Ron Schell, NLL Correspondent
Lacrosse Is Awesome©
Featured Image Photo Credit: Philadelphia Wings
It was the second and final meeting between the Georgia Swarm (4-3) and Philadelphia Wings (5-3). When the smoke cleared and someone told you that Philadelphia Wing’s Trevor Baptiste, the Face-off Phenom dominated the face-off circle winning 24 of 28, you would automatically think that the Wings won the battle. They won the face-off battle on Friday night but they eventually lost the war to the feisty Georgia Swarm. This was a hard fought game that came down to the final shot with the goalies for both teams standing on their heads to backstop their teams. Final Score: Swarm 12—Wings 11.
The Swarm started the evening with a 3-3 record while the Wings held a record of 5-2. Both teams reside in the East division with the New England Black Wolves leading the way at 4-1. Tonight’s result would make the division even tighter.
The Wings started the scoring when Blaze Riorden (1G, 1A) took a feathered pass from Matt Rambo in tight on the crease. Georgia then stormed back with three unanswered goals. Shane Jackson (3G, 4A) cut through the middle and fired the ball past Wings goalie Zach Higgins. Jackson has continued his hat-trick streak scoring three goals in every game this year including last night. Zed Williams (1G, 1A) fired a beautiful outside bounce shot that hit the top corner; and Jordan Hall (2G 4A) with a feed from Miles Thompson (2A) rang the ball off the post and in. Liam Byrnes (1G) tied the game for Philly with a controversial transition goal which appeared to be in the crease. After a Swarm coach’s challenge, the goal was deemed legal. Georgia’s Hall completed the scoring in the first quarter off a perfect pick and roll feed by Lyle Thompson. Georgia led Philadelphia 4-3.
The Wings evened the score at four when Kiel Matisz (1G, 3A) fed Corey Vitarelli (1G, 1A) across the crease and he buried it up high. Georgia then began their offensive magic to go on a four goal run. Adam Wiedemann (1G) collected a long bomb pass with one hand on the transition firing the ball over Higgins. Jackson then placed a touch pass across the crease to Zach Miller (1G 1A) who buried it quickly. Jackson then was fed a rocket as he took off from his bench on transition and finished the play off with a diving shot. Lyle Thompson (1G 5A) scored the Swarm’s 8th goal as he rolled around his check and scored on a bounce shot while diving across the crease. Philadelphia stopped the bleeding scoring their 5th goal after Josh Currier (3G, 1A) face dodged his check and then crease dived around Swarm goalie Mike Poulin. Georgia went on the power play and created a magical goal as Lyle Thompson dodged, passed the ball behind his back to Hall, and then fed a streaking Randy Staats (3G, 1A) who pounded a bounce shot passed the goalie. The Wings came back with two of their own. Currier fired a no look outside shot past Poulin; and Kevin Crowley (2G, 3A) fired an outside point shot assisted by Rambo. Georgia’s offence finished the quarter with Jackson scoring from the crease. The goal was contested but video evidence couldn’t prove he stepped in the crease. The score at half time had the visitors with the lead: Georgia 10—Philadelphia 7.
GAME HIGHLIGHTS: https://grabyo.com/g/v/8Vr2ht96aQz
The third quarter changed to a defensive battle. Trevor Baptiste (1A) was a total machine at the face-off circle. He used his super human strength, speed and skill to dominate throughout the game. It seemed that Philadelphia gained so many more offensive opportunities whenever a face-off occurred. Ball control is essential in the game of lacrosse. Baptiste had outdrawn his opponent 17-2 at half-time. The only goal scored in this quarter of amazing saves and swarming tough defence belonged to Crowley who scored by shooting an outside blast while he was running. The key play of the game occurred near the end of the quarter when Staats and Liam Patten had an altercation near the player’s benches. Staats was given two minors penalties and a roughing major to Patten’s single roughing minor. This provided Philadelphia with seven minutes extra power play time and an interesting fourth quarter. The score was 10-8 for Georgia at the end of three.
Both goalies knew that the game was on the line and they both made spectacular saves. The Wings scored their 9th goal on the power play by their captain Matisz. Due to an injury to offensive star Brett Hickey (17G), Matisz played both offence and defence on this night. Rambo scored the equalizer with an outside blast over Poulin’s shoulder. The game grew tense as both teams battled to try to beat the goalies who were playing out of their minds. Staats must have felt guilty for putting his team short-handed. He took over the game with two dominant goals back-to-back. Staats put his team on his back to go ahead 12-10. Philadelphia controlled the face-off and with the goalie pulled, Josh Currier let go with a blistering outside shot. The score was 12-11 for Georgia with one minute remaining. The Wings threw everything at Poulin who danced with joy when the Swarm controlled the ball ‘til the final buzzer went. Final Score: Georgia 12—Philadelphia 11.
Overall, I enjoyed the game because it could have been won by either team. With such a dominant face-off man in Baptiste, it’s easy to see why Philadelphia can stay within any game. It was a joy to see the offensive skill on display whenever the Swarm hit the floor. The touch passing; relentless full-body picks; unorthodox dodging; and wicked outside shots were a joy to watch. I was also entertained by both goalies who saved 44 shots each, some of the shoestring kind. The Swarm climbed back into contention in the East Division by beating the Wings twice this season.
Georgia: 44 SOG; 26 SOFF; 69 LB; 4-28 FO; 1-5 PP; 13 PIM
Philadelphia: 44 SOG; 29 SOFF; 72 LB; 24-28 FO; 1-2 PP; 16 PIM
Georgia Mike Poulin: 44 SOG; 33 Saves; 11 GA; .750 Sv%
Philadelphia Zach Higgins: 44 SOG; 32 Saves; 12 GA; .730 Sv%
The Philadelphia Wings (5-3) have two weeks off and will return to action on Saturday February 15, when they head to Buffalo to face the Bandits (5-1), game time 7:00 p.m. EST.
The Georgia Swarm (4-3) also have a couple weeks off and will host the New York Riptide (1-7) at home on Saturday February 15, game time 7:00 p.m. EST. The last time these two teams met on January 18, the Riptide got their first win in franchise history at the misfortune of the Swarm. Look for Georgia to seek revenge for that loss and they have plenty of time to prepare.
Ron Schell, NLL Correspondent
Lacrosse Is Awesome©