NLL: 16-12 win for Swarm in home opener

Holden Cattoni scores his first goal for the Swarm. (Photo credit: Kyle Hess)

The Georgia Swarm opened up their season at home against the visiting New England Black Wolves on Saturday night. Georgia would use some big offensive runs to help them secure a 16-12 win to get the season started.

Georgia got the party started at 5:15 as Shayne Jackson gave them a 1-0 lead. On their very next possession Chad Tutton gave them a 2-0 lead over the Black Wolves. Tyler Digby tied the game at two with back-to-back power play goals 1:02 apart. Seth Oakes put the Wolves up 3-2 to end the quarter.

The second quarter would be dominated by Georgia on both ends of the floor. The Swarm were very aggressive on the defensive end, not allowing the Black Wolves to get quality looks on the cage. When the Black Wolves did get clean looks they were met by Mike Poulin who looked like a literal wall in the second.

Georgia’s offense exploded in the second as they caught fire. Shayne Jackson got it started early on to tie the game at three. Midway through the period Randy Staats netted his first of the game to give Georgia the 4-3 lead. Miles Thompson then scored two in a row, the first of which was his 100thcareer goal. His second was a great put back off the boards as Holden Cattoni’s shot missed wide.

“It was a surprise to me,” Miles said in a Swarm press release. “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.”

Georgia came out of the half with a 6-3 lead. Cattoni, who finished the game with two goals and five assists to tie Lyle Thompson’s output, then got his first goal as a member of the Swarm. New England would go on a little two-goal run early in the third as Colton Watkinson and Callum Crawford cut it to a one goal 6-5 Georgia lead. Georgia answered with a four-goal run of their own as they pushed out to an 11-5 lead. During that run Zed Williams, Jordan MacIntosh, Joel Tinney and Randy Staats all scored. Late in the third New England would finally get things together as Seth Oakes scored his second of the game to cut the Georgia lead to 11-6 heading into the final quarter.

Defense took a back seat in the fourth as the teams combined for 11 goals. New England got things started with an early three-goal run that gave them a ton of energy and cut Georgia’s lead to two. After a few short defensive stands from each squad Shayne Jackson pushed Georgia’s lead to 12-9. Reilly O’Connor answered for New England less than a minute later. One minute and two seconds later Lyle Thompson scored back-to-back goals 17 seconds apart.

Tyler Digby and O’Connor trimmed Georgia’s lead halfway through the period but the Swarm scored the final two goals of the game including an empty netter from John Ranagan. That late offensive run and a good defensive stand sealed the deal as Georgia walked away victorious at home on opening night.

“You can’t just start strong; you have to finish strong,” 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.”

The Black Wolves were led on offense by Tyler Digby and Seth Oakes who each had five points (3G/2A). Doug Jamieson made 44 saves with a 0.746 save percentage in goal. Callum Crawford scooped up eight loose balls while Greg Downing scooped up four and had one caused turnover.

Randy Staats had eight points (2G/6A). Lyle Thompson scooped seven loose balls in addition to his seven points. Poulin made 42 saves for a 0.778 save percentage.

Both squads will have next week off and be in action on December 28th. New England will have their home opener against the Saskatchewan Rush while Georgia will travel to take on the Toronto Rock.