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Swarm clinches playoff berth with 11-10 win against Stealth

Swarm automatically makes it to the postseason after tense battle with Stealth

The Georgia Swarm (10-7) clinched a trip to the postseason for the third-straight season with an 11-10 win against the Vancouver Stealth (2-16). A raucous 5,248 fans willed on the Swarm to rally back from a five-goal deficit at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena and enjoyed halftime and postseason performances from Lifehouse.

With the win in hand, the Swarm now prepares for its final regular season game against the New England Black Wolves (9-8). Whoever wins Sunday afternoon will finish first in the East Division, and the loser will finish third. Faceoff is set for 5:00 p.m. ET. As the NLL Twitter Game of the Week, fans can catch the game live at live.Twitter.com/NLL or on NLLTV.com.

Shayne Jackson and Jesse King were a dynamic duo on Saturday night, accounting for five of the Swarm’s 11 goals and 13 of the Swarm’s 25 points.

“First and foremost, full credit to Vancouver,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “Playing for nothing other than pride, and they showed they had a lot of pride. They played hard, and they gave us everything that we could handle. That was the first thing. We got away from stuff. We had some really good looks early and didn’t score and kind of got away from that when their goalie made some big saves. All of a sudden, we’re facing a deficit. We were confident and stuck to our game plan to be able to claw back in.”

Lyle moving towards goal | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess

The first quarter started off all Swarm as King and Jackson would feed each other and score the Swarm’s first two goals of the night.  After the second TV timeout, the Stealth started to take over the game. Corey Small scored a power play goal, and Evan Messenger followed up to tie the score at two apiece.

Those two goals started off a seven-goal run for Vancouver. Rhys Duch led the wave of Stealth scoring with a shorthand goal, and Vancouver tacked on three more quickly before the first five minutes of the quarter were up. With the extra attacker, Duch scored the seventh Stealth goal of the night.

Georgia seemed like it stopped the bleeding through sheer luck. Lyle Thompson made a one-handed shovel pass to Randy Staats that missed, but Matt Beers ran into the ball and sent it in. A coach’s challenge from Vancouver overturned the call as Staats was in the crease when the ball hit the net. Lyle used a power play goal to finally put Georgia back on the board, and the two teams went to the locker rooms with Vancouver up 7-3.

“Vancouver just outworked us in that span,” Jackson said about the first half. “They were getting the loose balls; they were getting resets. Their faceoff team was doing a great job giving them possessions, and we just came flat. Our offense, we were stopping moving our feet and moving the ball. When you do that in this league, you’re not going to have too much success. It’s a good sign that we came into the half, and we were able to shake that first half off and pick it up the second half.”

As the players recollected themselves in the locker room, Atlanta Hawks guard Kent Bazemore was presented with a $2,000 donation check to the ARMS Foundation, his charitable organization. Afterwards, fans enjoyed a 10-minute performance from Lifehouse.

Bazemore showing off his lacrosse skills | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess

Georgia shook off the first half by coming out firing, notching four goals in the first 5:27 min. Miles Thompson scored his first goal of the night, and Jackson netted his second of the night from a feed from King. Jordan Hall followed suit with a changeup, and Bryan Cole capped the run with an empty netter, taking advantage of Vancouver trying to switch goaltenders. The Swarm had abruptly tied the game at seven goals.

Casey Jackson stopped the Swarm’s run and retook the lead for the Stealth. King fed Jackson with a long behind-the-back pass to tie things up again. Lyle used a wide-open opportunity to slam a power play goal in, giving Georgia the lead for the first time since 12:32 min. in the first quarter. Pat Saunders had the last word in the third quarter, and the netminders switched goals for a final time that night, tied at nine.

Jackson kicked off the fourth quarter by assisting King with a goal, retaking the lead for the Swarm again. It was short-lived as Small tied it up with a laser. Jackson had one more assist in him, feeding the game-winning goal to Miles. Georgia took advantage of a Duch 5-min. major penalty to keep the ball away for the final three minutes and emerged victorious, 11-10.

“We knew they were going to come out and give us their all,” Jackson said. “We have to change that because tomorrow is an even bigger one, so we’ve got to regroup and have a better game than we had tonight. But a win is a win, especially this time of year. It’s good to be in the playoffs.”

Jackson led the team with seven points (3G, 4A), followed by King and his six points (2G, 4A). Goaltender Mike Poulin made 35 saves on 45 SOG, finishing the night with a .777 SV%.

Small and Duch led Vancouver with four points (2G, 2A) each. Eric Penney spent 59:08 min. in front of the net and made 46 saves on 56 SOG. He left Infinite Energy Arena with a 10.15 GAA and an .821 SV%.

The Swarm opened the 2017-18 NLL season in New England and will close the NLL season there on Sunday, April 29. Taking on the New England Black Wolves (9-8) for the third and final time, the winner in Mohegan Sun Arena Sunday afternoon will claim the No. 1 seed in the East Division.

“That’s the type of intensity and the type of battle we expect tomorrow night,” Comeau said about the adversity faced tonight and how it prepared the team for tomorrow’s game against New England. “This was a good night for us, and certainly the intensity gets us to that point where we know what’s at stake for us and for them, and we’re going to have to bring it. We can’t have a lapse like we did tonight.”

Play of the Game:

Was it when King passed to Jackson for the first goal of the game? Or when he returned the favor nearly seven minutes later? Or the three other times the two found each other to net the ball past Penney?

Jackson and King were a dynamic duo all night, using aggressive pick and rolls to beat Stealth defenders constantly. King made three beautiful behind-the-back passes to Jackson, who was constantly dancing on the crease, twisting the stick above Penney before finally striking.

“Shayne is a guy that works his tail off to get to the middle,” King said. “For a guy his size, he probably lays body in the middle more than anybody out there. And that’s a credit to him. When the ball is swinging both sides, you know righties or lefties, are on the same page we can be pretty successful.”

A close second was the crowd cheering on Poulin. Duch’s last penalty was from him diving into Poulin, earning a 5-min. goalie interference major penalty. Poulin was unharmed, and the crowd roared with a steady Poulin chant, energizing the guys to close out the game.

“WOOOOOOO!!!!’ – King | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess

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