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While the Swarm is often rightly identified as one of the fastest and most athletic teams in the NLL, the team’s resilience and hunger took center stage towards the end of the 2016 season. After a 4-9 start, the Swarm made a strong postseason push, going 4-1 in the last five games to achieve a playoff berth, and finished the season 8-10.
This perseverance was on display during the East Divisional Semifinals against the New England Black Wolves, a win-or-go-home contest. After a back-and-forth battle for the first half, the Black Wolves started pulling ahead 11-8 in the third quarter. But the Swarm never quit, rattling off four unanswered goals to take the lead by the end of the quarter, 12-11.
A defensive fourth quarter ended with the two teams tied at 13 and taking the thrilling game to overtime. A holding penalty in overtime put the Black Wolves man-up. Shawn Evans of the Black Wolves took advantage, scoring the winning goal and ending the Swarm’s run for the Champion’s Cup.
“We battled really hard in the second half of the season to get here and I’m really proud of the team,” team Captain Jordan MacIntosh said that evening after the loss. “Tonight, we played one of our best games of the season. We battled really hard with a good team that we had played a lot of times.”
Not content with just a taste of the postseason and their hard-fought first season in a new home, the Swarm has been busy shoring up their roster over the offseason and training during their three training camp sessions in December.
“Last year’s playoff loss did not sit well with us,” Swarm Owner and GM John Arlotta said. “I’m extremely proud of the work and commitment our coaches and players put forth this offseason in an effort to win a Champion’s Cup in 2017.”
The team still trends young with only seven players on the 20-man roster having more than four years of experience in the NLL. But this young team surprised everyone else in the NLL last year with its second-ranked offense.
“We always pride ourselves on being a fast, hungry team coming out of the defensive end,” assistant captain Jason Noble said. “… We’re always in your face. It doesn’t matter if we’re the biggest, but we’re going to be the fastest. We’re always going to be in your gloves, in your face, and we’re never going to go away.”
Four Swarm rookies (Lyle Thompson, Jesse King, Chad Tutton, and Randy Staats) were named to the 2016 All-Rookie Team, a six-man team featuring the best rookies across the NLL (King is unlikely to play in 2017 after sustaining an ACL injury over the summer).
Staats set a new NLL single-season rookie scoring record with 95 points. He led all Swarm rookies in points, goals (36) and assists (59), and won the NLL ROY award.
“Having four of the six players on the All-Rookie Team is a testament to the hard work and professionalism that these four individuals displayed during their rookie season,” Arlotta said. “This rookie class will be remembered many years down the road as one of the most talented in league history, and that’s something we’re incredibly proud of.”
The Swarm’s front office wasted no time moving forward after the 2016 season, making big waves by signing veteran goaltender Mike Poulin to a three-year contract on the very first day of free agency and trading for veteran forward Jordan Hall a little over a month later.
Poulin spent the past six-and-a-half seasons with the Calgary Roughnecks, going to the postseason every year. He won Goaltender of the Year in 2012. Poulin has a career record of 53-39, 11.46 GAA and .763 SV%. In 22 career postseason games, he sports an 8-9 record with 11.22 GAA and .772 SV%.
“I want to go out and be a champion,” Poulin said when asked about signing with the Swarm. “I think the team to do that is in Georgia. I think we have a great opportunity in front of us with some good players we’ve brought in and some assets that we have in terms of picks and injured players coming back.”
“We brought in athletes, but we also brought in good character people,” Poulin said when talking about the team during their training camp. “Everybody came in with no egos and all of our cards on the table, understanding this is what we want to do.”
Hall brings veteran experience on the opposite side of the floor from Poulin. The lefty has totaled 536 points (185g, 351a) over his nine-year NLL career. He won a championship with the Rochester Knighthawks in 2012 in addition to appearing in the Champion’s Cup with the New York Titans under head coach Ed Comeau and assistant coach Sean Ferris.
“I was fortunate to work with Jordan with the Titans and with Team Canada field and box,” Comeau said. “He brings a great skill set along with veteran leadership and character.
“We believe his integration to our team will be seamless and our players are looking forward to seeing Jordan in a Swarm jersey.”
In the 2016 NLL Draft, the Swarm shored up its defense, selecting transition Bryan Cole (No. 4 overall, University of Maryland) with the team’s first pick and defenseman Connor Sellars (No. 10 overall, Belmont Abbey College) in the first round.
With other transition and defense rookies like Liam Byrnes, Leo Stouros, and Sean Young joining the team, the Swarm has improved an already formidable backfield featuring veterans Alex Crepinsek and Mitch Belisle.
“We were looking for defense in this draft and Bryan is a big, left-handed transition player who can also play some offense if called upon,” Arlotta said. “Connor is more of a stay-at-home defender but has incredible stick skills as well and played attack in college. He very much wants to be a stay-at-home defender and is focused on that and is excited to be that guy for us.”
The Swarm’s front office never stopped trying to improve the team they will put out on the floor in 2017, evidenced by the signing of John Ranagan on Dec. 19. Ranagan was released by the Black Wolves in December, and the Swarm quickly began working on signing him.
The Swarm is familiar with Ranagan, a 6’3” 218 lb. gritty defenseman who was part of the Black Wolves postseason victory over the Swarm in the 2016 season. In two playoff games with the Black Wolves in 2016, Ranagan collected seven loose balls and caused three turnovers.
Joining Comeau and Ferris on the Swarm’s coaching staff is Dan Ladouceur, replacing Blane Harrison who retired from the NLL after the 2016 season.
Ladouceur spent 15 years with the Toronto Rock, 11 as a player and four as an assistant coach. He was part of five championship teams during his time as a player and helped coach the Rock to the Champion’s Cup Finals during the 2015 season.
“We are very pleased to add both the coaching ability and character of Dan Ladouceur to our staff,” Comeau said. “… We believe (his) experience will help us further develop our team to achieve our ultimate goal of an NLL Championship.”
“It was a team that you knew was never going to quit and was absolutely chock-full of young legs and full of energy,” Ladouceur said in regards to competing against the Swarm. “And most recently obviously, it has an offense that will give you absolute fits when you look at it from a defensive perspective. The threats are evenly balanced on both the lefts and the rights in my opinion.
“ … (T)he way they (Swarm players) communicate and the level that they play together and want to get each other open for scoring opportunities – I didn’t expect this level of unselfishness and creativity.”
The Swarm has a tough season ahead of it in a league chock-full of championship-caliber teams, a fact underscored with the first match of the season being against the back-to-back champion Saskatchewan Rush. But Swarm players are excited for the challenge ahead.
“As an athlete, as a competitor, what better way to test your skill set and to test your competitive level than to play against the best?” rookie Bryan Cole said. “That’s why you want to play in the NLL. That’s why you want to play at the highest level. Try and be the best at the best level.”
As if players and fans did not have enough to be excited about with the 2017 season starting soon, the Thompson Brothers will break a world record when all four take the floor on Jan. 7 and compete. Lyle, Miles, and Jerome of the Swarm will face off against the eldest brother Jeremy when the Rush come to town for the opener.
“Having four incredibly talented siblings and world class lacrosse athletes play in our League is a rare feat, and a testament to their athletic skill and passion for box lacrosse,” Nick Sakiewicz, Commissioner of the National Lacrosse League, said.
“The Swarm and Rush going head-to-head will be an intense, action-packed and thrilling game of brother vs. brother. It’s a truly a historic moment – for the sport, the League, and the Thompson Brothers. This is a once in a lifetime and cannot miss event.”
Georgia opens the season at home against the two-time defending champion Saskatchewan Rush on Saturday, Jan. 7 at 7:05 p.m. ET from Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena.
In celebration of the world record breaking historic event when the Thompson Brothers face off at the season opener, the Swarm has put together a “Thompson Brothers 4-Pack” ticket package. Fans who purchase the package and use the PROMO CODE: TSHIRT at GeorgiaSwarm.com/HomeOpener or by calling 844-4-GASWARM will receive (4) Lower Level Tickets and (4) Commemorative T-Shirts.
Select fans that purchase will also have the chance to win VIP experiences during the game such as a pre-game photo with all four Thompson Brothers at centerfield, Thompson Brothers/Swarm apparel and autographed Lyle Thompson Bobble-Braids. Following the game, the entire Swarm team along with the Thompson Brothers will be available on the turf for autographs and photos. Fans outside of the metro Atlanta area can catch the game LIVE via NLLTV.com.