NLL: Thunderbirds triumphant in return home to Scotiabank Centre

Austin Shanks and Stephen Keogh celebrate. Halifax, Nova Scotia – Feb 19, 2022: National Lacrosse League game between the Halifax Thunderbirds and Georgia Swarm at the Scotiabank Center in Halifax, Nova Scotia. (Trevor MacMillan/Halifax Thunderbirds)

The Halifax Thunderbirds exploded to a 15-9 win over the Georgia Swarm Saturday night at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax.

“It was exciting and fun, I think that’s the two biggest things you take away from the game,” said Halifax forward Austin Shanks.

This was the first game the team has played in Halifax since Dec. 10. COVID restrictions prevented them from playing in Nova Scotia, and they had to play their last two ‘home’ games in Hamilton, Ont. The team will play in front of 3,000 fans until March 14 when restrictions are expected to be lifted.

“It’s always great coming back here and playing in front of the best fans,” says Thunderbirds’ forward Stephen Keogh. “I think we had a great crowd tonight and they were very loud and all the boys were fired up and I think that was a little extra motivation.”

Fifteen goals are the most the team has scored this season. The Thunderbirds haven’t felt that they’ve gotten both sides of their offence going at the same time often this year, but that wasn’t the case tonight.

“Offensively, we’ve been talking about everyone chipping in, everyone was scoring, so I thought we did that really well tonight. We were swinging the ball well,” says Keogh.

Halifax fans were treated to exciting lacrosse to start the game. Just under two minutes in, Clarke Petterson passed the ball to Keogh and he put the ball in the back of the net.

Shanks scored 30 seconds later to put Halifax up 2-0.

Brendan Bomberry quickly answered for Georgia. He ran around the net to the top of the slot and shot over a crowd to score. Lyle Thompson scored a few minutes later to tie it up.

After Thompson’s goal the teams traded goals throughout the quarter. Kyle Jackson and David Brock scored for Halifax, while Jordan MacIntosh and Thompson scored for Georgia.

Cody Jamieson and Shanks scored for Halifax at the end of the quarter to make it 6-4 for Halifax.

Georgia got the offence going in the second quarter with a Jordan Hall goal, but Shanks answered quickly. Stephan Leblanc passed it to him in the slot, and Shanks shot the ball behind his back to score a hat trick. Kyle Jackson added another to make it 8-4 for Halifax.

After Jackson’s goal, Georgia took out goalie Mike Poulin and put in Craig Wende. Poulin allowed eight goals on 16 shots and Wende allowed seven goals on 34 shots. 

Shayne Jackson and Cody Jamieson traded goals a minute apart. Clarke Petterson finished the scoring in the quarter. 

Halifax finished the first half up 10-6, and they came out flying in the second half, scoring 25 seconds in courtesy of a goal from Chris Boushy.

Stephen Keogh scored a highlight-reel goal 20 seconds later. He received the ball close to the net but with his back facing the goalie. He surprised everyone and immediately shot the ball through his legs and scored.

Keogh scored his hat trick goal three minutes after to make it 13-6. This was the second game back for Keogh, who missed the past two months with a few tears in his hamstring.

“I just got back to things I was used to. I was moving my feet well… talking to (Mike) Accursi and the coaches, they wanted me to shoot with confidence, and I did that tonight,” says Keogh. “It’s always good when you get a goal early in the game; it gets your energy going and helps build it. The team was swinging the ball and finding me open, and I was just able to bury it.”

Jordan Hall scored Georgia’s only goal of the quarter. They could have easily got another, but Halifax’s goalie Warren Hill stretched out on a cross-crease pass to rob Shayne Jackson with his stick in the dying seconds of the quarter.

Hill made several fantastic saves tonight in a 35 save performance.

“I think Warren Hill played outstanding. He stopped so many transition shots and so many opportunities. I think he really kept us in the position we were pretty much the entire game,” said Graeme Hossack. “Defensively, it wasn’t our worst game, but I think we could be a little better. Whenever we had those little errors, Warren had our back.”

Shanks just kept on scoring. A minute into the fourth quarter, Jackson passed him the ball as he drove down the left side towards the goal to score. He added another for a six-goal game. Clarke Petterson was the last Thunderbird to score six goals during the last time they played in Halifax.

“My teammates were just finding me,” said Shanks. “I think I was just the lucky guy tonight. I think that’s the common theme with us; we move the ball so well that whoever gets open is getting the ball.”

Shanks is second on the team in scoring with 15 goals, 11 assists for 26 points, scoring all those points in his last five games.

“I just think we’re so dangerous on offence that the (defence) has to leave me sometimes to worry about other guys on the floor like we got eight guys who can all really score goals,” says Shanks.

Shayne Jackson and Bryan Cole scored to finish the scoring for Georgia.  

Halifax wins the game 15-10 and moves to 6-1 on the season, while Georgia drops to 4-6.

One of the most intriguing match-ups in this game was watching the league’s best defencemen in Graeme Hossack taking on the league’s best forward in Lyle Thompson. Thompson finished the game with two goals and two assists, tied for his second-lowest scoring game this season.

“No matter what we do, he manages to find his way to the middle of the floor and get his shots. He’s good, creative and smart. He basically uses our defensive communication against us,” says Hossack. “You’re never going to keep him off the scoreboard, he’s too talented for that, but any day we can limit the points he gets and how much he controls their offence, it’s a good day defensively.”

The Thunderbirds travel to Philadelphia next Saturday to take on the Philadelphia Wings.