There were 12 Swarm wins this past season, which is also the amount of wins the Swarm are averaging over their last three seasons. We were treated to some of the best lacrosse talent in the world putting on dazzling displays of athletic wonder, and five of those games had us standing all game long because the edge of the seat just wasn’t enough.
As is tradition, none of these games are ranked, just presented chronologically. This Hive Five will feature games that were intense battles, absolute blowouts due to a strong team effort, or just flat-out entertaining games. And where better to start than with the Swarm’s points leader taking charge early in the season?
LYLE SHOULDERS THE BURDEN
Toronto Rock – December 28 at Scotiabank Arena – Swarm 12, Rock 11
While games between the Toronto Rock and Georgia Swarm tend to go the Swarm’s way, they’re usually incredibly tight contests that go down to the wire. The last lacrosse game in Scotiabank Arena in 2018 was another case of the same.
For a while there, it really didn’t feel like it would be that close. The Rock came out firing, scoring two goals within the first 2:46 min. before Holden Cattoni scored twice within 98 seconds and rookie Adam Wiedemann found the back of the net for his first NLL goal.
Another quarter later, and the Swarm went back to the locker rooms with a 7-5 lead in enemy territory. But leads like that can disappear quickly in lacrosse, and the Swarm’s two-goal gap shrank thanks to a power play goal from Tom Schreiber and a shorthanded marker from Kieran McArdle.
Bryan Cole got the lead back for the Swarm, and the two teams began to trade goals from there. The Rock retook the lead with around five minutes left in the game, and Lyle Thompson came up big for his team. He made some Rock defensemen look silly when he tied the game up, beat the goalie on a penalty shot but unfortunately not the crossbar, and called game with 23 seconds left via a falling shortside laser.
In case you weren’t aware, Lyle’s pretty alright at that lacrosse thing.
IT’S HOW YOU RESPOND
Saskatchewan Rush – January 27 at Infinite Energy Arena – Swarm 13, Rush 10
The Swarm returned to Sting City late in January after suffering back-to-back losses in a rough doubleheader weekend. Awaiting them that Sunday night were the Saskatchewan Rush, a tough opponent to best on any day. But the Swarm did so, getting back into the win column thanks to a dominant first quarter.
Lyle opened up the scoring 22 seconds in, Zed Williams followed up, Cattoni added in two of his own, and Miles Thompson capped the scoring. Mark Matthews stopped the bleeding momentarily, but Shayne Jackson had the final say of the quarter, putting the Swarm up 6-1 after 15 minutes.
The best part of that first quarter? Randy Staats was displaying some perfect floor vision, handing out assists on five of those six goals. He would finish the night with seven assists, and it took him a little over 40 minutes to find the back of the net.
The Rush got back into form after that first quarter, outscoring the Swarm 9-7 in the final 45 minutes. But boxla is a 60-minute game, and that first quarter ultimately sank the visiting team and got the Swarm back on track.
Chad Tutton also had a stellar first quarter, and we took a look at it in a Film Room.
New England Black Wolves – February 1 at Infinite Energy Arena – Swarm 10, Black Wolves 8
With the season series on the line, the Swarm and New England Black Wolves told both of their goalies to stand on their heads – Mike Poulin for the Swarm and Alex Buque for the Black Wolves – and both did as commanded. Unfortunately, one of those stellar performances would be to no avail, and another would give the Swarm their sixth win of the season.
We finished one Quick Sting with Tutton, so why not begin another with this beauty that gave the Swarm the lead with the seconds nearly melted away at the end of the first quarter.
It was a battle all night. Buque’s stellar work helped the visiting team retake the lead for a few minutes in the third quarter, but Lyle and Staats went to work to reclaim the lead. The Black Wolves started nipping on the Swarm’s heels, but Lyle’s hat trick sent the visiting pack home winless.
Poulin finished the night with 38 saves and an .826 SV%. Buque was saddled with the loss after finishing with 41 saves and an .820 SV%.
Oh yeah, Staats got in a brawl and a half. Five players went to the box. It was fun.
TAKE A SEAT
Rochester Knighthawks – March 2 at Infinite Energy Arena – Swarm 15, Knighthawks 11
The Swarm went on the bye week after dropping a game to the Buffalo Bandits and Colorado Mammoth, putting their record at 7-4. The coaches and players spent the bye week reflecting on what went wrong in those previous two games and how to correct the ship.
Kicking off March with a win against the Rochester Knighthawks and one of the most entertaining games this season was certainly a great way to go about it.
The first half was an intense back-and-forth as the Knighthawks were trying to prevent their eighth loss of the season. The two teams spent halftime tied up at seven goals apiece, and the Knighthawks took the lead early in the third quarter thanks to a goal from Pat Saunders.
Williams’ diving hat trick tied things up, and then the Knighthawks just loved chilling in the penalty box. The Swarm were just as happy to take advantage of the man-advantage opportunities, scoring three power play goals and tacking on three more goals for good measure. The game went from 8-7 in the Knighthawks’ favor to 14-8 Swarm really quick.
Fists were thrown a few times throughout, but the Swarm stayed measured and took care of business at home, getting back into the win column. The second largest crowd in Georgia Swarm history at the time – 8,410 – got to witness one fun game, and that game really kicked off the Swarm’s attendance spike over the last half of the season.
THE POULIN WALL
Toronto Rock – March 22 at Infinite Energy Arena – Swarm 14, Rock 5
Arguably the best performance the Swarm put on all season long, Poulin and the defense held the visiting Toronto Rock to just five goals to give the Swarm the tiebreaker against the East Division Rival. Staats also came up big with 10 points (5G, 5A), helping to cap the Swarm’s perfect March.
The game was never really close as Jordan MacIntosh set a new franchise record for fastest goal scored to open a game, netting a five-hole goal within the first nine seconds. McArdle would tie things up 33 second later, but the Swarm went on a five-goal run and finished the first half up 8-4.
Poulin’s game elevated another level in the second half, holding the Rock to just one goal on 22 SOG and absolutely quiet for the final 19:13 min. That game was the best statistical game Poulin has had in his 14-year career. 47 saves, a .904 SV% and a 5.00 GAA.
The Kitchener, Ontario netminder praised the work his teammates did in front of him to help him see the ball well and help keep the Rock frustrated all night long.
BONUS: COMEBACK COMPLETE
Vancouver Warriors – January 5 at Infinite Energy Arena – Swarm 10, Warriors 8
The Swarm kicked off 2019 with some late heroics to secure their third win of the season, and it was in no small part due to rookie Brendan Bomberry playing out of his mind. His second goal of the night tied the game up in the third quarter, and his first goal and hat trick both gave the Swarm the lead, the hatter the game-winner.
Getting your first NLL goal and hat trick done in the same game? Pretty special.
The win was even more special as it became Swarm head coach Ed Comeau’s 100th career win – including postseason – as a head coach.
“I didn’t even know,” Comeau said after the win about finding out he had won his 100th NLL game. “Kind of surprised by that, but a win in this league is hard to get, and hopefully we’ll get many more for the Swarm this year.”
Nine more, to be exact.
It’s cause for celebration | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess
Swarm Season Memberships for the 2019-20 NLL season are on sale now and are available by calling 844-4-GASWARM.