The Georgia Swarm (4-5) played its heart out Saturday night to best the Toronto Rock (5-4) in overtime, 14-13. The 5,052 fans were treated to incredible play between the two East Division rivals, highlighted by performances from country music artist Scotty McCreery.
Tonight also featured the return of forward Jordan Hall and transition player Chad Tutton to the Swarm roster, and their presence boosted the team’s energy level.
“We’ve been down a little bit with our record,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “Those guys haven’t lost a game yet this year. So, those guys coming in, we knew their character and the way they are around the room that it was going to give us a little bit of energy. Hallsy was great and did a lot of little things for us, and Tutts played solid D.”
The game started off with Toronto firing on all cylinders. Sparked by Dan Lintner, the Rock jumped up 5-0 in six minutes. Jesse King and Hall were able to stop the bleeding and put the Swarm within one goal after scoring two goals apiece. Toronto answered, and Bryan Cole responded with a shorthand goal to end the half 6-5 in Toronto’s favor.
Even though the Rock scored first in the second quarter, it was the Swarm’s turn to be in the lead. Georgia took advantage of two power play opportunities and found the back of the net on both to tie things up. Kiel Matisz gave the Swarm its first lead of the night, and Hall scored his hat trick goal to widen the lead by two goals. Kieran McArdle found the back of the net, and halftime started with Georgia up 9-8.
During halftime, fans enjoyed a stellar 10-min. performance from McCreery. The country music superstar would return after the game’s conclusion for a 30-min. postgame show.
After McCreery’s halftime concert, the third quarter started with Toronto retaking the lead. A back-and-forth ensued between the two teams, as one would take the lead before the other tied things up again. The third quarter ended tied at 10 goals apiece courtesy of King’s hat trick goal.
Georgia got on the board first in the fourth quarter first as Zed Williams hammered a goal in. Toronto notched two goals of its own to retake the lead, then Jordan MacIntosh tied it again. Adam Jones scored the Rock’s final goal in the quarter before Miles Thompson tied it up a final time with a power play goal.
The final 4:05 min. of regulation were heart-pounding as the two teams ran all around the floor to try and take the lead. Neither side would relent, and after sixty minutes, the Swarm would head to its first overtime game of the season, tied at 13.
The last time the Rock and Swarm met at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena in the regular season, Toronto walked away the winner in a 13-12 OT win.
“I think we really wanted this one,” Hall said. “It was definitely that feeling on the bench that everyone really, really wanted it. I’m coming from not playing directly into that game, and there definitely is a different feel because I think we jumped out to such a good year last year. A little bit of desperation makes us a little bit more of a dangerous team, a little more dangerous right now.”
Georgia won the opening draw, but both teams were continuing their stellar play from the end of the fourth quarter. Something had to give, and it finally did 3:55 min. into overtime. King made a phenomenal behind-the-back pass to an inside Shayne Jackson, and the assistant captain netted the game-winning goal. The arena erupted as Georgia won its fourth game of the season 14-13.
King recorded the most points on the team with six (3G, 3A). Randy Staats posted five points (1G, 4A), and four Swarm players had four points apiece. Goaltender Mike Poulin earned the win in 63:55 min. His 45 saves on 58 SOG earned him a 12.20 GA and a .776 SV%.
For Toronto, Jones (3G, 4A) and Rob Hellyer led the team in points with seven apiece. Reid Reinholdt finished with six points (1G, 5A). Earning the loss, goaltender Nick Rose made 37 saves on 51 SOG, good for a 13.14 GA and a .725 SV%.
The two teams have a bye week next week before meeting again on Saturday, March 3 at Air Canada Centre. Before then, Georgia welcomes the Colorado Mammoth to town on Friday, March 2. Faceoff for Friday’s game is set for 7:35 p.m. ET.
The Swarm will be hosting Ladies Night on March 2. Presented by 680 The Fan, tickets for the game are available at GeorgiaSwarm.com/Diamond or by calling 844-4-GASWARM. Fans can catch the rematch between Georgia and Toronto on March 3 on NLLTV.com.
Play of the Game:
The Swarm’s first OT winner of the season has to have the game-winning goal as the play of the game. Jackson set a pick for King before rolling to the cage. King made a slick behind-the-back pass to the inside Jackson, and the assistant captain dove to net the ball behind Rose for the winner.
“I saw Kinger, he had the ball low, and I just wanted to come in with speed and get separation from my guy and set a good pick for Kinger to get his hands free,” Jackson said. “I just wanted to make sure I rolled and got open, and Kinger was able to hit me. I caught it, and I was having trouble catching it all night, but when I caught it, I just wanted to reach around Rosie, and the ball went in.”