When the Swarm wins, there’s nothing more exciting to see. They are usually gutsy or comeback wins rife with an insane amount of skill and perseverance. You can tell the men are leaving it all out on the floor, and it’s nearly impossible not to get caught up in the action, win or loss. Trying to narrow the Swarm’s 11 regular season wins in 2017-18 down to just five was a difficult task, but five of them stood out in our minds and represented the best characteristics of the men in blue and yellow.
These are by no means definitively ranked. All five games had different qualities to them that made them memorable, and trying to decide where they rank with one another would be a disservice to those fond memories of stellar Swarm play. With this in mind, let’s kick the list off with the…
Rochester Knighthawks, W 14-11, December 30 at Infinite Energy Arena
Home openers are always special, but the Swarm’s home opener on December 30 had that extra je ne sais quoi going for it because the men in blue and yellow would receive their World Championship rings in the ceremony before the game, and the Swarm would unveil its World Championship banner above Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena.
Unfortunately, bad weather in the Northeast severely delayed the Rochester Knighthawks’ arrival. Both organizations went above and beyond to make the game happen, and it was worth the wait. Rochester came out firing to a quick four-goal lead before the Swarm collected itself and stormed to a home win.
The icing on the cake for the night was the start of the Swarm’s Concert Series, and ATL’s very own 2 Chainz kicked things off with style. During the delay, 2 Chainz put on a lacrosse clinic, then he put on a rap clinic at halftime.
After starting the season 0-2, the Swarm needed all the good that the home opener could provide, and it did on a number of levels. Rings, banners, 2 Chainz, and awesome fans who stuck through the delay and cheered the Swarm men on to victory.
Breaking a Curse
Calgary Roughnecks, W 15-12, January 13 at Scotiabank Saddledome
The defending champs had started the season off 1-3 and needed a win to get back on track. The good news was the men in blue and yellow would be squaring off against another 1-3 team. The bad news was it would be against the Roughnecks in Scotiabank Saddledome, a place the Swarm has not won in since 2012.
No better time to reverse bad trends than the present. The Swarm kept it close for half of the game before outscoring the home team 9-4 in the second half to run away with its first win in Alberta in nearly six years. Randy Staats put four between the pipes, and Shayne Jackson turned in his best game of the season, a nine-point (4G, 5A) performance from Mr. Consistency.
That night also marked Swarm goaltender Mike Poulin‘s first win in his old barn since leaving Calgary as a free agent. It’s always special to him visiting his old haunt where he spent nearly seven seasons as a Rigger, but getting that first win there in blue and yellow just sweetened the whole night.
Toronto Rock, W 14-13 OT, February 17 at Infinite Energy Arena
It might as well be carved in stone as a commandment that whenever the Rock come to play the Swarm in the Infinite Energy Arena, fans are in for some of the best lacrosse games they will ever see. If you’re the excitable type, then these games aren’t always good for the heart, but they do tend to come down to the wire.
The first meeting of the season between the constant rivals was everything fans could want. Toronto came out and broke the game open with five-straight goals before the Swarm responded with four-straight of its own. Georgia pulled ahead by a goal in the second quarter, but the Rock and Swarm finished the ends of the third and fourth quarter tied up. To overtime they would go. The last time Toronto and Georgia met in overtime in Duluth, the Rock came away with the victory. It would take some heroics to come away with the win.
No way you leave a game like that wanting your money back. It flat out delivered.
Toronto Rock, W 12-7, March 3 at Air Canada Centre
Georgia’s defense hit a turning point about mid-February. After a particularly rough doubleheader weekend, the back end seemed like it was coalescing. It certainly helped that Chad Tutton and Joel White made their returns to the Swarm defense around this time.
So when the Swarm quickly turned around from its heartbreaking March 2 loss to the Colorado Mammoth to travel to Toronto to take on the Rock in the second game of the weekend, there was this feeling that it would be a tight, defensive contest.
And it was certainly true, but not in the way Toronto probably wanted.
The East Division rival was effectively stonewalled by Poulin and the Swarm D. There was a stretch of 32:30 min. in the middle of the contest were the Rock offense could not find the back of the net. Not at even strength, man-up, benefiting from a 5-on-3 situation or a Swarm five-minute major penalty.
Beating up on a division rival always does good things for the ego, and it helped alleviate much of the sting from the previous night.
Playing for Humboldt
Saskatchewan Rush, W 16-10, April 14 at SaskTel Centre
Sometimes it’s about more than the game. When the Swarm visited SaskTel Centre in mid-April, Georgia and Saskatchewan joined together to play for the Humboldt community, hit by the tragic loss of 16 lives when the bus transporting the Humboldt Broncos Jr. A Hockey Team wrecked on April 6. The two organizations wore special Humboldt Broncos-themed jerseys during the game and auctioned off the game-worn jerseys after the game’s conclusion. All proceeds went to the Humboldt community.
There was still lacrosse to be played that night, and Georgia was looking to extend its win streak to four-straight. Ever since the Swarm won its first NLL Cup with a win in Saskatoon, the Rush have played the team with extra aggression. The first time the two teams clashed in 2018, Sask left Infinite Energy Arena with a 13-9 win.
This time, it was Georgia’s turn to win in hostile territory. The Swarm put the pressure on its NLL Finals foe and dazzled all night long.
That was just one of the highlight reel-worthy goals Lyle Thompson scored that night. And it overshadowed Staats with four goals of his own and Poulin and the Swarm defense turning in another gem against a Rush team laden with firepower.
It was a good reminder that the Swarm is made of monsters.
Down to the Wire
Vancouver Stealth, W 11-10, April 28 at Infinite Energy Arena/New England Black Wolves, W 16-11, April 29 at Mohegan Sun Arena
There was so much on the line for Georgia in its final weekend. The only team with a doubleheader to close out the season, Georgia needed both wins badly. One win to get into the postseason and another to claim sole possession of first in the East Division.
So first up was Vancouver who was playing like its playoff life was on the line. The Stealth, already eliminated from the postseason weeks earlier, ran away with a lead in the second quarter, up 7-3. The Swarm used a six-goal third quarter to tie things up before ultimately winning its last home game of the season.
Fast forward not even 24 hours, and the Swarm was at Mohegan Sun Arena, the place where its 2017-18 season started. Sharp as a scalpel blade from the night before, Georgia controlled most of the game to convincingly repeat as the No. 1 team in the East for a second-straight season.
The two wins perfectly capped off Georgia’s six-straight wins and earned it a deserved bye week before the East Division Finals. Nothing but excitement from this team.
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