(Rochester, NY) – The Georgia Swarm (13-4) clinched the No. 1 overall seed in the 2017 NLL playoffs with a 13-10 win against the Rochester Knighthawks (6-11) Friday night at Blue Cross Arena. Georgia’s fifth-straight win will not be celebrated for long as both teams now fly south quickly for the final game of the season at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena.
For the second week in a row, Georgia ended an East Division rival’s playoff chances. Rochester kept the game tight for most of the 60 minutes, allowing Georgia to lead by five goals for only a minute and a half before bringing it back within three quickly in the fourth quarter.
“We were playing well,” head coach Ed Comeau said. “Mike Poulin made a lot of real big saves in the fourth which helped us. Rochester – credit to them – they didn’t quit. They played hard right to the final buzzer. Again, Poulin made some big saves in the fourth that helped keep our margin and helped us get the win.”
Assistant captain Shayne Jackson led the squad in points, recording seven (2G, 5A). Lyle Thompson (2G, 3A), Randy Staats (1G, 4A), and Johnny Powless (3G, 2A) all finished with five points each. Poulin faced a shot a minute, blocking 50 of them to end with a 10 GAA and an .833 SV%. Georgia went 3-for-4 on power play opportunities while preventing Rochester from scoring on four of its five power play chances.
“We had a pretty good plan on the power play,” Comeau said. “Your best penalty killer is your goalie, and I thought Poulin made some real good saves on some pretty good quality shots. Our man-short has been one of our strengths all year.”
Powless started the scoring in the contest over five minutes into the first quarter, netting the ball off a pass from S. Jackson. Team captain Jordan MacIntosh followed up 44 seconds later with an unassisted transition goal. Lyle then took advantage of a power play opportunity to put Georgia up 3-0 with 3:14 min. left in the first quarter.
Rochester went on a four-goal run in response. Kyle Jackson capped the run 4:11 min. into the second quarter. The Knighthawks would not retain the lead for long as Powless, fed again from S. Jackson, tied the game with a shot over Rochester’s goaltender Matt Vinc’s right shoulder. Staats shot through a thicket of players almost five minutes later to give the Swarm the lead again. Cory Vitarelli tied things up on a power play. With five seconds left in the quarter, Jordan Hall shot the ball into the net past Vinc. Georgia went to the locker room up 6-5.
Kyle Jackson started the scoring off in the final 30 minutes with a goal under Poulin, tying things up once again. S. Jackson retaliated almost five minutes later from a pass from Staats to narrowly get it through a window by Vinc’s left hip. Poulin would make some great man-down one-on-one saves before earning his second assist of the night, clearing to MacIntosh for his second goal in the game, a shorthand one.
Kiel Matisz and Bryan Cole widened the lead for Georgia with two more goals, putting the Swarm up 10-6. Rochester responded before the third quarter was up with two of its own from Dan Dawson and Joe Resetarits.
Georgia had one more run in it as Lyle started a three-goal run in the fourth from a pass from Staats. S. Jackson and Powless scored their final goals of the night on the power play, widening the lead by five. With a minute and a half left, Rochester fought back hard, utilizing an extra attacker to score from Vitarelli and following up nearly half a minute later with an unassisted goal from Resetarits. Georgia was able to kill the clock afterwards, however, and ended the night – and Rochester’s playoff hopes – with a final score of 13-10.
“The Buffalo game two weeks ago in Georgia when they scored 16 on us was kind of a wake-up call defensively,” MacIntosh said. “We obviously have a pretty high-powered offense, and I think that was covering our butts for some of those games, but we really had a reality check against Buffalo and those 16 goals on us. Got to give a lot of credit to our defensive coach Sean Ferris…”
Both teams will pack up quickly and prepare themselves for an early flight as they fly south to The Hive for their final regular season game on Saturday, April 29. Faceoff is set for 7:05 p.m.
“It’s never easy in this league doing that, but a lot of teams have done it,” Comeau concluded. “The team we’re playing tomorrow is on the same early flight, travel day that we are. The guys have talked about proper rest and recovery, and we’ll get back at it tomorrow night in Georgia.”
The Swarm will be celebrating Fan Appreciation Night on Saturday, April 29. The first 3,000 fans will receive a commemorative team poster. All players and coaches will be available after the game for autographs. Fans can take advantage of the team’s Playoff Push package by calling 844-4-GASWARM or by visiting GeorgiaSwarm.com/PlayoffPush for $25 lower level tickets.
Georgia will also host Game 2 of the East Division Finals on Saturday, May 20. The first playoff game to be played at The Hive, fans can purchase lower level seats for as low as $20 by calling 844-4-GASWARM or by visiting GeorgiaSwarm.com/Playoff.
Play of the Game:
MacIntosh gets the honors tonight. In the third quarter, Georgia was man-down. MacIntosh received a clear from Poulin, seeing his defender fall literally behind him. One-on-one for the second time tonight, MacIntosh shot the ball on Vinc’s left side. Vinc got a glove on it – again, literally – but it bounced down and into the goal to put Georgia up 8-6 with a shorthand goal. It marked the first time Georgia had been up by two goals since the first quarter, a clear momentum changer as Georgia swarmed to victory.
“We do a throw like that pretty much every practice and shoot around where Poulie kind of throws one ball like the way we played it,” MacIntosh said about the play. “You’ve got pinpoint accuracy as you saw by that pass. I barely had to move my stick. Just trying to get out and cause some transition opportunities, lucky to catch it and squeak it under Vinc’s arm. Really, Poulie was the star athlete.”
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