Aw man, the regular season is over, but no worries, we’re Swarming into the playoffs!
The Georgia Swarm finished the regular season with a 13-5 record and the best offense in the league. Being the top seed, the team got to enjoy a bye week last week. The Toronto Rock and New England Black Wolves figured out who faces Georgia on May 13 (congrats to Toronto), and we got to kick back for a bit and fondly reminisce on Georgia’s historic season.
With this reminiscing in mind, I spoke with people in the Swarm organization about Georgia’s historic season. We compared notes on various things and came up with what we considered the best games Georgia played in this season. Let’s look back at the top five games Georgia played this season, and if you disagree, leave a comment on social media telling us what your favorite games were this season. In no particular order:
Toronto Rock, W 13-12, February 17 at Air Canada Centre
Just saying hello | Photo Credit: Graig Abel
Watching box lacrosse is fun. I’m sure those of you that have seen Georgia go 13-5 on the season will agree with that statement. Georgia started off the season going 4-0 before falling to the Colorado Mammoth at the Pepsi Center. The following week, the team had returned home to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena and bested the New England Black Wolves. It then went on the road again to face the Toronto Rock which was 4-1 at the time, the early season competition in the East for Georgia.
People concerned about Georgia’s defense saw a team come out and go toe-to-toe with the best defense in the league at the time. Some last second heroics from assistant captain Shayne Jackson to tie the game with 3.9 seconds left forced overtime, the first one of the season for Georgia. It took 46 seconds for Johnny Powless, playing in his first game since coming back from the Injured List, to net the winning goal off a pass from Lyle Thompson. The team showed resilience and determination on the road and returned to The Hive with that grit to best the Rochester Knighthawks before Georgia’s bye week, top in the league with a 7-1 record.
Colorado Mammoth, W 21-13, April 1 at Infinite Energy Arena
#83 Staats winds up for the shot | Photo Credit: Paul Sasso, MV Photo Concepts
As mentioned beforehand, Colorado was the only team to hand Georgia a loss before Georgia’s bye week. When the Mammoth came to visit on Military Appreciation Night at The Hive, things seemed like they would go its way. Georgia had a rough March, going only 1-3 in four contests. Colorado had gone 3-2 in March, and its last victory was against the Saskatchewan Rush, the top team in the West. With momentum on its side, Colorado eagerly came to The Hive, but met an even hungrier Georgia team awaiting it.
The Swarm became incredibly apropos as Georgia went off offensively and stung Colorado for 21 goals. After a quiet March, Lyle exploded for a career-high 11 points (4G, 7A) that night, highlighted by recording the hat trick in a little over three minutes in the third quarter. Five different Swarm players scored nine or more points.
It was mostly an even contest for the first half. Georgia was up 10-8 at the half, and Colorado seemed like it still had a chance. But Lyle started Georgia’s second five-goal run of the night, this one within a three-minute period. At the end of the third quarter, Georgia had increased its lead to 17-11. The Mammoth went extinct in the final quarter. One of the best defenses in the league and second place in the West Division and it had no answer for slowing Georgia’s offensive onslaught. This game kicked off Georgia’s dominant four-game run in April when the Swarm averaged nearly 20 GF/GAME.
New England Black Wolves, W 17-15, February 11 at Infinite Energy Arena
#10 Crepinsek, #13 Sellars, and #31 Ranagan playing some D | Photo Credit: Paul Sasso, MV Photo Concepts
Georgia was coming off its first loss of the season when it welcomed East Division rival New England Black Wolves on Saturday, February 11. The first time these two met, Georgia came out on top 14-9 on January 20, the Swarm’s third straight win of the season and the first of four games between the two teams. This contest was arguably Georgia’s first game where it was challenged and came out with the win.
The Black Wolves struck hard and fast in the first quarter, finishing up 6-3 and chasing Georgia’s Mike Poulin from between the pipes for the first time all year. Brodie MacDonald took over for him and stepped up big, helping stymie New England’s scoring enough for Georgia to get back into it, the two teams going to the locker rooms at halftime tied at eight. The third quarter was just as even as both teams only scored twice. The energy in the arena was electric. Waiting for the fourth quarter to start, team captain Jordan MacIntosh paced the Swarm logo in the center of the floor raring to go. Georgia took a 13-10 lead, but New England’s Kyle Buchanan, Shawn Evans, and Kevin Buchanan tied it up with a quickness. New England took its last lead of the night with two more goals from Kevin Crowley to end up 15-13. Georgia then went on a four-goal run, highlighted by a beautiful transition goal as Ethan O’Connor threw the ball to a rocketing Jordan Hall coming off the bench and netting the game winner. Crazier still was this was in the middle of three-straight goals from Hall in under three minutes.
I keep extensive notes for every game I cover in any sport to help my game recaps be accurate and detailed. The notes are filled with ramblings and thoughts from me as the game goes on. This contest against New England, I finished with this all caps line, and it seems to still sum that game up the best months later:
FINAL: 17-15 SWARM WHAT A GAME
Buffalo Bandits, W 17-16, April 15 at Infinite Energy Arena
#4 Lyle Thompson celebrates a goal. Photo Credit: Kyle Hess
Georgia bested Buffalo on January 14 with an 18-14 win. A lot of time passed before the two clashed again, and what a clash. Buffalo had two games that weekend and had knocked off the Rock the night before visiting Georgia. The Swarm had just come off of back-to-back weeks of scoring 21 goals against Colorado and New England. While there’s always the chance for an upset, cards just didn’t seem in Buffalo’s favor that night.
They weren’t, but just barely. The Bandits had the lead going into the fourth quarter thanks to a goal with four seconds left from former Swarm forward Ryan Benesch to put his team up 13-12. Jackson tied things up for Georgia before MacIntosh and John Ranagan double teamed Buffalo’s goaltender Davide DiRuscio for the final lead change of the game. Lyle scored the last goal for Georgia, giving the team a 17-14 lead. Buffalo found itself down one goal with 49 seconds left and still the benefit of a power play. Poulin made a great save with 17 seconds left, Georgia calling a timeout. Play resumed with a Georgia possession, and Lyle had the ball before getting ganged up on. The ball was turned over and the 2016 NLL MVP Dhane Smith was streaking across the floor to Poulin’s left side, outstripping his defender. Smith had been scoring low all night, and Poulin remembered and thought Smith might try and switch things up. At the crease, Smith leaped up to launch the ball down and behind Poulin, but Poulin had guessed right and launched himself straight up, bouncing the ball off his right shoulder pad. His last second heroics let Georgia keep its lead and earn its franchise-best 11th win of the season.
New England Black Wolves, W 21-12, April 7 at Mohegan Sun Arena
#55 Cole pressures the Black Wolves | Photo Credit: New England Black Wolves
The fourth and final time the two teams would butt heads, Georgia traveled north to Mohegan Sun Arena, coming off a 21-13 victory against the Colorado Mammoth. Georgia was 2-1 on the season series against New England, but those two victories had come at The Hive. New England won the last time the two faced each other at Mohegan Sun Arena with a 13-8 victory and was looking to continue its success at home against the Swarm.
Yeah, didn’t happen. Georgia immediately ripped through the pack and ended the first quarter up 6-1. Both teams scored five goals in the second quarter. Georgia would be up by seven before New England brought it within three goals. The Swarm capped the scoring with three more goals to end up 16-10.
Much like Colorado the week before, New England had no answer for the juggernaut offense destroying it on its home turf. Randy Staats started the quarter off with his fifth goal of the night and set a career-high in goals and points (11) in a game. The two Buchanans retaliated before Georgia shut the Black Wolves down with goals from Kiel Matisz, Miles Thompson, Hall, and Powless. When the final buzzer sounded, Georgia won 21-12, the palindrome revealing Georgia had scored 21 goals twice in a row against two tough teams that had beaten the Swarm earlier in the season.
A few other cool things happened with the win. The Thompson Brothers Lacrosse had teamed up with Native Vision for its first ever TBL Challenge that night. Every goal Georgia scored against New England, Georgia had pledged to donate $50 to Native Vision to help support native American Youth. 21x$50=$1,050 raised by the Swarm. If you’re going to score big, be charitable, too. Georgia became the first team in the league to reach 10 wins, and the win that night also clinched its playoff berth.
Calgary Roughnecks, W 17-8, March 17 at Infinite Energy Arena
St. Patrick’s Day-themed uniforms which look incredible, green beer, a revenge victory, and snapping a losing streak against the Roughnecks dating back to March 3, 2012. Georgia shut down Calgary 17-8 as Poulin got his first win against his old team. The game featured the return of Miles and Staats from the Injured List and Joel White from the Holdout List. Georgia outshot Calgary 70-41 and finished the night with a .243 team shot percentage.
Buffalo Bandits, W 20-7, April 22 at KeyBank Center
Buffalo needed to win on April 22 if it wanted to still have a chance at the playoffs, no two ways about it. The first Georgia game aired live on Twitter as the NLL Game of the Week, the Swarm destroyed the Bandits at KeyBank Center with a final score of 20-7 and ended Buffalo’s playoff aspirations.
The third time Georgia had scored 20 or more goals this season (all in April and great sign of the impact team chemistry and assistant coach Dan Ladoceur has had on the offense), the night was highlighted by Lyle recording his 100th point of the season, the first (and not last) time he surpassed that milestone and also the first time a player had scored 100 points in Swarm franchise history. The seven goals against marked the fewest allowed by Georgia all season, another testament to the hard work the Swarm’s front office made to improve the defense in the offseason, the great coaching from head coach Ed Comeau and assistant coach Sean Ferris, and the fantastic team chemistry.