With only three games left in the 2017-18 regular season, the Georgia Swarm (8-7) continues its playoff push with a rematch against the Saskatchewan Rush (12-3) on Saturday, April 14. Faceoff for the NLL Twitter Game of the Week is set for 9:30 p.m. ET.
The Swarm is partnering with the Rush for Saturday’s game and will be wearing special jerseys in support of the Jr. A hockey team, the Humboldt Broncos. A tractor-trailer crashed into the bus carrying the hockey team on April 6, and 16 people were killed while 13 more were injured.
Both teams will auction off the jerseys after the game at NLL.com/Humboldt (link will go live April 14), and the proceeds will be donated to the families of the crash victims. A GoFundMe campaign has been established for the victims and their families, and lacrosse fans are encouraged to donate to help the Humboldt community
“Our organization was deeply saddened by the tragic accident in the Humboldt community,” Swarm Co-Owner and President Andy Arlotta said. “Alongside the Rush this Saturday, we will be playing with heavy hearts as we honor the lives that were lost last week. In an effort to help raise funds for the victims’ families, we are honored to wear special Humboldt jerseys this weekend. We encourage all of our fans to participate in the online jersey auction as a way to help the families during this difficult time.”
Georgia and Saskatchewan have not met since Jan. 6. The Rush visited Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena and left with a 13-9 win.
Lyle Thompson (1G, 3A) and Shayne Jackson (3G, 1A) each had four points for the Swarm in that loss. Goaltender Mike Poulin made 41 saves on 53 SOG, posting a .774 SV%. After the loss, Georgia was 1-3 to start the season.
“We’ll definitely look back to see what we did and didn’t do against them,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “I think that’s important to take that look back. But I think more importantly is to look at how we’re playing now. We’ve been doing a lot better in the last month or so, the last six weeks. That’s our focus, is trying to get better as a team and certainly take advantage of things that might be available to us against Saskatchewan, but knowing that, we have to play the style of lacrosse that we’re best at. That’s going to be our focus.”
The Swarm has come a long way since that tough loss, improving to 8-7 and sitting in a three-way tie for first in the East Division with Buffalo and Rochester. The team has enjoyed the reinforcements of Jordan Hall, Chad Tutton and Joel White, going 5-2 since their return to the roster.
Lyle has been on a goal-scoring tear over the last five games. The 2017 NLL MVP has netted 19 goals during that span and has taken the lead in team points with 70 (35G, 35A). Jackson (26G, 43A) has been consistent the entire season and sits a point behind Lyle in the standings.
With Tutton and White back on the backend, the Swarm defense has made great strides. Since their return, the Swarm defense has posted a 10.57 GA/GAME. Poulin has enjoyed the extra protection and has an 11.97 GAA and a .770 SV% so far this season. Between his highlight reel saves and the offenses’ high-quality goals, Georgia has a noticeable swagger that was missing from it earlier this season.
“We know there’s a lot on the line for each shift for our game,” Comeau said, “and for us, playing with playoff intensity is something we talked about three games ago. We said, ‘This is our playoffs starting now. We need to play with that intensity.’ I think when guys play with that intensity, you see the drive and determination that they put forth in order to get to the cage, in order to make saves. I really think that’s a byproduct of the position we’re in right now, that we have to fight and scrape every shift in order to make sure we get ourselves in position to be in the playoffs.”
Saskatchewan, meanwhile, has gone on since that Jan. game to clinch the best record in the NLL for the 2017-18 season. Mark Matthews leads the team and the league in points with 94 (26G, 68A), followed closely by Robert Church and his 90 points (41G, 49A). Goaltender Evan Kirk has enjoyed the steady Rush defense in front of him all season and has a 10.54 GAA and a .783 SV%.
The Rush will be playing Vancouver on Friday night before returning home to SaskTel Centre to welcome the Swarm. Even after clinching the top spot in the NLL, Comeau does not expect Saskatchewan to let the visiting team get an easy win.
“Anybody that knows their players and knows their coaching staff knows that that’s not even remotely the way they operate,” Comeau said. “Their game plan is to be the best team in the league and to dominate everyone.”
The Swarm’s final home game of the 2017-18 season is against the Vancouver Stealth on April 28 at 7:05 p.m. ET. Fan Appreciation Night is presented by Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating, and early arriving fans will receive a Swarm Team Poster. Award-winning band Lifehouse will perform during halftime and postgame in the Atlanta Classic Cars Mercedes-Benz Goal Zone Club. Fans can get tickets at GeorgiaSwarm.com/Fan or by calling 844-4-GASWARM.