The Georgia Swarm (7-2) are seeking their best start in franchise history this Saturday, Feb. 9, and their potential eighth win of the season will have to come against the Buffalo Bandits (6-2) on Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena. Faceoff is set for 7:05 p.m. ET.
The Swarm will be hosting Native Heritage Night presented by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort. Saturday night will honor and celebrate the roots of lacrosse and feature a pregame educational program from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Early arriving fans will receive a Mike Poulin bobblehead presented by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Fans can get their tickets at GeorgiaSwarm.com/NativeHeritageNight or by calling 844-4-GASWARM.
The Swarm are coming off a productive doubleheader weekend. Last Friday, they took the season series against the New England Black Wolves with a 10-8 home win. Lyle Thompson led the team with seven points (3G, 4A), as Poulin posted an .826 SV%.
The next night, the Swarm played in Blue Cross Arena against the Rochester Knighthawks. The Swarm offense came alive in the 16-12 road victory. Holden Cattoni (5G, 6A), Shayne Jackson (3G, 4A), Randy Staats (3G, 8A) and Lyle (4G, 5A) put on an offensive clinic, accounting for 37 of the Swarm’s 44 points that night.
“I just thought I moved my feet probably the best I have all year,” Cattoni said about his play on Saturday. “Obviously when you score five in a game, there’s an element of kind of luck to it where you get a number of good looks, and that’s all due to my teammates. It’s not often you get that many prime scoring chances, and I was fortunate enough to bury them. Hopefully, I can do it again and keep a good thing going against Buffalo.”
Goaltender Kevin Orleman played his first NLL game ever between the pipes, earning his first NLL win after making 33 saves and posting a .733 SV%.
“Back-to-back weekends are really tough on our team, and we’re happy to get two wins and happy to come out of them relatively healthy,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “That’s a huge thing.”
The Swarm now prepare for a Bandits team coming off of a 15-12 win last Saturday against the Colorado Mammoth.
The Bandits feature the top offense in the NLL – averaging 14.38 GF/GAME – and are led by Shawn Evans and his 51 points (15G, 36A). Dhane Smith sits next on the team in points with 42 (12G, 30A), followed by Corey Small with 35 (17G, 18A) and Josh Byrne (8G, 23A).
Goaltender Matt Vinc signed with the Bandits in free agency and has helped solidify the back end for them. In 446:54 min. this season, Vinc has a 10.74 GAA and a .795 SV%.
“They’ve got a pretty dynamic offense, and they’ve got a defense with a lot of guys down there that can turn miscues, shots off net, turnovers, transition opportunities into goals,” Comeau said. “We’re going to have to be very good in both ends of the floor, and certainly we’re going to have to shoot very well on Matt Vinc.”
For Georgia, Staats leads the team and NLL in points with 56 and assists with 38. Lyle leads the team and NLL in goals with 27, and his 54 points are the second-most in the NLL.
“I think those guys really work for each other,” Comeau said about the duo. “Watching the game over the weekend and Lyle scores a great goal in the third quarter of the Rochester game where Randy sets a great pick for him to come around and shoot, and then Randy scores a goal where Lyle sets a great pick.
“I think not only the quality of play of those two players, but also the fact that they work hard for each other, and that to me is the real indication of the type of people and type of players they are, that they’re happy when the team wins. They’re not worried about their points and their personal success, and they do whatever they need to do to help each other and the team win.”
After his 11-point Saturday, Cattoni now sits with 44 points (16G, 28A). Poulin tops the league with 315 saves and has a 10.75 GAA and a .786 SV%.
Saturday’s game marks the beginning of the Swarm’s second half of the 2018-19 season. While there is significant separation between the top three East Division teams and the bottom three, the Swarm are looking for home floor advantage at the end of the season.
A win against Buffalo – sitting in second place in the East Division – would help the Swarm remain virtually in first place as the 6-1 Toronto Rock enjoy a bye week.
“We want to play dynamic; we want to play fast, as well,” Comeau said. “But we want to be the one that dictates the pace, not necessarily letting them dictate the pace of the game. That’s the ultimate goal, and come Saturday night at nine o’clock, we’ll probably have a better idea of whether we did that or not.”
For fans not in attendance, Saturday’s game will be broadcast on the B/R Live app available through iTunes, Google Play, Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire. Fans can also listen to the game on Atlanta Sports X 1230 AM/106.3 FM.