The playoff push for the Georgia Swarm (8-7) started off on the right foot as the team held on 11-10 and downed division rival Toronto (7-8) at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena on Sunday, April 8.
With the win, the Swarm moved into a three-way tie with Buffalo and Rochester for first place in the East Division. Georgia swept Toronto (3-0) in the 2017-18 season and went undefeated during its three-game homestand.
“Anytime you get a win in this league, it’s a good feeling,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “I thought Toronto played really well in the second (half). They battled back, and there’s no quit in them, and I think even when we got down, there’s no quit in us.”
Hosting Faith & Family Night presented by Howard Brothers Hardware, fans enjoyed halftime and postgame performances from North Point InsideOut band in the Atlanta Classic Cars Mercedes-Benz Goal Zone Club.
Lyle Thompson used a five-goal performance to help the home team win its third-straight game and improve above .500 for the first time all season. This is the second game this season the 2017 NLL MVP has netted five goals in a game.
“The team has a lot of trust in me,” Lyle said. “When the game’s on the line like that, I feel like the ball should be in my stick, and I want to create something. It doesn’t always have to be a shot. A lot of times, I like to just get a pick, come over topside, and draw some attention so I can open my teammates up. As far as today, those opportunities happened to be me coming over and having the shot. My stick was hot.”
In the first quarter, Toronto kicked things off quickly with a goal in the first eight seconds of action from Sheldon Burns. The lead lasted for a while until Jordan Hall scored with a second left on the shot clock a few minutes later. Randy Staats performed the same shot, and Lyle capped the Swarm scoring in the first quarter with his first two goals of the night. Reid Reinholdt ran around the floor to score the final goal of the first quarter, and the Swarm was up 4-2.
Lyle netted his hat trick quickly with a shorthand goal to put Georgia up 5-2. Hall followed up after Chad Tutton caused a turnover and passed him the ball. Dan Lintner began his scoring onslaught with a goal at the 13:34 min. mark, but the first half would end with Georgia up 6-3.
Photo credit: Kyle Hess
While the two teams went to the locker room, North Point InsideOut performed a 10-minute halftime show for the 4,496 fans in attendance. The Christian band would return after the game to perform a 45-minute postgame show.
It was all Toronto in the third quarter. The visiting team kept the Swarm from scoring the entire quarter as the Rock netted four to take the lead, 7-6. Lintner got his hat trick in the quarter, the final goal of the quarter a catch-and-release goal to break the tie.
“That’s why we have halftime, is to go into the room, settle down and make adjustments, and that’s exactly what Toronto did,” Swarm goaltender Mike Poulin said. “They’ve had a lot of success the past game and tonight with transition goals, so it was apparent right from the start of the second half that they were running. They came in flying … Credit to our guys, too, for battling back.”
Kiel Matisz finally stopped the Swarm’s drought and tied the game off a gutsy pass from Staats, dodging his defender to net the ball in the top left corner. Lintner responded with a transition goal to retake the lead. Lyle danced on the crease to tie the game at eight goals apiece, but Lintner once again retook the lead for the Rock with his fifth and final goal.
The back-and-forth continued as Miles Thompson tied things up at the 10:12 min. mark. With his second five-goal game of the season, Lyle used a back-step whip to give the Swarm the lead again, 10-9. The lead was short-lived as Brett Hickey scored a transition goal after receiving a clear from Brodie Merrill.
In the final minute of regulation, Jordan Hall tried to make a diving goal on Rock goaltender Nick Rose, but it bounced behind the goal as Hall fell into the crease. Jesse King managed to grab it, and Hall quickly scrambled out as Rose tried to scramble to the opposite corner. He was too late as King jumped and dunked the goal in, giving Georgia an 11-10 lead. The play was reviewed since the goal was scored in the final two minutes of regulation and was upheld due to inconclusive evidence. The Swarm held on for the final 53 seconds and swept the Rock in 2018 with its 11-10 win.
In addition to his five goals, Lyle also recorded an assist to lead the Swarm with six points. Matisz and King posted four points (1G, 3A) each, and Hall had two goals and two assists to match them in points. Swarm goaltender Mike Poulin blocked 36 shots and finished the night with a .783 SV%.
Lintner’s five goals led the Rock in points Sunday night. Merrill finished with four points (1G, 3A). Rose earned his third loss against the Swarm this season after making 29 saves on 40 SOG, a 725 SV%.
Georgia heads to Saskatoon to face the Saskatchewan Rush (12-3) on Saturday, April 14. Faceoff is set for 9:30 p.m. ET. For the second straight week, the Swarm will be part of the NLL Twitter Game of the Week, and fans can catch the action at live.Twitter.com/NLL. Fans can also watch the game on NLLTV.com.
“Saskatchewan definitely wants to improve and clinch first, but I don’t think they want to stop there,” Comeau said. “We’ll need to be at our best to be in a game with those guys.”
The Swarm’s final home game of the 2017-18 season is against the Vancouver Stealth on April 28 at 7:05 p.m. ET. Hosting Fan Appreciation Night presented by Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating, early arriving fans will receive a Swarm Team Poster. Award-winning band Lifehouse will perform during halftime and postgame in the Goal Zone Club. Fans can get tickets at GeorgiaSwarm.com/Fan or by calling 844-4-GASWARM.
Play of the Game:
The final goal of the game is the play of the game. Hall showed fantastic awareness after his shot, moving quickly to get back on his feet and out of the blue of the crease. Synchronized perfectly, King’s dunk came at the perfect time, just as Hall exited the crease and just before Rose could stop the shot on goal. Teamwork makes the dream work.