After a two-hour game delay, the Georgia Swarm (1-2) defeated the Rochester Knighthawks (2-1) 14-11 on Saturday, Dec. 30. Even with the delay, 6,254 fans stuck around Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena to see a Home Opener win, Georgia unveiling its World Championship banner and a halftime performance from Atlanta-based GRAMMY® Award-winning hip hop artist 2 Chainz.
The Swarm’s win against the only unbeaten team in the East Division was made sweeter with the festivities celebrating its first-ever NLL World Championship.
“It was awesome,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “We said at some point, we need to put an end on last year and start focusing on this year. That was a great way to do it. I thought the Arlotta family and the entire organization did a great job tonight.”
Despite its travel issues, Rochester came out firing, scoring four unanswered to open the night. Joe Resetarits ended the run with back-to-back power play goals. Georgia tallied one courtesy of Bryan Cole, and the goaltenders switched nets with Rochester up 4-1 to end the first.
It was Georgia’s turn to come out firing in its seven-goal second quarter, scoring three goals all within a minute to tie things up at four apiece. Two Knighthawks would end up in the penalty box, but Resetarits recorded his hat trick with a gutsy super shorty, giving Rochester the lead back.
It would not be held long as Georgia went on another three-goal run to widen the lead by two. Rochester was able to climb back to within one thanks to Eric Fannell before Lyle Thompson widened it back to two, Georgia up 8-6 at the half.
As both teams went to the locker rooms for halftime, everyone in Infinite Energy Arena enjoyed an electric performance by 2 Chainz.
For the third time this season, Georgia found itself with the lead as the third quarter started. Georgia started man-up, but the Knighthawks’ defense shut down the Swarm offense again. After it ended, Jesse King put two more between the pipes to give the Swarm a four-goal lead.
“Guys going out there could go off in any type of game,” King said about his hot start to the season. “It just so happens that today I had a pretty good game … Everyone can go off at any time. When you have so many guys like that, it just makes it a lot more fun, and when we’re out there having fun, everyone’s playing a lot better, playing faster.”
Cory Vitarelli stopped Georgia’s run in the third quarter off a slick pass from Dan Dawson, and Josh Currier and Kyle Jackson followed suit to bring the Knighthawks back within one. The Swarm had the final say in the quarter thanks to Lyle, and Georgia still led by a score of 11-9.
Rochester battled hard at the end, but Georgia widened its lead to three goals and managed to hold it. Vitarelli scored both of Rochester’s goals in the final 15 minutes, but Kiel Matisz had the last say of the night via a power play goal, and the Swarm handed the Knighthawks its first loss of the season, 14-11.
“We did a nice job playing 5-on-5, and we really played our style, an aggressive-style defense,” Comeau said. “When you have a lead or when you’re down, you can’t alter how you play. You got to play aggressive, and I thought once we did that, we were able to stop some goals and playing some really good D.”
Resetarits led the Knighthawks in scoring with five points (3G, 2A), and Vitarelli notched four points (3G, 1A). Matt Vinc earned the loss, saving 40 SOG to finish with a 14 GAA and a .747 SV%.
For the Swarm, Lyle led the way in scoring with six points (3G, 3A), and King continued his hot start after missing the 2017 season by scoring four goals. Mike Poulin earned his first win of the season with an 11 GAA and a .771 SV%.
Georgia’s next home game will be on Saturday, Jan. 6 against the Saskatchewan Rush (2-0). Face-off is set for 7:05 p.m. ET. It will be the Swarm’s Star Wars Night, and fans can get tickets by visiting Georgia Swarm.com/Tickets or by calling 844-4-GASWARM.
Play of the Game:
Brayden Hill and Poulin share the play of the game. Rochester’s Kyle Jackson was pressured by Hill as he broke towards the goal for a diver, but Hill’s pressure helped Poulin block the shot. Vitarelli would try the exact same shot seconds later, and Hill used the same pressure to help Poulin block an easier shot. Rochester got it one last time, yet Jackson was once again unable to get the diving shot in, some steady Swarm defense on display.