The Georgia Swarm (10-4) punched their ticket back to the postseason with a 15-14 win against the Rochester Knighthawks (2-9) in Blue Cross Arena on Saturday. The Swarm outlasted the Knighthawks in the offensive slugfest, sweeping the season series against their East Division foe and securing their fourth-straight trip to the postseason.
The Swarm came out firing in the first half and built up a good lead before fighting to stay ahead of the home team in the second half.
“That’s one of the goals we talk about at the beginning of the year is to make the playoffs, and then we’ll worry about the rest of the stuff,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “It was good to get the win; it was good to clinch a playoff spot, but certainly the second half, Rochester was much better than we were in the second half and maybe even deserved a better fate than what they got.”
Shayne Jackson had his best night of the season, recording nine points (5G, 4A) and scoring the game-winning goal. His stellar night saw him surpass 500 career points, and Holden Cattoni eclipsed 100 career assists after his four-point (1G, 3A) night.
“Shayne plays hard every shift,” Comeau said about Jackson. “As a leader on our team, we needed someone to step up. Some great goals, and he just leads by how hard he plays. It was great. We needed that from him, especially if some other guys are not having great nights, you need everyone contributing. That’s the great thing about our offense; any one of our offensive players is capable of going off like that for a big night. Shayne did a great job, especially late in the game when the game was still on the line.”
“When something like that happens, I tend to think about the guys that had parts in it,” Jackson said. “I’ve been very lucky to have good coaches in Eddie, Chi (Sean Ferris) and Laddy (Dan Ladoueceur). We’ve had some great lacrosse players and great teammates on our team. It’s not all me; I’m not stupid to think that. Whenever I see that happen, I go back to the teammates I’ve played with and how fun this has been. Hopefully it keeps going for many more years.”
Chad Tutton kicked off the scoring in the first 15 seconds of the game, and the Swarm used the momentum to quickly put up five-straight goals in 5:21 min. Newcomer Chris Boushy managed to stop the bleeding for the Knighthawks, and the two teams traded blows, ending the first quarter with the Swarm up 7-3.
Jackson broke open the scoring in the second quarter, but Boushy responded with back-to-back goals. After exchanging goals, the Swarm rattled off three-straight goals, highlighted by an incredible dunking goal from behind the net from Lyle Thompson, his fourth goal of the night.
A fight broke out in the late minutes of the second quarter between Jackson and Darryl Robertson, and a number of ensuing penalties in the dying minutes of the half resulted in a comical amount of players in the penalty boxes. The half ended quiet, and the two teams went to the locker rooms with the Swarm still in the lead, 12-7.
“We just knew we had to come out and play with speed, and we knew that they had a lot of new faces in the lineup,” Jackson said. “We wanted to play our game and jump on them early, and luckily we did, but I thought we let our foot of the gas a little bit.”
The Knighthawks controlled the second half, outscoring the Swarm 7-3 in the final 30 min.
“You can’t give teams opportunities,” Comeau said. “They’ve got good players there. They’ve got guys trying to make a name for themselves in the league, which some of them did tonight.”
Graeme Hossack scored shorthanded to shrink the lead before S. Jackson recorded his hat trick. It would be the last time the Swarm scored in the quarter as the Knighthawks rattled off four-straight goals, putting the home team back within one, 13-12.
Boushy tied the game 11 seconds into the fourth quarter, his seventh goal of the night. Jackson put the Swarm on his back, using a quick feed from Randy Staats through traffic to retake the lead for the Swarm. It lasted only seconds as Jake Withers won his 28th faceoff of the night cleanly and immediately scored off it, tying the game at 14 apiece. Jackson retook the lead for the Swarm, cutting across the crease and netting the ball after receiving it from Miles Thompson.
A hectic defensive battle ensued for the final 11:38 min. Ryan Benesch took advantage of a Swarm player not playing the ball because he thought Benesch had stepped in the crease before receiving a pass and scored. Comeau threw out the challenge flag, and the call was overturned.
“It was absolutely massive,” Jackson said about the call being overturned. “In their own barn, they tie it with two and a half minutes or whatever it was, the place would be going wild, they’d have an extra jolt of energy. Who knows what would have happened?”
“It was certainly fortunate for us,” Comeau said. “We don’t want games to come down to where you have to throw a challenge flag late in the game to take away a goal from the other team. Sometimes those go for you, and they did tonight.”
After that, the Swarm did what they could to kill the clock. Mike Poulin made two final saves in the last 14 seconds, and the Swarm swept the Knighthawks, 15-14.
“Those are the kinds of games that are going to happen in the playoffs,” Jackson said. “Looking back at it, it’s kind of good that we went through it now so we can prepare for it going in the playoffs, but we’ve got to clean up our little mistakes that led to their goals.”
Lyle recorded six points (4G, 2A), Staats posted five (2G, 3A), and both Miles and Cattoni had four points (1G, 3A) the same way. Poulin’s 40 saves were enough for the win, and he finished the night with a .741 SV%.
Boushy had a stellar night in his first game as a Knighthawks player, scoring half of his new team’s goals and tacking on two assists. Cody Jamieson followed with five points (1G, 4A). Warren Hill got the nod against his old team and made 35 saves, finishing the night with the loss and a .700 SV%.
The Swarm return to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino at Infinite Energy Arena on Friday, March 22 for the rubber match against the Toronto Rock (7-3).
“Next week against Toronto is absolutely a massive game,” Jackson said. “It’s the season series game. We know what kind of defense they have and what kind of goalie they have in Rosey (Nick Rose), and he’s very hard to beat.”
“We know that they’re a good team, and this certainly has playoff implications for everyone involved, so we need to make sure we bring an effort for 60 minutes against those guys,” Comeau concluded.
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 in the Swarm Goal Zone Club at halftime and postgame.
Early arriving fans can receive a Swarm light-up foam stick courtesy of Howard Brothers Hardware. Call 844-4-GASWARM or visit GeorgiaSwarm.com/FaithAndFamilyNight for tickets.