(Buffalo, NY) – The Georgia Swarm (12-4) slammed the Buffalo Bandits’ (6-11) playoff window shut by way of a 20-7 victory Saturday night at KeyBank Center. With its fourth-straight win, Georgia has swept the season series against Buffalo (3-0). Fans worldwide joined the 16,833 fans at KeyBank Center in watching the game live on Twitter as the NLL Game of the Week.
Georgia’s dominant performance was highlighted by Lyle Thompson recording his 100th point of the season in the first quarter, an eight-goal run from its unselfish offense in the second half, and a 23:14 min. period where Buffalo was held scoreless. This was the third time this season Georgia has scored 20 or more goals, and the Swarm has scored a remarkable 79 goals in the last four games (19.75 GF/GAME).
“I thought it was a complete game for us,” head coach Ed Comeau said. “We knew they were going to come out with a lot of energy, and we got a couple early and were able to keep that type of gap. We played hard and tough. We moved the ball well on offense, we had some balls drop. I thought our defense and goaltending were really good.”
Georgia started things off right with a four-goal run in the first quarter and never looked back. Randy Staats opened the scoring off with an assist from Lyle before Kiel Matisz followed up a minute later with another assist from Lyle. Buffalo’s Ryan Benesch finally tallied one for the home team, and Anthony Malcom followed up with a shorthand goal with 10 seconds left in the quarter.
Up 4-2 at the start of the second quarter, Jordan Hall scored a little over a minute into the action before Buffalo’s David Brock responded. Led once again by Staats, Georgia then went on a five-goal run, putting the dangerous Swarm up 10-3 with five minutes left in the second quarter. Mark Steenhuis would score on an extra attacker opportunity for Buffalo, assistant captain Shayne Jackson responded for Georgia, and Benesch capped the scoring in the first half. Both teams headed to the locker room with Georgia now up 11-5.
The third quarter was all Georgia. The defense held Buffalo to only three shots on goal as the Bandits grew increasingly frustrated throughout the 15 minutes. Nearly five minutes in, Lyle started an unanswered eight-goal run for Georgia that extended into the final quarter while the defense continued to hold Buffalo scoreless in the second half.
Buffalo found itself with a penalty shot situation six minutes into the fourth quarter, but Malcom could not net the ball one-on-one against Swarm goaltender Mike Poulin. Steenhuis finally tallied a goal for Buffalo in the second half. It had been 23:14 min. since Buffalo had last scored. Mitch Jones scored the last goal of the night for Buffalo, but Hall had the last word of the night as he shot in Georgia’s 20th goal. Four-and-a-half minutes later, the final buzzer rang, signaling a 20-7 Swarm victory.
Lyle finished the night with 10 points (2G, 8A). Through 16 games, Lyle has recorded 108 points (40G, 68A) and sits atop the leaderboard and is a frontrunner for the league’s MVP award.
“We have a good, successful team that’s doing the right things,” Lyle said when asked about what reaching this historic Swarm milestone meant to him. “When a team like what we have comes together – the chemistry on the floor, off the floor – everything has really clicked this year. That’s my credit to my success. It’s not me. It’s not me that’s being super dominant. I think it’s our whole offense.”
Staats and Matisz followed with seven points each (4G, 3A; 3G, 4A respectively). Jackson had six points (2G, 4A), Miles Thompson five points (4G, 1A), and Johnny Powless and Hall each with four points (2G, 2A). Poulin took 39 shots all night, finishing with a 7 GAA and an .821 SV%. Also shining on defense was captain Jordan MacIntosh (8LB, 4CTO), Joel White (9LB, 3CTO), and rookie Connor Sellars (5LB, 3CTO).
“We talked this week about what we have,” Comeau said. “We’ve got some good athletes and we did a real nice job of being on their gloves and making sure we were in the shooting lanes. We sinked a lot of shots and changed a lot of shots by making sure we were in lanes. I think that’s a real key thing for our D. Poulie made some real key saves as well.”
Georgia outshot Buffalo by 15 goals and prevented the Bandits from scoring on its only power play opportunity all night. With Georgia’s dominant past four games, the team has seen its GF/GAME rise from 13.8 to 15.31. After tonight’s season-low in goals against, the Swarm’s GA/GAME is now 12.13.
Georgia’s last two games of the season will be against the Rochester Knighthawks (6-10). The first time these two met this season, Georgia won at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena to the tune of 15-9. Georgia will visit Rochester at the Blue Cross Arena on Friday, April 28. Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Fans can catch the game LIVE via NLLTV.com. The two teams will then travel to The Hive for the final regular season game on Saturday, April 29. Faceoff is set for 7:05 p.m. The Swarm will be celebrating Fan Appreciation Night. Fans can take advantage of the team’s Playoff Push package by calling 844-4-GASWARM or by visiting GeorgiaSwarm.com/PlayoffPush for $25 lower level tickets.
Play of the Game:
The play of the game came early in the contest. Seven-and-a-half minutes into the first quarter, Matisz had the ball, spun around his defender, and made the shot while falling on the outside of the crease, putting Georgia up 2-0 early. Quick and clean.
What was also important about this goal was what it meant for the Swarm franchise. Starting the night with 98 points, Lyle recorded assists on the first two goals of the game, reaching 100 points (38G, 62A). In addition to being the first of what is sure to be many such campaigns for the MVP-candidate, Lyle’s 100th point marks the first time in franchise history a Swarm player has recorded 100 points in a season.
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