The stakes could not be higher for the Georgia Swarm (7-7) and Toronto Rock (7-7) as the two East Division rivals meet on Sunday, April 8 for the third time this season. With a 4:05 p.m. ET faceoff at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena, the two look to go separate ways in the standings when the Swarm hosts Faith & Family Night presented by Howard Brothers Hardware.
The night will feature North Point’s InsideOut Band performing halftime and postgame concerts in the Atlanta Classic Cars Mercedes-Benz Goal Zone Club. Early arriving fans will receive a Lyle Thompson Drawstring Backpack presented by Howard Brothers Hardware. Fans can get tickets at GeorgiaSwarm.com/Faith or by calling 844-4-GASWARM.
Sunday’s matinee is also the NLL Twitter Game of the Week. Out-of-state fans can catch the game live via Live.Twitter.com/NLL
Even though Georgia has the tiebreaker against Toronto, this week’s game carries plenty of weight as the winner gets closer to the postseason. The Swarm has outscored the Rock 26-20 in the previous two meetings between the teams, but Toronto may be getting a weapon back if Tom Schreiber makes his much-anticipated return from the Injured Reserve List this weekend.
“We expect him to be back,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “We’re going to prepare for Toronto with Tom Schreiber, and if for some reason he’s not able to go, that doesn’t mean we’re going to spend any less attention on any of the other players, the weapons that they have.”
Schreiber went on the Injured Reserve List before the Rock and Swarm clashed for the first time this season. In his absence, the Rock is 2-4 and has been held to just seven goals in three separate games. With none of the seven Rock forwards scoring a goal against the Colorado Mammoth last weekend, Toronto’s O definitely wants the 2017 NLL ROY back in the lineup, but the Rock has said is will evaluate whether to activate Schreiber later this week after practice.
Regardless of whether Schreiber dresses or not, the Swarm will go out guns blazing as it looks for its third-straight win. Georgia is coming off a bye week, but its last game saw it get back to .500 with a 17-12 win against the New England Black Wolves, the most goals Georgia has scored this season.
The Swarm has seen consistency from assistant captain Shayne Jackson all season as he leads the team in points with 67 (26G, 41A). Hot on his heels is Lyle Thompson with 64 points (30G, 34A). Lyle has become more of a noticeable goal-scoring threat within the past four games, having netted 14 in style.
Between the pipes, Georgia has relied on goaltender Mike Poulin all season as he leads the league in minutes played with 802:11. Poulin has a 12.12 GAA and a .770 SV%. The veteran netminder has a 9.68 GAA and an .817 SV% against the Rock this season, and the Swarm defense prevented the Rock from scoring for 32:30 min. when the two teams last met.
After starting the season 3-4, Georgia’s coalescence on both sides of the ball has been noticeable as the team has gone 4-2 in its last six games. The Swarm’s improvements could not be happening at a better time as it makes its final push for the postseason, but it is something Comeau and Co. have been preaching all season long.
“We talked about continuing to get better and improve each and every game,” Comeau said. “I really believe we’ve been doing that the last number of games. Even in some of our losses, I thought we got better as a team.”
Toronto’s offense has been up-and-down all season, even with Schreiber in the lineup. The division rival is led by Rob Hellyer (27G, 49A) and Adam Jones (28G, 46A), and Schreiber sits in third in points on the team with 49 (19G, 30A) despite missing the last six Rock games. Brett Hickey is the closest in points after that with 35 (20G, 15A).
While the O has been inconsistent, Toronto’s defense has been its usual stalwart self. The Rock is third in the league in lowest GA/GAME with 11.50. Goaltender Nick Rose remains solid between the pipes and has an 11.11 GAA and a .784 SV% this season. In his two meetings with the Swarm, Rose has posted a 12.42 GAA and a .762 SV%.
Even with Georgia having taken seven of the last eight matchups against Toronto, the Swarm refuses to take anything for granted and expects nothing less than the best from the Rock.
“At the end of it all, we know that Toronto has lots of good players, and they have lots of weapons offensively,” Comeau said. “They need to make sure their offensive players are getting the opportunities and looks they need … They’ve certainly got so many shooters and so many good offensive players that we expect them to come out firing full-force on us Sunday.”