The Georgia Swarm (5-6) ended its doubleheader weekend strong with a solid 12-7 win against the Toronto Rock (5-5) on Saturday night at Air Canada Centre in front of 10,679 fans. Since moving to Georgia, the Swarm has won seven of eight matchups against the Rock.
Georgia prevented Toronto from scoring for 32:30 min. during the middle of the game and from capitalizing on any power play opportunities.
“The guys were hungry, they were well-prepared, focused,” Swarm assistant coach Dan Ladouceur said. “That’s probably the most consistent game we’ve played, and it was good to see them do that on a back-to-back that had some adversity that wasn’t really within our control. The guys responded. That one was huge for us.”
Toronto broke the game open in the first minute with a goal from Rob Hellyer. Kiel Matisz responded quickly before Kieran McArdle found the back of the net twice to retake the lead. Toronto went man-up in the middle of the quarter, but Lyle Thompson made a north-to-south underhand whip shot for a shorthanded goal. The first quarter ended in the Rock’s favor, 3-2.
Miles Thompson started the second quarter off by snagging a ball that was launched during a scrum and dropping it into the goal, tying the game up. The Rock scored twice more in quick succession to put itself back up by two, its last goal scored 3:52 min. into the quarter.
It would be the last time Toronto scored for over half the game. Led by Lyle, Georgia scored four goals in the second quarter and went to the locker rooms up 7-5.
Jesse King kept the streak going, taking advantage of a pick from Shayne Jackson to score in the third quarter. Jackson made a running dive 35 seconds later, capping Georgia’s six-goal run. Toronto could not find the back of the net at all in the quarter, and Georgia remained up, 9-5.
“Huge defensive effort from Poulin and our guys,” Ladouceur said. “It was massive. That’s two games in a row now where, from my point of view as an offensive coach, they’ve done their part, and we turned in a good effort one of the two games. That’s not good enough. We’re striving for consistency, and it started tonight.”
It took until 6:22 min. into the fourth quarter, but Brett Hickey finally snapped the Rock drought with an extra attacker goal, shrinking Georgia’s lead to three goals. Miles would score a power play goal, Lyle got the hat trick with a shot that mirrored his first goal in the game, and Jackson scored an empty netter to put the Swarm up by six goals. Reid Reinholdt found himself one-on-one near the end of the game and managed to get the ball past goaltender Mike Poulin, but it was too little, too late. The final buzzer rang and Georgia earned its fifth win of the season with a 12-7 character victory.
Jackson (3G, 2A) and Miles (2G, 3A) led the team in points with five each. Lyle added an assist to his hat trick, and Matisz, back in the lineup after missing Friday’s game due to injury, had four points (2G, 2A).
Both Jordan Hall and Randy Staats missed the last half of the game. Hall received a game misconduct late in the second quarter, and Staats exited the game with an injury.
Poulin turned in his best game of the season, allowing only seven goals against. The netminder finished the night with an .863 SV%, bouncing back strong after Friday’s heartbreaking loss to Colorado.
“Last night was tough, especially for me,” Poulin said. “In the airport talking with Coach Eddie, we just kind of shook it off, and our comment was nothing feels better than winning in Toronto. That’s where our focus was. If I kept thinking about last night, it wouldn’t be fair to anybody else, so we had to get over it real quick.”
Hellyer was the only Rock player to score more than two points Saturday night. He finished with three points (1G, 2A).
Goaltender Nick Rose earned the loss, making 43 saves on 54 SOG in 56:54 min. He finished the night with an 11.60 GAA and a .796 SV%.
Despite tonight’s strong defensive effort, the Swarm still struggled while man-up, only scoring one power play goal despite having the advantage seven times during the game.
“Power play, we’ve been saying we’re getting good looks, but we’re not bearing,” Ladouceur said. “Good looks only take you so far, maybe get you to the prom, but we need to convert, and we’re talking to guys about that and shooting plans, sticking to shooting plans and what we know about goalies.”
The Swarm plays another divisional game next Saturday, March 10 against the Rochester Knighthawks (5-6). This will be the first time the two teams meet in Rochester this season and have split the season series so far. Saturday’s game will determine who takes the series in 2017-18. Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET. Fans can catch Saturday’s game LIVE via NLLTV.com.
“Rochester’s playing well,” Ladouceur said. “They’re putting up big, big numbers. So’s Toronto, so we know defensively we’re playing with some confidence.”
Georgia returns to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena on Sunday, March. 18 to take on the Buffalo Bandits. The Swarm will be hosting its 3rd annual Heroes Night presented by Axiom Corporation. In honor of our nation’s heroes, the night will feature a 12-minute musical military tribute at halftime and a post-game performance from Wolfy’s America. Faceoff is set for 4:05 p.m. ET.
Early arriving fans will receive a camo rally towel courtesy of Axiom Corporation. Fans can purchase tickets at GeorgiaSwarm.com/Heroes or by calling 844-4-GASWARM.
Play of the Game:
The play of the game was originally going to be Lyle’s stellar first goal but preventing an opponent from scoring for over half of the game just cannot be ignored. Poulin and the Swarm defense kept Toronto shooters from making the white of the ball kiss the black of the net for 32:30 min. The Swarm backend killed off six man-down situations, including one 5-on-3 situation for 1:25 min., to down its East Division rival for the second time this season.
“The job that my defense did of putting Toronto players into uncomfortable positions, keeping them to the outside, lot of pressure on their hands, made my job a lot easier,” Poulin said. “The time kind of flew by. The next thing you know, you look up, and there’s only a few minutes left when they got their next one, and then we kind of realized, ‘Wow, we had a good run there.’ If we can keep that up, play more lacrosse like that, we’re going to be in good shape down the stretch.”