Still high over last Saturday’s incredible lacrosse game resulting in an overtime Georgia Swarm victory? So are we. It’s been the talk non-stop around the water cooler, constantly going over that last minute in regulation play.
Game 2 of the Champion’s Cup was filled with constant excitement from both ends of the floor, and the last second heroics highlighted a game that every championship game should strive to be. The back-and-forth, both teams in the thick of it every minute, everything left out there on the floor. What. A. Game.
In the spirit of other Hive Fives, I took a look back at the final NLL game of the season and found what I believe to be the best five moments of the Swarm’s historic championship win. This Hive Five is a little different than the other Hive Fives done in the past as the moments are definitively ranked. Before anyone points it out, I did not put the celebration as the top spot because it's still going on. World Champions, baby.
Let’s face it, you can probably hazard a guess as to what I’ll put in the top two spots. If you agree, we can be friends. If you disagree, we should talk about it on social media (argue with me on Twitter – @TMerrowGASwarm). But come with some knowledge after taking a look at these 5 Quick Stings:
5. the net minding wall
He was not going home without the Cup | Photo Credit: Josh Schaefer/GetMyPhoto.ca
“It’s not always the quantity of the saves, it’s the quality of the saves,” head coach Ed Comeau has repeated to me often this season.
For the second week in a row, 14 lacrosse balls found their way past goaltender Mike Poulin. He came into the Champion’s Cup series with 8.50 GAA and a .827 SV% in the postseason. Sask scored 14 on him in Game 1, bumping his numbers up and down to 10.33 GAA and a .791 SV%. Even after the win, his numbers shifted to 11.19 GAA and a .786 SV%. Poulin did take 112 shots on goal over the series and blocked 84, good for a 13.85 GAA and a .750 SV%. One number you can’t ignore, however, is his 4-0 record—the only undefeated goaltender in the postseason.
Georgia’s offense came up big in both games, but it could not have done that without key saves from Poulin. And none were more key the one in the 4th quarter of Game 2. Sask was up 12-11, Jordan Hall having recently stopped the Rush’s four-goal run with a diver. Robert Church had the ball and was double-covered by Connor Sellars and Leo Stouros. Ben McIntosh had snuck behind them, and Church tossed him the ball. McIntosh had already worked three goals past Poulin this game and headed towards the goal when he received the ball. Ethan O’Connor moved to stop him, but a step from the crease, McIntosh faked high, dropped his stick, and tried a six o’clock underhand shot. Poulin wasn’t fooled and immediately dropped on it to prevent Sask from getting any immediate momentum. Not the quantity, all about the quality.
But sometimes it takes quality and quantity. For proof, just look at when…
4. staats went off
Score first or go home | Photo Credit: Josh Schaefer/GetMyPhoto.ca
Hopefully you already knew that Georgia was 5-1 in 2017 whenever Randy Staats scored the first goal in a game coming into Game 2.
The Swarm finished 6-1 after Saturday night.
Much like Game 2 of the East Division Finals, Georgia came out swinging with Staats leading the way, jumping up to a 3-0 lead in the first three minutes. He scored the first goal within a minute and the third goal of the contest off a pass from assistant captain Shayne Jackson.
In the second quarter, the Rush had tied the game at five off of goals from Ryan Keenan and Adam Jones. What else is a superstar to do but break the first tie of the game with his hat trick goal? Staats did just that, then followed up for good measure three minutes later with a power-play goal to put Georgia up 7-5.
The Swarm unfortunately wouldn’t hold the lead the entire game. Sask is a phenomenal team and was able to keep things interesting, taking a two-goal lead in the third quarter off a four-goal run. The only thing that could stop them was…
3. Hall's diving goal
Dangerously good company to keep | Photo Credit: Josh Schaefer/GetMyPhoto.ca
Jordan Hall might not have had five goals like he did in Game 1 of the Champion’s Cup Series, but he had a massive impact in Game 2. Georgia down 12-10 courtesy of the aforementioned four-goal run, Hall pressed in on the right side, whirling past rookie defenseman Mike Messenger. Messenger got him with a check across the shoulders, but Hall dived in and dumped the ball right above Rush goaltender Aaron Bold. The Swarm was within one and would tie the game up with some fancy stick work and infiltrating from the Champion’s Cup MVP Lyle Thompson, but Hall’s goal was the momentum stopper that helped get Georgia back into the thick of things. It was arguably the third most important goal of the night, coming in behind…
2. The Game winner
Thought this would be higher? It’s an historic goal that gave the Swarm its first Champion’s Cup in the franchise’s 13 years of existence and was proof positive of all the tireless effort the Arlottas and players put into flooring a quality and unselfish team.
Overtime, tied at 14 apiece, and Saskatchewan won the faceoff but wasn’t able to capitalize. Georgia had the ball with Miles Thompson and Lyle on the left side. Lyle passed to Miles, but Miles found himself covered by Jeff Cornwall. Not seeing an avenue, Miles passed back to Lyle. Lyle immediately shifted the stick to his left hand and pressed forward into defenseman Ryan Dilks. Cornwall slid to double cover the youngest Thompson, just what Miles and Lyle wanted. Lyle lobbed a one-handed pass to Miles. Miles immediately ran forward with defenseman Brett Mydske trying to get in the way of him but to no avail. The shot was already out and past Bold, beautifully punctuating the back of the net and the season.
All possible due to the…
1. last second heroics
I about broke my brain trying to decide if Miles’ game winner was the best play of Saturday night or the hysterics I’m about to describe. But ultimately, it came down to the fact that this was the craziest play in franchise history and made for one of the most memorable Champion’s Cup games.
Georgia was down 14-13 in the fourth quarter and went with the extra attacker with 42 seconds left. Church had scored the go-ahead goal half a minute earlier, Sask won the faceoff but lost possession with a crease violation, and Georgia had just called a timeout. Lyle started the final 42 seconds down by the empty Swarm net, and Georgia went on the offensive, getting off a shot before Kyle Rubisch knocked down a pass and scooped it up. He was pressed into the boards before a timeout was called by Sask, giving them possession with 10 seconds left. Rush head coach Derek Keenan made the smart lacrosse move and pulled Bold to go with an extra attacker of their own.
Keenan made the right call; Comeau himself said after the game he would have done the same thing in that situation. Think about a 6-on-5 situation. The goaltender is in the goal and won’t leave it unless desperate times call for desperate measures. Georgia was going to double cover the guy passing the ball, but that would have left four Rush players being covered by four Swarm players. What happens if Georgia gets the ball and scores with seconds left? The Swarm has a history of clutch goals like what happened in Toronto months ago. Pulling the goaltender and going with another guy is the smarter move. Georgia would stick with double covering the passer, the other four covering four other Rush guys. But that leaves Sask with one guy hypothetically open. Best way to retain possession and kill the clock.
I won’t lie; I thought the game was over and we’d be seeing a Game 3 here at The Hive. But the Swarm players still saw an avenue for victory. Jeremy Thompson was given the ball to start off what should have been the final possession. He made a bouncing pass between Lyle and Joel White, intended for team captain Chris Corbeil. It took a bad hop, and Bryan Cole was in the perfect position to scoop up the errant ball. He passed to White, White passed to Lyle, and Lyle made the shot. His eldest brother Jeremy somehow got his head in the way of the shot to block it, and the ball rebounded right towards White. White immediately snatched it out of the air and shot it into the net, tying things up with three seconds left.
The best part? Comeau makes his players practice this play every practice.
This gave Georgia the opportunity it needed. The most dangerous offense in the NLL was able to take to the floor for a little while longer in sudden death overtime, all it needed to win it all.