The 2019-20 NLL season is finally here this weekend. And the Georgia Swarm get the honors of participating in the NLL Face-Off Weekend and being the expansion Rochester Knighthawks first opponent.
The offseason has been a veritable eternity, but like all things both good and bad, it must come to an end. So before we all settle in to watch the opening salvo of NLL games – which you can catch for FREE for the first two weekends on B/R Live! – let’s celebrate the new season with the first edition of the 2019-20 Hive Five series.
When you’re in the NLL long enough, the chances go down that you’ll experience something new. So while it may be a first for many of the Swarm men to participate in a franchise’s first game, it’s old hat for…
ED COMEAU AND DAN LADOUCEUR
“We played in Colorado when Colorado (Mammoth) started,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau recalled. “I remember that specifically. Not sure if there are any other ones or not, but yeah, I remember vividly being in Colorado. They actually delayed the start of the game because there were so many people out front trying to get in that the box office couldn’t keep up, so they delayed the game like half an hour. It was a really good game, went to overtime. Colorado beat us in overtime. I said at that point when there’s 16,000 people at the game, that’s the only time I’ve ever felt good about having a loss. It was a really good thing for our league.”
Comeau was an assistant coach for the Toronto Rock in that game, and Swarm assistant coach Dan Ladouceur was a fifth-year defenseman at the time.
Four expansion teams in the last two seasons is a great thing for the NLL, a sure sign of the growth the league has been experiencing. But the rough part of expansion is how teams have to lose valuable teammates to help those expansion teams be successful on the floor in their inaugural seasons. The Swarm have been no stranger to that, most recently witnessing the departures of…
JOHN RANAGAN AND HOLDEN CATTONI
In the 2019 NLL Expansion Draft, forward Holden Cattoni was selected by the Rochester Knighthawks No. 3 overall and defenseman John Ranagan was picked by the New York Riptide No. 4 overall, both in the second round.
The Swarm will see Ranagan three times in 2020, but this will be the first and last time during the 2019-20 season they will see Cattoni. His third year in the NLL was also his best, as he set new career-highs in assists (53) and points (80).
Change is an inherent facet of sports, and while sometimes that involves players leaving, other times it means…
The Swarm made a number of offseason moves to bring back players that were on the 2018-19 roster, but arguably their biggest moves were who they brought back from the 2017-18 roster.
Enter forward Jordan Hall and transition player Joel White.
Hall returns after a year with the Philadelphia Wings, where he put up 67 points (19G, 48A) with the expansion team. The 12-year NLL vet is an excellent feeder and has great chemistry with Shayne Jackson and Bryan Cole on the left side.
After missing the 2018-19 season, White returns to the Swarm on a one-year deal, same as Hall. It’s like having another first-round draft pick is how Comeau loves to describe having White back. A difference-maker known for the big play – scoring the game-tying goal with 3.7 seconds left in Game 2 of the 2017 NLL Finals ring a bell? – White gives the Swarm another veteran leader out the back door who is dangerous in transition.
Their return to the Swarm was immediately lauded by teammates, as White attested to after he re-signed. With their return, the Swarm roster now features 14 players who were part of the world championship 2017 Swarm team.
Knowing what you have in your arsenal is important, but the Knighthawks have a few questions about how their weapons will work together, typical questions for an…
Looking at their roster on paper, it’s hard to not be impressed by what the new Rochester team has:
Forwards (8): Phil Caputo, Holden Cattoni, Shawn Evans, Turner Evans, Curtis Knight, Dan Lintner, Dan Michel and Pat Saunders.
Defensemen (6): Matt Bennett, Paul Dawson, Dylan Evans, Tyler Gaulton, Jay Thorimbert and Doig Utting.
Transition (4): Cory Highfield, Ryland Rees, Thomas Whitty and Chris Willman.
Goaltenders (3): Steve Fryer, Rylan Hartley and Craig Wende
But until game time rolls around, no one will really know how everyone meshes together. The Swarm recognize this fact and have spent more time focusing on themselves and their mechanics.
Part of that focus has been bringing the new Swarm players up to speed, and on Saturday, we’ll get to see how well two of them managed to internalize the lessons taught to them in Training Camp. No pressure…
KASON TARBELL AND RYAN MACSPADYEN
Both selected in the first round of the 2019 NLL Entry Draft, Kason Tarbell and Ryan MacSpadyen join the Swarm’s dangerous transition team with some high expectations.
Tarbell comes from Cornell University and played in the MSL with the Six Nations Chiefs. He impressed in the WILC with the Iroquois Nationals, competing in the international games alongside Lyle Thompson, Miles Thompson, Randy Staats, and Zed Williams.
MacSpadyen is out of Mercy College and has spent a significant amount of time in the MSL with the Brooklin LC.
The newest faces to the Swarm defense will have to step right in to buoy a strong veteran back end, and Saturday’s game will be their first opportunity to show why the Swarm selected them in the first round.
It’ll be exciting for them as they get their first taste of NLL action, and don’t forget to mark your calendars to join in on the excitement. Remember, the first two weekends of NLL action are free on B/R Live. So at 7:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, make sure you’re ready to cheer on the men in blue and yellow wherever you are as they begin their quest for another world championship.