After a tough two-loss weekend, the Georgia Swarm (4-2) return home to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena to welcome the defending champion Saskatchewan Rush (3-1) on Sunday, Jan. 27. Faceoff is set for 4:05 p.m. ET.
In this Meeting of the Champions presented by IceByrd Frozen Yogurt, the two most recent teams to win an NLL Cup will meet for the only time in the 2018-19 regular season.
Early arriving fans can receive a Stinger Snow Globe. Tickets are available at GeorgiaSwarm.com/Champions or by calling 844-4-GASWARM.
After a 14-9 loss to the Toronto Rock on Friday and falling 13-12 in a close battle with the New England Black Wolves on Saturday, the Swarm ended their three-game road trip in fourth place in the East Division. Georgia may have dropped there from first place, but the 2017 NLL World Champions are still just a half game out of first.
“We’re excited to be home,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “Certainly, the sense of urgency will be there for us coming off a two-loss weekend. We need to get back to where we’re playing in a level that we’re going to be able to compete and win against the elite teams in this league, and Saskatchewan is certainly one of them.”
In a sign of solidarity with Lyle Thompson and the Native communities after disparaging comments were made about Lyle during the Swarm’s game in Philadelphia on Jan. 12, the players wore special warmup t-shirts with braids down the back and special braid stickers on the back of their helmets during both games.
“Obviously, when the incident happened, the guys were pretty upset,” Swarm assistant captain Shayne Jackson said. “We saw that in the room, and we were all worried. Then we finally heard what had gone on, and we just want to show that we’re here with them. They’re our brothers; they’re our teammates. We’ve gone through a lot with one another, winning championships, stuff like that. Anytime you see your teammate be as emotional as they were about the whole situation and the fact that it happened, you just want to show that you’re there for them.
“They’re great ambassadors for the game, and the fact that this still happens is pretty crazy. There are no better people for the game of lacrosse than the Thompsons. Anything we can do as a team to show we’re there for them, we were more than happy to do it.”
Solidarity | Photo Credit: Khoi Ton
To rebound, the Swarm will have to take down the 2018 NLL World Champions and current top dog in the West Division, the Saskatchewan Rush. After dropping their Season Opener to the Black Wolves, the Rush quickly made adjustments to win their next three games in convincing fashion.
The Swarm will count on the continued contributions from their top two scorers, Randy Staats and Lyle. Staats leads the team with 32 points (11G, 21A), followed closely by Lyle’s 31 points (18G, 13A). Lyle’s 18 goals are tied for the most in the league.
Out the back door, the Swarm defense will look to cool the Rush’s offense that is averaging 13.25 GF/GAME and cashing in on 73.68% of all power play opportunities. Goaltender Mike Poulin – currently sporting an 11.33 GAA and a .773 SV% – has faced the Rush five times – including two postseason games in 2017 – with the Swarm. Across those five games, Poulin has spent 270:41 min. in front of the net and posted an 11.58 GAA and a .774 SV%.
The Rush’s offense is led by Ben McIntosh (15G, 12A) and Mark Matthews (9G, 18A), both with 27 points. McIntosh is averaging a league-high 3.75 GF/GAME. Between the pipes, Evan Kirk has stood tall for the team, leading the league with a 10.00 GAA and fourth overall with a .796 SV%.
With a third of their season behind them, the Swarm will have to remember the lessons of last weekend to come out on top in one of the toughest games on their schedule.
“They’ve (Saskatchewan) been a top team in this league for the last four or five years, and we know that they are very well coached, they’re very disciplined,” Comeau said. “They’re a very good team. We know we’re going to have to play much better than what we did last week if we want to have a chance to have success against that team.”
For fans not in attendance, Saturday’s game will be broadcast on the B/R Live app available through iTunes, Google Play, Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire. Fans can also listen to the game on Atlanta Sports X 1230 AM/106.3 FM.