The Georgia Swarm (7-1) gets back to business this week as the team prepares for a game against the Calgary Roughnecks (3-5) at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday, Mar. 4. Faceoff is set for 9:30 p.m. ET.
A well-timed bye week gave the Georgia Swarm a breather to rest and reflect on how their best start in franchise history has gone. In addition to having the best offense and team record in the NLL, Georgia also delivers with a defense that seems to grow stronger with every game.
After the time off, head coach Ed Comeau and the rest of his team are ready to get back to work and improve on their franchise-best record. Georgia turns its attention to Calgary as the Swarm looks to improve their league-best record further, with a win over a West Division opponent that is 1-4 at home this season.
“We know they’re (Calgary) a good team that hasn’t played very well at home,” Comeau said, “and that’s a lot of pressure on them to play well at home. They’re on a little bit of a losing streak right now, but I think they’re a better team than what they’ve shown. We expect them to be at their best on Saturday night.
Saturday’s game marks the first time Calgary and Georgia will face each other in 2017. Last year, the two teams met twice, with the Roughnecks winning both contests. The Swarm led late into the second halves in both contests but were unable to seal the deal against Calgary, something returning players will be looking to rectify. Both teams ended the 2016 season with an 8-10 record.
Looking to build on their 2016 West Division Finals appearance, Calgary started the season off 3-1 before going all of February without a win. Before Calgary welcomes Georgia to Scotiabank Saddledome, it will visit the Colorado Mammoth for a West Division matchup Friday, Mar. 3, at the Pepsi Center.
While the Swarm lead the league averaging 14.88 goals for per game, the Roughnecks will roll out the second-worst offense in the NLL, averaging 11.25 goals for per game. Led by 2011 Rookie of the Year Curtis Dickson (25G, 21A), Calgary will be desperate to generate momentum the right way in a weekend that could severely affect its playoff seeding. The team will need him to score, a feat he was unable to do against Saskatchewan’s Aaron Bold last week.
Contrasting its offense is Calgary’s defense, the third-best in the NLL (11.63 GA/GAME). Having only given up 93 goals in eight games, Calgary will place either veteran Frank Scigliano (11.74 GAA, .748 SV%) or Christian Del Bianco (12.54 GAA, .739 SV%) between the pipes. Del Bianco has seen time in all eight of Calgary’s games, and held the two-time defending Saskatchewan to 12 goals in their game decided in overtime last weekend.
Georgia will be respond with an offense led by second-year forward Lyle Thompson. The leading points scorer for a week (59 points in eight games), it took a Georgia bye week and a ninth Vancouver Stealth game for Corey Small to claim the top of the standings, and then only by two points (Lyle, Small, and Dickson are all tied for first in the NLL in goals for). The unselfish Swarm player will not be eying a reclamation of the top spot, instead desiring a win for the team.
Lyle is joined by a bevy of Swarm scorers. Jordan Hall (12G, 30A), assistant captain Shayne Jackson (16G, 15A), Jerome Thompson (6G, 20A), Miles Thompson (8G, 15A), and Kiel Matisz (11G, 13A) will look to bolster the club to an 8-1 record. Three-time NLL champion Johnny Powless (4G, 6A) will play in only his third game of the season. Randy Staats (12G, 16A) will still be out with an injury.
Facing his old team for the first time since 2009, Mike Poulin (11.51 GAA, .793 SV%) will look to have similar results much like he did eight years ago, when he held Calgary to only 10 goals in 60 minutes of action with the Boston Blazers. Poulin spent six-and-a-half years with the Roughnecks, going to the postseason every year and the Champion’s Cup finals in 2014. With Georgia, Poulin has earned a 6-1 record, tied with Bold for the best amongst goalies. He has made 295 saves in over 400 min. of playing time.
Poulin will be surrounded by a strong defense featuring assistant captain Jason Noble, Alex Crepinsek, John Ranagan, Ethan O’Connor, and Chad Tutton. Amongst the five of them, they have collected 169 loose balls while causing 39 turnovers. Georgia’s defense has only allowed 95 goals in eight games.
“(We’ll) try to limit the runs that Calgary has,” Comeau said. “Having played there a number of times, they score a couple of goals, the crowd gets behind them, and that turns into a few more, so really trying to manage that. They’ve got a few real big guns that we have to pay extra attention to … They’re really starting to run the ball more, create opportunities in transition.”
With the Toronto Rock falling a game further back in the standings after a 15-12 loss to the Buffalo Bandits last weekend, Georgia will use the opportunity to widen the gap with an inter-divisional win.
Broadcast Info: Fans can catch the game LIVE via NLLTV.com.
Georgia returns to Harrah’s Cherokee Field at Infinite Energy Arena for a rematch against Calgary on Friday, Mar. 17. Faceoff is set for 7:35 p.m. ET. Tickets are available by calling 844-4-GASWARM or by visiting GeorgiaSwarm.com/SingleGame.