With just two games left in their 2018-19 regular season, the Georgia Swarm (12-4) find themselves in a great position, having moved into a tie for first in the NLL and becoming the only team to secure home-floor advantage in the first round of the postseason. Their work is not done, however, as they travel to Scotiabank Saddledome on Friday, April 12 to take on the Calgary Roughnecks (8-8) for the only time this season.
Faceoff is set for 9:30 p.m. ET. Friday’s game will be broadcast on the B/R Live app available through iTunes, Google Play, Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire.
The Swarm have won five-straight games and are seeking their sixth against their West Division foe. Last Friday, the Swarm downed the San Diego Seals 17-10 in their first-ever meeting at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena.
“Our guys have done a really good job of preparing each week over the last number of weeks, and our offensive and defensive coaches have done a good job of creating game plans,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “When you get to this time of year, the intensity and focus of all individual across the league increases. You hope teams are trying to get to a spot where you’re playing your best at the right time of year, and I think we’re heading in that direction, but lots of work to do.”
The Roughnecks got back to .500 with a 18-13 Saturday win against the Philadelphia Wings. Calgary has also locked up a playoff spot of its own, but the team is now trying to improve its seeding as much as possible to hopefully earn home-floor advantage in the early rounds of the playoffs.
Unfortunately for them, the Swarm stand in their way. Over the last five games, the Swarm are averaging 15 GF/GAME and 9.8 GA/GAME.
“I think our guys have really bought into what we’re trying to do,” Comeau said about the offense’s resurgence. “We’ve really done a nice job of sharing the ball, but more importantly, our pick and roll game and our cutting in the middle has really improved, and as a result, we’ve been able to generate much higher quality shots than we were early in the season.”
In addition to leading the Swarm in points, Lyle Thompson and Randy Staats sit No. 2 and No. 4 in points in the NLL, Lyle at 93 (40G, 53A) and Staats at 92 (34G, 58A). Holden Cattoni (22G, 50A) will get to play against his former team for the first time since being traded to the Swarm.
Goaltender Mike Poulin is turning in one of the best seasons in his 14-year career. He has an 11-4 record to go with his 10.66 GAA and .796 SV%.
The Roughnecks boast the top points scorer in the NLL in Dane Dobbie with 99 points (39G, 60A). Behind him are Curtis Dickson with 69 points (30G, 39A) and Rhys Duch with 67 points (26G, 41A).
“You can’t put all your eggs into one basket and try and stop one guy because someone else is going to step up,” Comeau said. “Every one of those players on that team is capable of having a big fix or six-goal night. We certainly have to have a good game plan for Dobbie and Dickson and the others, but we really need to focus on our team’s defense.”
Christian Del Bianco has played between the pipes for almost all of the Roughnecks’ season. His record matches the team’s, and he has an 11.25 GAA and a .783 SV%.
“They’re a well-coached team; they’re well-prepared,” Comeau said about the Roughnecks. “They play well at home and usually have big crowds. For us, what they’ve done in the past isn’t as important as how we’re going to prepare for them Friday night … Their goalie is probably the best young goalie in the league, they’ve got lots of weapons on offense, and their defense has been playing a lot better.”
The two teams have not met since Jan. 13, 2018. That 15-12 road Swarm win marked the first time the Swarm beat the Roughnecks in Scotiabank Saddledome since 2012. With that streak ended and their strong play of late, the Swarm are focused on their penultimate regular season game and sending the home crowd home disappointed.
“Our focus is on, ‘Hey, what we’ve done in the past is great, but we need to focus on what we’ve got to do to get ready for Calgary and continue to try and play at the high level we’re playing at right now…” Comeau said. “We’re talking about this being the playoffs. When you play games late in the season that have implications of our playoff standings and Calgary’s playoff standings, then no matter what you call this game, it’s a playoff game.”
The Swarm return home on Saturday, April 20 to take on the Philadelphia Wings and host Fan Appreciation Night presented by Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC. Faceoff is set for 7:05 p.m. ET. Early arriving fans can receive a Swarm Team Poster courtesy of Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC, and Swarm players will be available postgame for autographs on the floor. Tickets are available by calling 844-4-GASWARM or by visiting GeorgiaSwarm.com/Fan.
The Swarm will host the East Division Semifinals at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena on Monday, May 6. Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET. Tickets are on sale now at GeorgiaSwarm.com/Playoffs. Ticket packages include two-game and four-game playoff packs and are available by calling 844-4-GASWARM.