Shawn Palmer, NLL Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©
Featured Image Photo Credit: Kyle Hess
On Saturday April 30, 2022, the Philadelphia Wings (9-9) visited the Georgia Swarm (9-9) for their final game of the 2021-22 season. Both teams needed the win to guarantee a playoff spot and with the last two games between these teams ending in overtime the 9,428 fans at Gas South Arena were expecting an exciting game. In fact, between the Wings, Swarm and Albany FireWolves each were fighting for that last playoff spot in the East and the infamous Wild Card spot in the West. The teams did not disappoint as it was a back-and-forth affair with good scoring chances on both sides and incredible goaltending especially from the Wings Zach Higgins (1A, 53 saves). Following the same script as the first two games this one was also decided in overtime, with the Wings coming out on top earning them the Wild Card spot in the playoffs. Blaze Riorden would score the game winning goal in OT as he did in the first victory on January 8th as well. Philadelphia will now face the San Diego Seals who clinched first place in the West with their victory over Vancouver. Final Score OT: Wings 11—Swarm 10.
Philadelphia came out with the opening goal of the game with Ben McIntosh (3G, 1A) stepping around his defender and his sidearm shot beat Mike Poulin (32 saves) to the far side 1-0. Georgia responded a minute and a half later when Brendan Bomberry (2G, 2A) picked up a rebound in front of the net and his overhand shot beat Higgins over the shoulder to tie it up 1-1. The Swarm would take their first lead of the game as Jordan MacIntosh (2G) took a shot over his defender and beat Higgins under his arm to make it 2 – 1 for Georgia. Kyle Jackson (1G, 4A) tied it up again for the Wings off a pass on the crease from Kiel Matisz (6A), he beat his defender and dove across the crease and put it five-hole 2-2. Georgia would notch the final marker in the first while on the power play and Bomberry from the top, his sidearm shot went short side top corner giving them the lead. The shots after one quarter had Georgia doubling up on Philadelphia 18—9. Score at the end of one: Swarm 3—Wings 2.
Georgia extended their lead less than two minutes into the second when they were on a two man power play. Lyle Thompson (2G, 3A) passed to Jordan Hall (1G, 3A) and his low-to-low shot went far side to make it 4 -2. The Wings would get that one back on their own power play when Corey Small (3G, 1A) with a high-to-high shot beat Poulin to the far top corner cutting the gap to one 4 – 3 Swarm. Philly would notch the equalizer when McIntosh spun on his defender and his hard shot beat Poulin through the legs. Georgia regained the lead when Thompson picked up a loose ball, flipped it back to MacIntosh who went short side to make it 5 – 4. McIntosh would tie it back up for the Wings while on the power play and from behind the net he dove in front and beat Poulin to the short side. With the goalie pulled for an extra attacker the Swarm took their turn playing from behind the net and Shayne Jackson (1G, 3A) dove in front and tucked it into the short side behind Higgins to regain the lead with only three seconds left in the half. The shots at the end of the first half had Georgia with a commanding lead over Philadelphia 34–21. Score at the end of two: Swarm 6—Wings 5.
Just as they did in the second quarter, Georgia would start the second half quickly as Thompson jumped and faked a shot while in the air and went through the legs to double the Georgia lead at 7 – 5. Less than 30 seconds later while in transition, Thompson would score again off a pass from Ryan MacSpadyen (1A) and went short side, and it was 8 – 5. The Wings would stop the Georgia streak seven seconds later as Ryan Wagner (1G) on a pass from Trevor Baptiste (1A) right off the faceoff beat Poulin with a shot to the short side and it was 8 – 6 for the Swarm. This would start the five-goal run for Philadelphia. Just over a minute later Kevin Crowley (1G, 4A) while moving backwards fired a side arm shot that went short side and it was 8 – 7. With less than three minutes left in the third the Wings tied the game in transition as Small went in on net and his bounce shot beat Poulin to the short side and the quarter ended tied at eight. The shots after three quarters still had Georgia with a huge lead over Philadelphia 48—32. Score at the end of two: Swarm 8—Wings 8.
After some good saves by Higgins the Wings grabbed their first lead of the second half and the first time since 2:56 into the contest, when Small picked up a rebound in front and put it in the open side putting them up 9 – 8. Philadelphia would double their lead five minutes later when Blaze Riorden (2G) shot around his defender and went low to the far side 10-8 Wings. With just over one minute left in the fourth Georgia needed to score quickly if they wanted to win. Bomberry would make a nice cross crease pass to Stephen LeBlanc (1G, 3A) who beat Higgins with a quick stick shot and they were withing one 10 – 9. On the ensuing faceoff, the Swarm caused a turnover and TJ Comizio (1G) picked up the loose ball, went in alone and with a nice shot to the top corner beat Higgins to tie the game with 48 seconds left on the ticker. Neither team would score in the last seconds of the game sending it into their third OT contest of the season. Score at the end of four: Swarm 10—Wings 10.
Philadelphia would get hit with a penalty right at the end of regulation putting Georgia on their fourth man-up opportunity on the night to start the overtime period. Higgins held the Swarm off the board for the first minute of the power play, passed the ball down the floor as Riorden came off of the bench. Riorden scooped the loose ball beat two defenders and dove across the crease to beat Poulin over the shoulder for a short-handed tally and the win sending them to the playoffs. Final Score OT: Wings 11—Swarm 10.
The Three stars of the game were:
Zach Higgins—Philadelphia Wings: 1 assist, 53 saves
Blaze Riorden—Philadelphia Wings: 2 goals(OT winner)
Ben McIntosh—Philadelphia Wings: 3 goals, 1 assist
Philadelphia Wings—SOG 43; Saves 53; Face-offs 20-25; Assists 20; LB 65; PP 2-3
Georgia Swarm—SOG 63; Saves 32; Face-offs 5-25; Assists 17; LB 72; PP 2-4
While the Georgia Swarm (9-9) are officially done with their season and have been eliminated from the playoffs, the Wings are headed to the post season.
The Philadelphia Wings (9 – 9) who have clinched the Wild Card spot, will face the San Diego Seals (10-8) the Western Division leaders on Saturday May 7, 2022, game time 10:00 p.m. EST in the first round of the playoffs. The game will be played at Pechanga Arena in San Diego. Philadelphia defeated San Diego in overtime at Pechanga Arena in the only matchup between the two teams. The West Division Semi-Final will be a battle of the two expansion teams who entered the league during the 2018-19 NLL season. The winner of that game will move onto Round Two.
Shawn Palmer, NLL Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©