A valiant last-ditch effort pulled the Georgia Swarm (12-7) back within two goals, but it was too little, too late as they fell 16-14 to the Toronto Rock (13-6) on Monday. A final crowd of 8,862 fans at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena watched as the Swarm failed to advance to the East Division Finals against the Buffalo Bandits on Saturday, May 11.
“I don’t think our team and our defense and our offense was at their best, so that was kind of a whole group (thing),” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “I said to the guys after, that’s the lesson in this league. If you want to have success, you’ve got to be at or near your best for a lot of the game, and we weren’t.”
The game started with both teams firing often. Lyle Thompson put the home team up within the first 21 seconds of the game, followed quickly by Randy Staats. The Rock went on a four-goal run, but a three-goal response from the Swarm gave them the 5-4 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Five-straight goals from the Rock reversed the tide at Infinite Energy Arena, as five different Rock players found the back of the net. Miles Thompson used a power play goal to cut into the Rock’s run, a Kieran McArdle five-hole shot had enough on it to trickle in, and Holden Cattoni ripped in the final goal of the first half. The Swarm were down 10-7.
Tom Schreiber quickly widened the Rock’s lead to four goals in the third quarter, and a defensive battle ensued for the next 10 minutes. Two more Rock goals gave them their biggest lead of the night, but a faceoff win and dunking goal from Jordan MacIntosh cut into their lead. The two goalies swapped nets for the final time that night with the Rock up 13-8.
“(The Rock) got a few there in the second quarter, a couple squeakers in,” Comeau said. “Lacrosse is a big momentum game. You always want to hold it; you never want to give it up. They certainly had momentum, and we were playing from behind … We were chasing after it all night. But that’s lacrosse. It’s a game of runs, and sometimes you’re on the right side, and sometimes you’re on the wrong side.”
The Swarm began to mount a comeback slowly in the fourth quarter. They found themselves within three goals before two quick goals from the Rock put the differential back at five. The Swarm started going with the extra attacker in the final five minutes of the game. Another Cattoni rocket found its way past the opposing netminder before Adam Jones scored an empty net goal.
With under three minutes left to play, the Swarm shot furiously. A power play goal from Staats and extra attacker goals from Lyle and Jackson whittled the Rock’s lead down to just two goals, but a strong defensive effort from the Rock in the final 1:34 min. ran out the clock. The Swarm fell in the first round of the NLL Playoffs, losing 16-14.
Jackson’s eight points (2G, 6A) led the Swarm in their final game of the 2018-19 season. Lyle was next in scoring with seven (3G, 4A), followed by Staats with six (3G, 3A). Goaltender Mike Poulin made 33 saves on 48 SOG.
For the Rock, Jones led the team with nine points (3G, 6A). Rob Hellyer (2G, 4A), Dan Craig (2G, 4A) and Schreiber (4G, 2A) all finished with six points each. Nick Rose made 35 saves on 49 SOG.
The Swarm now prepare for next season. Another expansion draft is on the horizon as the Halifax Thunderbirds and New York Riptide join the league for the 2019-20 season. Between that and the 2019 NLL Entry Draft, changes will come once again to the Swarm. And with the special group of men that wore blue and yellow this season, Comeau knows the upcoming adversity will test the Swarm once again.
“Just a character group of guys, and we battled hard,” Comeau said. “The sounds of silence in a dress room where there’s a loss is a sound you never want to hear. We can’t do anything about it now, but we’ve got to refocus and next year get ourselves – there will be lots of changes like there is every year now in our league, but certainly get ourselves in a position that we come back and compete and try to get back to the top.”