Friday night the Philadelphia Wings (5-2) will host the Georgia Swarm (3-3) in an Eastern Division matchup. The teams met back on December 14th at the Infinite Energy Arena with the Swarm coming up on top 12-6.
Lyle Thompson (4G/3A) and Shayne Jackson (3G/2A) led the Swarm offense. Philadelphia fell behind 5-1 with six minutes gone into the second quarter and could never recover. The Wings would get as close as 5-3, but a three-goal run (Jordan Hall, Shayne Jackson x 2) that would start in the last minute of the first half and go to 1:45 of the third quarter was all the Swarm would really need.
Since then things have drastically changed for both teams. The win would be Georgia’s second of the year as they would move to 2-0, and it looked as if this team was putting their claim in for the championship game early. The offense scored 26 goals while goalie Mike Poulin, fresh off a World Indoor Lacrosse Championship with Canada, only allowed 10 goals in the two games. In their last four games, however, the Swarm have gone 1-3 (OT win last week vs New England) allowing 52 goals while scoring only 44.
For Philadelphia, they rebounded in a big way collecting their first win in overtime 8-7 against the champion Calgary Roughnecks. This was the start of a three-game winning streak for the Wings as they outscored their opponent 41-29 and would move to 3-1. A questionable goal in overtime would end the winning streak as the New England Black Wolves would win 8-7. Philadelphia would rebound BIG the following night as they would tear through the Rochester Knighthawks 12-4, and just last Friday they would defeat the New York Riptide again 12-6.
The Wings now sit at 5-2, undefeated at home (3-0), while Georgia comes into town at 3-3 (2-1 road).
For the Wings to come out on top, they must stay out of the box and limit the power play opportunities for Georgia to almost zero. If not, they will be asking a lot from the defense and goaltender Zach Higgins.
They must also limit the Swarm’s attack. Shayne Jackson has six power play goals, good enough for second in the league. Jordan Hall has 11 assists and Randy Staats has nine on the power play. Philadelphia (sixth) is averaging 13 minutes a game in penalties, while Georgia (10th) averages 11 minutes per game.
Georgia is third overall on the power play 55.6% (15-27), and Philadelphia is eighth 44.1% (15-34). Both teams are just as close on the penalty kill as well: Georgia is fourth (60%, 18-30, 2-SHG), Philadelphia sixth (57.1%, 12-21, 3-SHG).
Goaltending will be a huge factor. Zach Higgins is 5-2 with an 8.38 GAA and .835 SVPCT. Mike Poulin enters the game with a 10.09 GAA/.788 SVPCT.
This will be the second meeting between the teams this season, and a win for Georgia will give them the season tiebreaker. A win for the Wings will increase their lead on second place to 2.5 games over Georgia and tie the season series.
Kevin Crowley (13G/24A) and Shayne Jackson (18G/19A) lead their teams and the league with 37 points each.
The Wings will not play again until another back-to-back weekend February 15-16 on the road versus Buffalo and New England.
Prediction: The Wings will claim their second three game winning streak. Zach Higgins will come up with his best game of the year. Matt Rambo and Blaze Riorden will have big games as the Georgia defense will try to contain Brett Hickey and Kevin Crowley.
FINAL: Philadelphia 15-11