Fun fact from the Georgia Swarm’s 15-14 win against the Rochester Knighthawks last Friday: Miles Thompson had three assists, and all three were cross-crease feeds to Shayne Jackson.
This is a familiar sight for Swarm fans over the years, that M2J connection and vice versa. The two are deadly at the low slots, and their ability to pass across the crease to one another and their catch-and-release skills are a deadly combination for opposing goaltenders.
Getting to see three of these cross-crease plays in one game was a welcome treat and key to the Swarm winning their third-straight game. Because of their importance, we of course have to take a look at them in detail to see what made M2J so successful Friday night.
Usually when we think of cross-crease play, we’re thinking of Miles and Jackson on the low posts by the crease, Miles on the right side and Jackson on the left. That work is mostly west to east or vice versa, which is difficult for the goaltender to jump from one post to another with all those pads on to defend.
On the power play early in the second quarter, the Swarm actually found themselves on a broken play as a bobbled pass went towards the mid-line.
Lyle Thompson did a great job of getting the ball and making a pass behind him to Randy Staats, who quickly made a behind-the-back pass of his own to Miles.
This broken play ended up being fortunate for the Swarm since it simultaneously over-stretched the Knighthawks’ penalty kill formation. They went from settled in their man-down square…
…to incredibly spread out as Brad Gillies pressured Lyle. Following the pass, Jake Withers slid to Staats, Luc Magnan stayed on Jackson, and Darryl Robertson stuck to Holden Cattoni. So we went from the above photo to the one below.
This is right after Staats makes his pass to Miles, and you can see how much room there is on the floor. Miles was essentially one-on-one with Warren Hill, and the former Swarm goaltender hugged that post like his life depended on it. Unfortunately, that made it hard for him to swap to the other post where Jackson awaited.
It helped that Robertson and Magnan slid to try and stop Miles and get in the way of Cattoni streaking toward the crease. That being said, this is the typical cross-crease work we’re used to seeing from Miles and Jackson.
The other two M2J goals were atypical since they both went south to north.
The first one also came on the power play for the Swarm, this time in the third quarter. Starting in the loss to the Colorado Mammoth, the Swarm have been mixing up their offensive systems, resulting in more players setting up behind the crease (it’s also led to a new way for Lyle to score: dunk goals). In this play, Miles went behind the net and received a pass from Staats. While he did this, Jackson cut to the front of the crease.
Magnan stayed with Jackson for a bit, but Miles looked like he was going to run out from around the crease, and Cattoni had moved lower on the left side, causing some confusion and leaving Jackson with the window he wanted. Jackson’s a prolific catch-and-release shooter, and Hill not knowing who Miles had passed the ball to was all Jackson needed to score his hat trick.
Here’s a closer and slightly slower view which better highlights the confusion in the crease.
The second north to south M2J work was also the game-winner for the Swarm.
Both sides were tied at 14 in the fourth quarter, and this time, they were five-on-five. The play started with Brendan Bomberry trying to make an underhand pass to Zed Williams, but the ref got in the way, resulting in Bomberry essentially passing to himself. While this happened, Miles – who was being pressed by Oran Horn on the crease – circled behind the net once again.
Miles received the feed from Bomberry, and he did not hold onto it long. Jackson was cutting across the crease ahead of Brandon Robinson, and Miles took advantage of the opening he had due to Horn circling in front of the crease to cut him off and made the quick pass to Jackson. Hill rocked the cradle a little as Jackson displayed his catch-and-release skills again to go stickside.
In the last two goals we’ve looked at, Jackson’s ability to cut to the crease, his prolific catch-and-release abilities, and Miles’ slick feeds were all in tune and able to take advantage of the Knighthawks’ defensive holes. It even worked in reverse for Miles’ lone goal of the game as he cut across the crease and received a crisp pass from Jackson to score right at the tip of the crease.
Their teamwork is a welcome sign to see in one of the Swarm’s most measured offensive performances of the season. Jackson himself made 10 shots – all on goal – and scored half of them.
Three cross-crease M2J goals in one night is comforting and one of the many weapons the Swarm need ready at all times as they look to close the season strong and earn the franchise another world championship.
The Swarm return to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino at Infinite Energy Arena on Friday, March 22 for the rubber match against the Toronto Rock (7-3). Faceoff is set for 7:35 p.m. ET.
The Swarm are hosting Faith & Family Night presented by Howard Brothers Hardware. North Point Community Church’s InsideOut Band will perform in the Swarm Goal Zone Club at halftime and postgame. Early arriving fans can receive a Swarm light-up foam stick courtesy of Howard Brothers Hardware. Call 844-4-GASWARM or visit GeorgiaSwarm.com/FaithAndFamilyNight for tickets.