Lyle Thompson scored a season-high five goals to lead the Georgia Swarm (6-7) to a 14-10 rematch win against the Buffalo Bandits (6-7) on Sunday night. Hosting Heroes Night presented by Axiom Corporation, 3,863 fans enjoyed a disciplined Swarm win and performances from Wolfy’s America.
With the win, Georgia moves into a three-way tie for third place in the East Division, tied with Buffalo and Rochester.
“Lyle shot really well tonight,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said, “but I think part of him shooting well was on offense, we moved the ball better and our power play, we moved our feet and created opportunities. Lyle’s a really good goal-scorer, but we wanted to make sure we gave him a chance to get good quality shoots, and he drained it tonight.”
Lyle came out strong for the Swarm with a power play goal, followed by Miles Thompson and Kiel Matisz. Buffalo responded with two of its own in the last five minutes, and the first quarter ended with Georgia enjoying a 3-2 lead.
It took 59 seconds into the second quarter for Georgia to get back to work. Jesse King took advantage of a power play opportunity to score a diving goal, and Lyle and Shayne Jackson scored a power play goal each to widen the lead to 6-2. Jerome Thompson netted an astonishing pinball shot with a second left on the shot clock, but Dhane Smith scored with an extra attacker to stop the bleeding. Ryan Wagner netted a transition goal to shrink the lead to only three goals.
Georgia and Buffalo traded goals at the end of the half. Lyle scored his hat trick off a feed from Matisz, Shawn Evans responded with his first goal of the night, and Jordan Hall finished the half with a diving goal into the top right corner. As the buzzer sounded, Georgia headed to the locker room with a 9-5 lead.
During halftime, fans enjoyed a musical tribute to America from Wolfy’s America. The group would return after the game to put on one final performance.
The third quarter saw Buffalo get within one thanks to goals from Smith, Evans and Zach Herreweyers. Lyle ended the quarter for the Swarm, stripping the ball away from a Buffalo defender and scoring unassisted, putting the Swarm’s lead at 10-8.
“I thought we had some really good chances, and the Bandits made a couple good defensive plays and their goalie made some good saves,” Comeau said. “We said we don’t have to change anything, we just got to keep doing what we’re doing, and hopefully, they drop for us.”
The Swarm turned in a disciplined fourth quarter, widening the lead to four goals courtesy of Miles and a shot between his own legs from Hall. Evans would cut the lead to three goals with his hat trick. Lyle netted his fifth goal with an authoritative shot from away. Utilizing the extra attacker with 2:07 min. left in the game, Craig England shortened the gap to three goals again. Joel White put an end to things with an empty netter goal, his first of the season. 60 min. were up, and Georgia earned its sixth win of the season with a 14-10 score.
Georgia’s recent string of strong defensive performances continued again. With goaltender Mike Poulin looking steady in front of the net, the Swarm has posted a 10.4 GA/GAME over its last five games. Poulin made 43 saves on 53 SOG, finishing the night with an .811 SV%.
In addition to scoring five goals, Lyle recorded an assist as well to lead the team in points on Sunday with six. Miles Thompson (2G, 3A) and Jesse King (1G, 4A) followed up with five points apiece.
Bandits goaltender Zach Higgins was unable to repeat the strong performance he turned in against the Swarm a month ago. He finished with 41 saves on 54 SOG, good for a .759 SV%.
Smith finished the night with seven points (2G, 5A), followed by Evans’ hat trick and assist for four points.
With the win, Georgia is just a game out of first place. The Swarm only has five games left, three against division rivals. Every game comes with extra pressure, and the players are treating them like playoff games.
“There’s something on the line” Poulin said. “It’s such a tight race that hopefully we can find ourselves in a position where, couple more wins at home here, we can be the team in front again like we were so used to last year. Playoff mentality, pressure games, in my eyes right now, it’s a good thing.”
The Swarm continues its three-game homestand on Saturday, March 24. Georgia welcomes the New England Black Wolves (6-5) on Native American Heritage Night presented by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Faceoff is set for 7:05 p.m. ET.
Swarm players will be wearing custom uniforms honoring the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Fans will have the opportunity to bid on their favorite players’ game-worn and autographed jerseys during the game on Native American Heritage Night and online.
The first 2,000 fans will receive a Miles Thompson Bobblehead. Fans can purchase tickets at GeorgiaSwarm.com/Heritage or by calling 844-4-GASWARM.
Play of the Game:
There were two plays of the game tonight.
The first came courtesy of Hall. His second goal was astonishing. With his back to the goal and a defender pressing into his numbers, Hall shoveled the ball between his legs and past the defender and Higgins for the goal.
Lyle’s fourth goal was the perfect example of what people talk about when they think of his style of play. Lyle stripped Steve Priolo of the ball at midfield, gathered it up and outran everyone to be one-on-one with Higgins. Diving to the left, Lyle lasered it in and flew to the boards.
“That’s a pride of my game that I want people to see,” Lyle said. “Everyone sees me as a goal scorer or a ball carrier. I think one thing that goes unrecognized is really how hard I play. That’s been instilled in me since I was a kid. I just go out there and play my hardest, do what I can, use my athleticism and try to take advantage.”