#44 Chad Tutton. (Photo Credit: Bill Wippert)
(Duluth, GA) – Having scored 21 goals in consecutive weeks, the Georgia Swarm (10-4) returns home to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena to take on the Buffalo Bandits (5-9). Faceoff is set for 7:05 p.m. The Swarm has tied a franchise record with its 10th win.
Georgia clinched a playoff berth last weekend with a huge 21-12 victory against the New England Black Wolves, also taking the season series 3-1. The team now seeks to clinch its first-ever East Division title which would lock up the East’s No. 1 seed, guaranteeing home-field advantage and a bye week before the Division Finals.
With the team making a deeper playoff push on the floor, fans can take advantage of a special Playoff Push package being offered. Lower level seats start as low as $25, and the first 1,000 fans will receive a voucher for a FREE hot dog. Tickets are available by calling 844-4-GASWARM or by visiting GeorgiaSwarm.com/PlayoffPush.
In its last three victories, the Swarm has outscored opponents by an astonishing 26 goals. Georgia now welcomes a team in desperation mode to The Hive, the Buffalo Bandits. The Bandits have lost the past three games, and the team’s playoff window could very well vanish this weekend as it visits the Toronto Rock on Friday before visiting The Hive Saturday.
“Any team in this league knows that a surefire way to really destroy a weekend is to start thinking ahead,” head coach Ed Comeau said. “I’m sure they’re focused entirely on Toronto, and when they get done with Toronto, then they’ll turn their sights to us … Regardless of them playing the night before, I know they’ll be at their best when they come play us.”
Georgia and Buffalo have not gone toe-to-toe since the Swarm bested the Bandits at KeyBank Center 18-14 on Jan. 14. Georgia featured a balanced offense as 11 different Swarm players scored that night. Lyle Thompson led the team with eight points (2G, 6A); Jordan Hall, assistant captain Shayne Jackson, and Kiel Matisz all ended with six points each; and Randy Staats earned the hat trick. Goaltender Mike Poulin made 41 saves in 60 full minutes of play.
A taste of what was to come, Georgia’s offense has propelled the team to the top of the East Division since then. Lyle has continued to make a strong case for NLL MVP with his 90 points (34G, 56A), 98 loose balls, 11 caused turnovers, a .185 shot percentage, and by going 21-for-44 on faceoffs. Hall has the second most points on the team with 69 (17G, 52A), and Jackson has the second most goals with 30 – behind Lyle’s 34. After missing a month while on the Injured List, Staats has propelled himself up to fourth on the team scoring leaderboard, highlighted by last week’s career-high five goals and 11 points against New England.
Poulin has continued to impress between the pipes. He has recorded 742:58 min. in front of the net and made 527 saves. Poulin has an 11.95 GAA and a .781 SV% to compliment his 9-4 record. He has been aided by a strong defense that is killing 54.5% of penalties, the best in the league.
Buffalo will bring the NLL’s third-best offense to town and is led by the 2016 NLL MVP Dhane Smith and his 68 points (24G, 44A). Mitch Jones, Mark Steenhuis, and Ryan Benesch follow behind him. Benesch scored seven points (3G, 4A) against Georgia the last time these two met.
Contrasting the Bandits' offense is the league’s worst defense, allowing 13.36 GA/GAME. Buffalo digs itself into a hole in the first quarter as opponents have outscored the team by 20 goals throughout the season and struggles to climb out before the final buzzer rings.
“This is a league that what you did last week or what you did the night before has no bearing on that night,” Comeau said. “So we’re taking them at full volume. We know what’s at stake for them, and we know that we need to be at our best. If we want to continue at this level, consistency is a big factor that we’ve talked about from early in the season. We’ve put together two really solid games front to back, and we want to continue that this weekend.”
With a secure playoff seeding in sight, Georgia will push ahead this Saturday against Buffalo. Fans can push with the team by taking advantage of the Playoff Push package being offered. Lower level seats start as low as $25, and the first 1,000 fans will receive a voucher for a FREE hot dog. Tickets are available by calling 844-4-GASWARM or by visiting GeorgiaSwarm.com/PlayoffPush.
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