Season series on the line between two of the top NLL teams
March 20, 2019By: Ty Merrow
After clinching their fourth-straight postseason berth last weekend, the Georgia Swarm (10-4) return home to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena this Friday, March 22 for the third and final regular season contest against the Toronto Rock (8-3). Faceoff is set for 7:35 p.m. ET.
The Swarm are hosting Faith & Family Night presented by Howard Brothers Hardware. North Point Community Church’s InsideOut Band will perform a halftime and postgame concert in the Swarm’s Goal Zone Club.
While having won their last three games – two on the road in New York – the Swarm came away with a 15-14 win against the revamped Rochester Knighthawks last Friday. The men in blue and yellow jumped to an early lead in the first half and nearly squandered it. Shayne Jackson carried the team in the final minutes, scoring the last three Swarm goals, including the game-winner.
“The second half, we didn’t bring the intensity and energy we needed to, and we allowed them to get in the game,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “Five-goal leads in lacrosse, it doesn’t guarantee you a win, but when you’re up by five and you stop playing with the energy and intensity that you started with, then that really gives the other team the opportunity to get back in it, and we did that.
“We did lots of good things, but I think the message to our guys is we’ve got to play 60 minutes like we did the week before in Buffalo. We put together 60 minutes. This game we didn’t do that, and we were lucky to come out of there with a win.”
The Rock also bested the Knighthawks last weekend, a 14-12 home win that stayed close for most of the game. The win snapped the Rock’s two-game losing streak, and they now head to Georgia for their only road game against the Swarm this season.
The two teams have met twice so far in 2018-19 and have split the season series, both handing each other their first losses of the season. The Swarm took the first game behind a four-goal effort from Lyle Thompson, winning 12-11 in Scotiabank Arena on Dec. 28. Unfortunately, the roles reversed when the two teams met on Jan. 18 with the home team in control the whole stretch of its 14-9 win.
Photo Credit: Ryan McCullough
“We got off to a slow start in that game, as I recall,” Comeau said. “Our offense was struggling a little bit then, and we didn’t get into a good rhythm on offense. They (the Rock) played with a whole lot of jump that night when we played them. They were definitely the better team … That night, we didn’t come ready to play off the bat.”
Slow starts have not been an issue for the Swarm of late as the team is averaging 5.67 GF in the first quarter of their last three games.
Lyle leads the team and is second in the NLL in points with 79 (35G, 44A). His 35 goals lead the league, and the University of Albany alum is tied for third in points. Randy Staats sits just behind Lyle with 75 points (28G, 47A), and Holden Cattoni has 62 points (19G, 43A) in his first season with the Swarm.
Goaltender Mike Poulin has been strong for the Swarm all season long. Over 755:05 min. of action, Poulin has an 11.20 GAA and a .786 SV%.
For the Rock, they are led by Tom Schreiber with 63 points (20G, 43A) and Rob Hellyer with 55 points (22G, 33A). Between the pipes is Nick Rose, who’s played in all but 35 seconds of the Rock’s season. In 663:17 min., Rose has an 11.76 GAA and a .764 SV%.
Despite the loss to the Rock on Jan. 18, the Swarm still have the historical advantage against their East Division foe. Including two postseason contests, the Swarm are 9-2 against the Rock since 2016 and will be looking to break into double digits in wins against them this Friday.
“I think the biggest factor will come down to the transition game in this game,” Comeau said. “They love to run; we love to run. It’s hard to score five-on-five in this league. When you get those opportunities, and both teams have some pretty gifted defensive players that can score, so really focusing on that and making sure that we do a good job of shutting down their transition while still trying to create some for ourselves is going to be real key.”
Friday’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.
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