The Philadelphia Wings were defeated 12–11 tonight by the Georgia Swarm in a back-and-forth game. A strong offensive first half and a defensive powered second kept this game close until the final whistle blew.
Going into the game, the Wings had an uphill battle before the first faceoff. Brett Hickey, their leading scorer, was inactive. With an offense as potent as the Swarm’s, Philadelphia was going to need a strong defensive showing and great transition in order to win.
The scoring was opened up early by the versatile Blaze Riorden on a pass from Matt Rambo 57 seconds into the 1st. However, three straight goals from the Swarm by Shayne Jackson, Zed Williams, and Jordan Hall put a wrinkle in Philly’s plans to win through defense.
Wings Head Coach Paul Day said, “We’re doing a good job handling their pressure. They’re dangerous offensively. We have to help each other out defensively to be successful.”
23 seconds after Jordan Hall’s goal for Georgia, Rambo answered with one of his own to bring the Wings within 1. Zach Higgins continued his excellence between the pipes, and hit Liam Byrnes in transition to tie the game at 3 with 1:40 left in the 1st.
The scoring did not stop there in the opening quarter, and Shayne Jackson fed Jordan Hall to retake the lead with 11 seconds remaining. The quarter ended but not before Kevin Crowley and Joel White exchanged some extracurriculars and both got sent to the penalty box to start the 2nd.
The 2nd quarter started the same way the 1st did, as Cory Vitarelli evened the game at 4 on a backdoor feed from the captain Kiel Matisz.
Mike Poulin was playing an outstanding game on the other end of the field for the Swarm, making an excellent save and hitting Adam Wiedemann in transition 24 seconds after the Wings tied the game, taking the lead back, 5–4. This opened up a 4-goal run for the Swarm as the Wings defense allowed more shots than they would have liked. A crafty backhand pass from Jackson to Zach Miller stretch the lead to 2. Sloppy offense by the Wings and an illegal pick allowed Jackson to grow the lead even more, and one of the game’s best players in Lyle Thompson showed why he earned that title. Diving across the crease and sneaking a goal past Higgins lengthened the lead to 4.
Josh Currier ended the Wings drought, adding his first of the night, but a Power Play opportunity for the Swarm allowed Randy Staats to regain a 4-goal lead. Currier wasn’t going to let this get away from Philly, though, and he answered with his second goal. Shortly after, a delayed penalty on the Swarm allowed the Wings to get an extra man on the field, and Rambo fed Crowley to bring the game to 9–7.
Some magnificent ball movement by the Swarm’s offense found the ball in Shayne Jackson’s stick again before he added his 3rd goal of the game, continuing his streak of posting a hat trick in every game this season.
While the 1st half was defined by offense, the second was all defense, and especially goaltending. Higgins for Philly and Poulin for Georgia both shut down the other team’s offense. Poulin pulled off some amazing stick saves, and Higgins sacrificed his body, taking shot after shot. Whether they were playing, full strength, man up, or with a few different combinations, neither defense would budge.
Kevin Crowley finally ended the scoring drought with 4:33 left in the 3rd to pull the Wings back within 2 goals and adding the only goal in the quarter. After a few slashes, an aggravated Randy Staats threw a punch at Liam Patten, giving the Wings a 7-minute Power Play opportunity going into the final quarter.
The scoring in the 4th kicked off right away as Kiel Matisz netted one more 23 seconds in, bringing the game back within 1. Staats penalty was a major, so the Wings Power Play still had 5 minutes left, but a strong defensive effort from Georgia held them scoreless.
The next goal came about 10 minutes later, as Matt Rambo fired another shot past Poulin to tie the game at 10. Randy Staats, back on the field for Georgia now, finally broke the Swarm scoring drought that began with 3:18 left in the 2nd quarter at 3:48 mark in the final period to retake the 1 goal lead, and then answered with another to make it 12–10.
Josh Currier still wasn’t done fighting, and added his 3rd goal of the night with just a minute remaining, giving his team a chance to even the game. A fast break opportunity for the Wings looked promising, but Mike Poulin shut down Blaze Riorden on the doorstep to secure the win.
This East Division matchup moved the Swarm to 4-3 on the season, and dropped the Wings to 5-2, as well as handing them their first home loss of the season and ending a 2-game winning streak. The East is now wide open after the Swarm beat the Blackwolves last week, giving the Swarm and Wings the chance to move into first place.
The Swarm play next on Feburary 15th against the New York Riptide while the Wings next game is in Buffalo against the Bandits on the 15th of February, as well. Those games can be seen on B/R Live.