The Georgia Swarm (11-8) left it all on the floor in the fourth quarter of the East Division Finals but ultimately came up short 9-8 against the Rochester Knighthawks (12-8) on Saturday. The defending champions had fans on their feet at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena during the final minutes, but Rochester managed to hold on and prevent Georgia from its second-consecutive NLL Finals.
The Swarm used a three-goal run in the fourth quarter to get to 8-7, but an inconclusive replay and quick goal from the Knighthawks was enough to keep Georgia from advancing. Miles Thompson scored half of Georgia’s goals, and goaltender Mike Poulin and the Swarm defense kept Georgia in the thick of things as the offense managed to climb back within one goal in the final quarter.
The first half of the East Division Finals was a defensive clinic from both sides, 30 minutes of pressure causing wide shots on goal and goaltenders Matt Vinc and Poulin stuffing transition shots with ease. The only offensive production in the first half came from Rochester’s Cody Jamieson and Georgia’s Miles Thompson. Both scored power play goals in the first quarter and one more each in the second to end the second quarter tied at two apiece.
While the teams retired to the locker rooms until the second half, Thompson Square came out and performed in the Atlanta Class Cars Mercedes-Benz Goal Zone Club. The country music act would return after the game for another 30-minute performance.
The third quarter was another low-scoring affair, with Randy Staats being the only Swarm player to score. However, Rochester was able to tack on two more, and the third quarter ended with the visiting team up 4-3.
The Knighthawks came out firing in the final quarter courtesy of Eric Fannell. Staats tallied another goal, but Rochester quickly racked up a four-goal lead, 8-4. Miles and Lyle Thompson managed to get the Swarm back within one goal. Lyle had a spectacular shot waived off, and Austin Shanks scored quickly before Comeau threw out the challenge flag. The call was upheld due to inconclusive evidence, and Rochester was up 9-7.
Georgia refused to go away quietly. After a few minutes of aggressive defense from both sides, Shayne Jackson used a spectacular clear from Connor Sellars to score the final Swarm goal of the 2017-18 season. Georgia’s players stepped up the aggression another level in the final 2:10 min. The team pressed Rochester’s players in transition and caused turnovers and made quality shots on goal. Unfortunately, Vinc and the Knighthawks defense held on to win, 9-8.
Jackson led Georgia with six points (1G, 5A), and Miles (4G, 1A) and Staats (2G, 3A) had five points apiece. Poulin made 35 saves on 44 SOG, finishing with a .795 SV%.
Rochester was led by Jamieson and his four points (3G, 1A). Vinc earned the postseason win after making 46 saves on 54 SOG, good for a .851 SV%.
It was not how Georgia wanted to end the season, but it can take pride in Saturday’s hard-fought game. The Swarm organization wants to thank all of its fans for supporting the defending champions during the 2017-18 season.