NLL: Swarm fall in opener, stung by Black Wolves 13-11

Randy Staats celebrates a goal with his teammates during the Georgia Swarm’s 2018 season opener. (Photo credit: New England Black Wolves)

Defending champion Swarm fall to Black Wolves in opener, Crowley and Evans lead Wolves’ attack

The 32nd season of The National Lacrosse League started Friday night with the New England BlackWolves (1-0) stinging the defending champion Georgia Swarm (0-1) 13-11 in a highly contested game in front of 5,489 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

“The Big Cat” Kevin Crowley led the Black Wolves attack scoring four times, and adding one assist, while Shawn Evan had his normal night of two goals and seven assists to immediately take the lead in league scoring.

The first eight minutes of the game had up and back action with both starting goalies coming up big for their teams. But it was the newest Wolves of the pack getting the scoring started. David Brock notched his first of the season with John LaFontaine getting the assist at 8:10 of the first. Four minutes later the Black Wolves built a 5-2 lead and it looked as if the Wolves would run away with the game – but, this is the NLL.

Randy Staats and Jesse King scored to close the gap to one, then Lyle Thompson scored on the power play with a second to go in the quarter to tie the game at five. This would start a seven goal run by the Swarm that would extend to the one minute mark of the third quarter. The Black Wolves would be held scoreless for 22:57 seconds before Seth Oakes would start an attack that would see the Wolves score eight of the final 10 goals of the game.

“We played our style,” said head coach Ed Comeau in a Swarm press release. “We were aggressive and disrupted a lot of shots, had some that went wide, got some shooting lanes, and we did a nice job of coming up with loose balls. That’s a big difference when we can keep teams to one-and-done possessions instead of giving up rebounds and then having resets. I thought we did some things well tonight, but there’s a lot of learning to be done.”

King and Staats led the Swarm with three goals and one assist a piece while Miles and Lyle Thompson were held to a combined one goal and six assists.

Crowley (4G/1A) and Evans (2G/7A) led the Wolves attack. The scoring was spread out as 12 of the 17 runners figured in on the scoring sheet.

Aaron Bold stopped 33 of 44 shots for the win in his Black Wolves debut, while Mike Poulin stopped 23 of 36 and was saddled with the loss.

The Black Wolves out shot the Swarm 49-44, picked up loose balls 75-62 and won 17-27 face-offs. Jay Thorimbert had 18 loose balls.

“We made some mistakes,” said Comeau. “The big difference was power play. We had four chances and only scored one power play goal, and we only scored three goals in the second half and gave up eight. We had control of the game and kind of got away from what works for us.”

Both teams return to action on December 23rd on the road. New England will face the 2015 & 2016 champion Saskatchewan Rush, and the Georgia Swarm will visit the LOUD House and face the Colorado Mammoth.