After Saturday night’s 11-7 victory over the New York Riptide, the Georgia Swarm (7-4) entered Sunday’s contest with division rival Philadelphia with a chance to tie for the lead league in wins.
After a three-game losing streak that marred the weeks immediately following Christmas, the Swarm have found their groove, winning five of their last six games. The lone loss was the thrilling 18-17 defeat at the hands of the defending National Lacrosse League champions, the Calgary Roughnecks. Keeping their winning ways alive didn’t exactly come easy. The Swarm trailed entering the final period last night against the Riptide, but they dominated the final frame to the tune of a 7-1 score to turn a 6-4 deficit into an 11-7 victory.
For the Philadelphia Wings (7-6), they were heading the opposite direction as they entered Sunday afternoon’s tilt riding their own three game losing streak and desperately needed a victory in Duluth at Infinite Energy Center to keep pace with New England (8-4) and Georgia in the division.
Needing a fast start, the Wings did exactly what they didn’t want to do, yielding Randy Staats 19th goal of the season and falling behind early.
Before the Wings could answer, Zedd Williams was finding the back of the net for the Swarm, with Zach Miller getting his second assist of the afternoon.
And the rough start for the Wings continued, allowing second year defenseman Adam Wiedemann just his fourth goal of the year.
Infact, the Swarm were up 4-0 when team captain Jordan MacIntosh committed a roughing penalty, perhaps giving the Wings some sort of life to get back into the game. The Swarm’s top notch penalty killing unit continued it’s stellar play and killed the penalty with barely a threat from the Wings.
Almost immediately after killing the penalty, the Swarm then went on a man advantage after what proved to be a costly Wings penalty. Lyle Thompson intercepted a pass and got the ball to leading scorer Shayne Jackson, and Jackson knew what to do with it, going 5-hole and making it 5-0.
Going back to the fourth quarter last night, the Swarm had outscored their opponents by a staggering 12-1 margin.
The second quarter didn’t start any better for the Wings. After an outstanding save by Mike Poulin the Swarm immediately shifted to transition offense and Randy Staats scored on a one-timer, with the assist from 11th overall pick Brendan Bomberry.
Finally, 20:11 into the game, the Wings toggled their side of the scoreboard with Blaze Riorden getting into double digits for the year in goals scored, with his 35th overall point.
But the Wings were unable to build any momentum from the goal as Shayne Jackson’s second goal of the afternoon made for his 30th for the season and the lead swelled back to half a dozen.
The Wings however dug down deep and finished the half off by scoring a trio of goals to pull back within 7-4, including Riorden’s second of the contest.
The run continued with Kiel Matisz scoring on the powerplay with a minute left and suddenly this was a two-goal contest.
After a Georgia penalty with :20 left, the Swarm allowed yet another goal, and the once seemingly insurmountable 6-0 lead was now 7-6 and the end of the half couldn’t come soon enough for the now clearly frustrated home squad.
Taking advantage of the chance to regroup at halftime, Randy Staats came out and opened the scoring in half number two, giving the Swarm a little bit of breathing room again.
Staats continued adding to his points total, following the Swarm killing another penalty, Staats added his fourth goal of the game and the lead was back to 9-6.
Not to be outdone, Riorden answered back with a pair of goals himself, matching Staats’ four goal total for the game, and pulling the Wings again to back within one.
Matisz appeared to have scored the equalizer for Philadelphia, but the goal was waved off due to interference. On the ensuing powerplay Lyle Thompson finally joined the goal scoring and put Georgia back up by a pair of goals, and that’s the way the teams would enter the final quarter.
However, the final moments of the third period were not without drama. The physicality between the teams that had been evident in their previous meetings continued to escalate, to the tune of a double minor for roughing occurring, and then a cross checking penalty being handed out in the final minute of the quarter.
The Swarm compounded the cross-checking penalty to close the period with another penalty in the first two minutes of the fourth period, giving Philadelphia a 5-3 advantage and Brett Hickey scored his 8th powerplay goal of the year, his team leading 8th such score with a man advantage.
For the second time in the game, the Wings had another would be game tying goal waved off. This one went to review, but to the chagrin of Philadelphia Wings coach Paul Day, there was not inconclusive evidence to overturn the call of no-goal on the floor.
MVP candidate Shaye Jackson capitalized with his 31st goal of the year and pushed his club back up by a couple of goals, and Jackson had yet another hat trick.
Matisz continued to heavily impact the contest though, earning a penalty shot, and converting, giving him a hat trick as well, and making it one-score game again.
Riorden followed that up with a goal of his own, and finally, with 3:39 left in the game, the Wings completed the come back and drew even.
A third consecutive Wings goal came from Brett Hickey and the Wings had the lead. If the lead would hold, it would be Hickey’s league leading fifth game winning goal of the year.
The Wings won the ever-critical ensuing faceoff, but were unable to create a cushion, and after a key Poulin save, Swarm coach Ed Comeau called timeout to try and set something up to knot the match up.
Despite going with an empty net, the Swarm could not muster an equalizing goal.
After falling behind 6-0 and 7-1, the win for the Wings could prove to be a season changer. Having lost three straight and with their season possibly hanging in the balance, the Wings rallied on the road.
Conversely, for the Swarm, who had been playing extremely good lacrosse lately, the loss is one of those that can linger for quite some time. With a chance to equal New England with 8 wins, instead the Swarm fell to 7-5 and merely percentage points ahead of Philadelphia for second in the division.
With the Swarm coming in with all the momentum and the Wings struggling, the incredible turnaround combined with the upcoming schedules could create a complete flip of directions for the two clubs.
The Wings will play the 1-12 Riptide next Sunday while the Swarm will have a week off before traveling to Saskatchewan to take on the 7-3 Rush, who might be the best team in the league.
Of note, Miles Thompson was a healthy scratch for the Swarm, but it was no cause for alarm, just some provided rest on the second day of a back to back.