Game Previews

Hive Five: Top 5 Swarm Games in 2017-18

See 5 of the most anticipated Swarm matchups in 2017-18

Your World Champion Georgia Swarm released their 2017-18 season schedule, and I don’t know about any of you, but I can feel the anticipation of the season getting stronger daily. The NLL Combine and Draft still have to happen this month, and then training camp in November which will be super competitive for the Swarm on the defensive end, but I can’t help myself thinking way ahead already. I need some NLL action in my life.

While I can’t speed up time to December 8, I can at least knock out a Hive Five covering the five most anticipated games this season. And so, Swarm fans, get excited about these games, and let the team (@GeorgiaSwarmLAX) and me know on Twitter (@TMerrowGASwarm) which ones you are excited to watch the boys in blue and yellow win:

1)  DEC. 8 @ NEW ENGLAND BLACK WOLVES – 7:30 P.M. ET

DEC. 30 ROCHESTER KNIGHTHAWKS – 7:05 P.M. ET

#4 Lyle Thompson facing some Black Wolves defense | Photo Credit: New England Black Wolves

Two-for-one on this Quick Sting, and it’s because these two games have basically the same things going for them: tough East Division rivals and the first away and home game for the Swarm.

Georgia will take on the persistently dangerous Black Wolves as the NLL Season Opener on Dec. 8. The Swarm came out on top three times in four matchups with New England last year, the last game a 21-12 victory at Mohegan Sun Arena on April 7. After losing to the Toronto Rock in the first round of the East Division playoffs last season, New England will be coming out strong to start the season right with a win at home. They’ve taken strides to shore up that defense by swapping goaltender Evan Kirk to Saskatchewan for goaltender Aaron Bold and getting transition player John LaFontaine in the same move PLUS a first round pick in the 2017 NLL Draft, not to mention signing CJ Costabile and a number of free agents. New England always keeps it interesting.

#45 Jason Noble presses against Rochester | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess

Georgia visits Colorado on Dec. 23 and then comes home to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena on Dec. 30 to welcome the Rochester Knighthawks. As much as I’m ready for some indoor lacrosse, you can’t beat it in person, and that first home game promises to be excellent. Rochester’s young roster will be more seasoned compared to last season when they went 1-2 against Georgia. There will be a couple games under both teams’ belts by then, so we will have a better idea of what each team is offering, and my money is on Rochester dishing out the same strong defense it had last season and a better offense.

But true Swarm fans know what the real big deal on December 30 is. Their NLL Champions will be raising the Championship Banner at the Infinite Energy Arena and players and coaches will be getting some mighty big ringsYou know you want to be there to see these men receive their well-deserved Championship rings.


2)  JAN. 6 SASKATCHEWAN RUSH – 7:05 P.M. ET

#93 Johnny Powless celebrating a goal | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess

Yes, this is a team that somehow improved already and will more than likely improve AGAIN later this month in the NLL Draft. Yes, the Rush will probably still have the sting of being swept in the Champion’s Cup series on the mind. And while this will highlight the night and probably be something we all talk about leading up to and during the game, I can guarantee you neither team will give it that much thought once the clock strikes 7:05 p.m on January 6.

No, what is truly exciting about this game is arguably the two best teams in the NLL will go head-to-head again, and that is frankly all that is needed to make this one of the most anticipated games of the season, period. The first Swarm game last season was a strong 18-14 victory against Saskatchewan which also featured a Guinness World Record being broken when all four Thompson Brothers took the floor. It was also a preview of what’s-to-be, and chances are this meeting in January 2018 will be the same. You don’t want to miss a monster team looking to end a three-game losing streak against the Swarm come to town.


3)  FEB. 10 @ BUFFALO BANDITS – 7:30 P.M. ET

Photo by Bill Wippert

#32 Shayne Jackson one-on-one for the goal | Photo Credit: Buffalo Bandits

Last season was not what the Buffalo Bandits expected. The team finished 6-12, the worst record in the NLL. It also finished last in goals against, ending the season with a 13.94 GA/GAME. Teams struggle some years, but for a team that in 2016 finished as the East Division Champions, going first to worst was a huge shock throughout the NLL. And after looking at the moves Buffalo has done so far, I don’t know what to expect.

I’m all for competitiveness, so I’ll stay optimistic and say Buffalo improves enough to keep Georgia on its toes in 2018. February 10 will be the first time we get to see the two go at it next season, and hopefully my prediction turns in some solid games like the 17-16 nail biter on April 15 last season. That’s right, the one with Mike Poulin blocking that last second one-on-one shot from the 2016 MVP Dhane Smith. Pulling for that quality of game.


4)  MARCH 3 @ TORONTO ROCK – 7:00 P.M. ET

#30 Mike Poulin and Toronto Rock goalie #66 Nick Rose face off two times in 2018 | Photo Credit: Paul Sasso

Why am I picking the second game against the Toronto Rock during the season instead of the first?

Yeah, Toronto fought Georgia hard in the East Division Finals last season, but they were ultimately swept. The Rock have inarguably gotten better over the season already, so it’s a safe bet to expect a tough season series. But the real interest in this game is the comparison to last March and what this March means for an East Division lead.

Georgia, having gone 7-1 before its bye week at the end of February, went into March 2017 with the best record in the NLL and having outscored opponents by 24 goals in those eight games. That bye week turned out to be a momentum killer, and Georgia struggled in March. Yes, the team turned in a fantastic 17-8 win at home against the Calgary Roughnecks on March 17, but that would be Georgia’s lone victory in the month. The team dropped its other three contests and was outscored by 13 goals in those three games.

Aside from bucking recent history, the team will face off against every East Division opponent in March 2018 and can use the month to really spring to the top of the division. It all begins with this meeting at Air Canada Centre against the Rock.

Mark my words, March is probably the most important month of the 2017-18 season for the Georgia Swarm.


5)  JAN. 13 @ CALGARY ROUGHNECKS – 9:00 P.M. ET

#44 Chad Tutton with some aggressive defense | Photo Credit: Calgary Roughnecks

Last season, Georgia faced Saskatchewan only once during the regular season, but that one game gave a preview of the postseason. If that’s the tradeoff for playing a team once in 18 games, then I can live with it.

This season, the one-and-done Georgia opponent is the Calgary Roughnecks. It will take place at Scotiabank Saddledome, so we won’t get to see the ‘Necks at The Hive this year. And this could potentially be the only meeting Georgia has with the Riggers unless they make it to the Champion’s Cup Finals.

Aside from seeing this team only once this season, the Swarm has some demons to exorcise here. The Swarm had not beaten Calgary at home or away since March 3, 2012 until Georgia finally righted that wrong on March 17 last season with a dominant 17-8 win. That did not fix the Swarm’s woes in Scotiabank Saddledome where the team still hasn’t won since that 2012 date. A win in Calgary can finally ruin that record.

And just an aside for any lacrosse fan, seeing forward Curtis Dickson in action – even against your team – is just a treat. The man is a scoring machine, leading the NLL in goals for with 54 in 2017. Watching how Georgia deals with that danger is reason alone to watch this game.