Check out the first part of Dan Ladouceur’s and Jason Noble’s midseason interviews here!
Looking at the defensive side of the floor, how is it seeing the defense play as well as it has been for most of the season?
Ladouceur: I think the D’s been playing well. You have Mike Poulin back there who’s – I don’t know what his save percentage is, but it’s got to be pretty high. I know in Colorado, he was about 85%, and you can’t ask for much more from your goaltender. As far as defensively, it’s no secret we’re at our best when we’re using our athleticism, when we’re controlling gaps, when we’re applying pressure. And when we sit back on our heels, even for small windows, it’s very evident because teams are able to create space and get open looks. I think they’ve been good. I would say a little bit inconsistent, but they’ve been strong when they stick to their principles as far as their gap closure and their athleticism, they’re really good, and they push the ball.
Noble: I think our biggest thing is just communication and getting familiar with each other. We have a great group of defenders, most of us back from last year, so it’s not like we have to reinvent the wheel and do anything different. It’s making sure that our younger rookies are on the same page, which they’ve been doing a great job of understanding our defensive principles and playing like they’re vets on the team. We’ve a great group back there that we stick together with, and we trust in each other. I think that’s key … It can’t be five guys showing up or hoping Poulin shows up and bails us out. We need to put a full sixty minutes in the whole game.
Speaking of Poulin, he’s playing some of the best lacrosse of his career. What’s it do for the team knowing he’s in front of the net?
Noble: He’s a great backbone of our defense. He sort of keeps us all in shape. He’s the one that’s cool and calm and collect most of the time, but he knows if we aren’t playing our best, he will let us know that we need to pick it up. He has a great balance of when to stay relaxed to help the defense and also when to sort of say, “Hey guys, you need to pick it up. This is what I’m seeing.” He’s a vet that knows how to win, been in this league a long time, has great insight for the younger players, as well, on guys on the other teams. Yeah, he’s definitely the backbone of our defense, and he’s playing his best ball that I’ve seen him play before.
Another guy playing some of his best ball is you, Jason. What’s working for you in your sixth NLL season?
Noble: I think I’m comfortable playing with everyone on the floor. The other five guys put me in a position on the floor to sort of be successful, as well. I’m just playing our defensive game. I may get some more opportunities than other guys, just going out chasing, but if they weren’t there behind me, I wouldn’t be who I am, so I think you try to do everything you can to win. Everyone sort of has a different role. If you look at stats, some D guys are more transition guys, some guys get loose balls. I’m sort of *chuckle* not going to push the ball too much, but I’m more of a stay-at-home defender that is athletic, as well. I’m not going to pound anyone, but I think I read the game really well, and that’s attributable to the five guys that are on the floor with me at the same time. Everyone’s sort of all on the same page.
Is there anyone defensively that has been pleasant to watch them play?
Noble: I think one guy on our team that sort of surprised a lot – we knew he had it in him, but seeing him pick it up so well – is Matt Dunn. He’s an American that hadn’t had much box experience previously, but as an American field player coming in, being able to pick up the game and now is a regular contributor on the defensive end is great to see, especially with the way the league is going with expansion. We’re going to need a lot more players in the league, so seeing someone like Matt Dunn excel with our team is great for the sport.
Looking ahead, next on the Swarm’s schedule is the Rochester Knighthawks, and they play this Friday against the Bandits. Will you guys concentrate on them or focus more on your end?
Ladouceur: We really have to be. At this point, obviously we’re going to do our game prep and be ready for Rochester when the time comes, but for the next few days and this weekend, we are really concentrating on ourselves as a team and as individuals. We knew we want to have meetings with guys, teleconference, whatever we need to do to stay connected and make sure that we’re clear on our expectations, role definition, and make sure the guys know or are aware of what they’re doing and what they can be doing better. It is about us for this next little while until we get a little closer to game time with Rochester.
Noble: I think most of the guys will probably watch the game, but when I talk to the team and emphasize to watch the game, it’s not too much watching about them, what they’re going to do, it’s how are we going to defend them. So when I watch a game, it’s more of, “Okay, this is their guy, this is what they do,” but also how am I going to defend against that. So, we’re still sort of focusing on ourselves, and then also thinking, “Okay, how is our man-down going to stop them?”
Making sure that we know them and having that extra week to prepare for a team is obviously good, but I don’t think we’ll start really preparing too much until we watch that game, until after. There’s no point starting to do any scouting on them, this week at least. The biggest thing is focus on ourselves, make sure you’re doing what you need to to get better, whether it’s having the stick in your hands every day, going to the gym, getting out on the track, doing some running, and then making sure we’re healthy. Having that extra week is good, so Sunday we’ll probably talk as a team and start the chatter up on the upcoming game against Rochester.
I know everyone is aware of what’s on the horizon. March has the Swarm facing the Knighthawks twice and Buffalo and Toronto. How huge is this next month?
Noble: It’s important, especially being East games. Two of those games are against Buffalo and Toronto, who are ahead of us in the standings, and Rochester’s right there. If we go out and drop both to Rochester, they’re right back in the hunt for that playoff spot. It can go any way. The league is crazy competitive this year, and all it takes is one good or one bad weekend to sort of put you up or knock you out of the playoff spot going forward. So I think going forward, we need to focus on ourselves, focus on one game at a time. We don’t have any more doubleheader weekends where it’s a crazy amount of travel, so I think just having one game a week, focusing on our opponent will greatly help us.
Ladouecuer: It’s massive. Toronto’s playing unreal right now, and Buffalo really isn’t that far behind them. They’re playing unreal lacrosse, as well. It’s massive for us. To think that after the bye week it gets any easier is just foolish. I think we know – that’s why this bye week for us is so important to get ourselves organized and refocused because we’re coming back to maybe not scheduling-wise as difficult as the first part of the season, but definitely competition-wise, we’re coming into a few heavy-hitters here, and we need to be ready for that.
The Swarm return to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino at Infinite Energy Arena on Saturday, March 2 to take on the Rochester Knighthawks. Faceoff is set for 7:05 p.m. ET. The Swarm are hosting Heroes Night presented by Axiom Corporation. Celebrate local military and first responders during the Swarm’s East Division matchup. Early arriving fans can receive a Swarm Koozie courtesy of Axiom Corporation.
Call 844-4-GASWARM or visit GeorgiaSwarm.com/HeroesNight for tickets.
Interested in helping support our heroes and their families? Participate in our Seats for Heroes program, offering four different packages which provide heroes and their families the opportunity to attend Heroes Night! Visit GeorgiaSwarm.com/SeatsForHeroes or call 844-4-GASWARM for more information.