netted another, then New England went on a run of its own.
Oakes scored another goal to end the third quarter with the Swarm up 11-6. New England scored three more times to put the team within two goals, Jackson widened the lead, and then Reilly O’Connor retaliated.
“As simple as it sounds, we started getting a little more active off-ball in our offense,” Black Wolves head coach Glenn Clark said about his team’s second half resurgence. “One of the things that we’ve been preaching is activity, being dynamic offensively, and we fall into this trap of watching, waiting a little bit…
“When we went on that little run, it was all guys moving the ball, guys being active, making decisions for the defense. We learned some stuff, but that was the biggest thing. We started to be a little more dynamic offensively.”
Lyle scored back-to-back goals within seconds, putting Georgia up 14-10. But New England refused to go away. Digby and O’Connor scored their hat trick goals, putting the Black Wolves back within two. Cattoni shot in a bounce shot before an empty netter from John Ranagan. Georgia proceeded to run out the clock and finished its first game of the 2018-19 season with a 16-12 win.
Ten different Swarm players found the back of the net. Staats led the team in points with eight (2G, 6A), and Lyle and Cattoni both had seven points (2G, 5A). Jackson (3G, 1A) and Miles (2G, 2A) finished with four points.
“That’s really important for us,” Cattoni said about the team’s diverse offense. “It’s really good that other teams can’t really scout us and say they have to shut off certain players. Having depth of scoring is a huge part of creating a championship team.”
Miles scored his 100th career goal in the second quarter, his 200th career point a few minutes later, and his 100th career assist in the third quarter.
“It was a surprise to me,” Miles said. “It wasn’t something that came across my mind that it was a milestone for me. It feels pretty good, for sure, when they announced I got my hundredth goal from a pass from Lyle (Thompson). It seems like it always works that way.”
“Miles has been such a great player for us for a number of years, and he has a knack for scoring big goals,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “He shoots the ball well, he has great vision, but he’d be the first to say when you score 100 goals, you don’t get there on your own.”
Poulin made 42 saves on 54 SOG, finishing the night with a .778 SV%. Connor Sellars went 8-for-9 on faceoff opportunities, helping the Swarm finish with a .625 FOW%.
Callum Crawford led the team in points with six (2G, 4A), and Digby and O’Connor both recorded five points (3G, 2A). Oakes also finished with five points (2G, 3A).
Clark gave Jamieson the nod to start, and Jamieson played his first complete game. After stuffing a number of high-quality scoring opportunities, the 22-year-old finished with a 15 GA in 59:59 min. and a .746 SV%.
“After you make the first couple of saves, you just settle in, and you stop thinking about it and just kind of play your game,” Jamieson said. “That’s what I try to do, and I thought tonight I did that pretty well.”
Both teams were 2-for-6 on power play opportunities.
Georgia will take the week off before traveling north to take on the Toronto Rock at Scotiabank Arena on Friday, Dec. 28. Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.
“We’ve got to get our chemistry up a little bit more, especially offensively,” Cattoni said. “We’ve got a few new guys. We’ve got to stop running into each other a little bit, but I think overall, we’ve just got to clean up our game.”
New England will also take the week off before its Home Opener on Dec. 28 at Mohegan Sun Arena. With a faceoff set for 7:30 p.m., the Black Wolves welcome the defending champion Saskatchewan Rush.
“We’ll look at film, we’ll evaluate, we’ll look at things we need to do better,” Clark said. “We’re always evaluating, assessing your personnel and the game and the strategy. I think when we executed as we expected, we got good results. But that’s the game, right? Whenever you have breakdowns, they can cost you, a