The Georgia Swarm’s (4-0) quest to remain the only undefeated team in the NLL continues with the team’s first doubleheader weekend of the season. Georgia heads north to take on the Toronto Rock (3-1) in Scotiabank Arena this Friday, Jan. 18. Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET. The team then heads back to the states for a rematch against the New England Black Wolves (2-1) in Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday, Jan. 19. Faceoff is set for 7:00 p.m. ET.
Fans can catch both games on the B/R Live app available through iTunes, Google Play, Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire.
Both Toronto and New England’s sole losses were to Georgia. Both teams have added two wins to their win columns since then and will be looking to exact a measure of vengeance against the top team in the NLL.
“(Toronto and New England) are certainly motivated having lost to us, and I would agree they’re playing really well and getting wins,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “We know what we’re up against, and they’re both good teams, both well-coached.”
The Swarm are coming off their fourth-straight win this season, a 13-11 road victory last Saturday against the Philadelphia Wings (0-4). Randy Staats led the team in points with seven (3G, 4A), followed closely by Lyle Thompson (3G, 3A) and Holden Cattoni (2G, 4A) with six points apiece. Georgia’s power play unit cashed in on the man-advantage, successfully scoring on 66.67% of its chances.
Goaltender Mike Poulin continued his success this season after stopping 35 of the Wings’ 46 SOG, an .817 SV%. He and the Swarm defense were particularly effective at killing penalties, holding the Wings to only one power play goal despite multiple opportunities.
Lyle leads the Swarm in points (22) and goals (11, tied for fourth in the NLL), and Staats leads the team in assists (15, tied for fifth in the NLL). Poulin has a 10.50 GAA and a .789 SV% throughout the season.
After Saturday’s win, the Swarm’s defense is now second in the NLL in GA/GAME at 10.50, and the penalty kill unit is tied for second at 66.67%.
“Our goaltending is a function of our defense; our defense is a function of our goaltending, and I think they’ve complemented each other very well this year,” Comeau said. “It’s certainly been good, and we’d love to keep our goals against at the level it is right now. That gives us a chance to be successful every night.”
First up for the Swarm will be the Toronto Rock. When the two teams met up on Dec. 28, 2018 at Scotiabank Arena, the Swarm won courtesy of a goal from Lyle with 24 seconds left in the game.
That win continued Georgia’s dominance against Toronto over the past four seasons. Including two postseason contests, the Swarm have won nine of the last 10 games against Toronto. Five of those 10 games have been decided by one goal.
“It’s early in the season to talk about how these games affect the end of the season, but certainly when you play a team three times, you want to try and hold the tie-breaker,” Comeau said. “That’ll be a factor for them and for us, as well. (The Rock) are definitely going to be motivated, and I’m sure they feel that we got away with one when we were up there the last time.”
Toronto’s offense is led by Tom Schreiber (11G, 15A), Rob Hellyer (10G, 14A) and Adam Jones (9G, 9A). Goaltender Nick Rose has spent 243:51 min. in net for Toronto and has a 10.83 GAA to go with a .793 SV%.
The road trip continues as the Swarm will quickly leave Toronto. Saturday, the Swarm travels to Mohegan Sun Arena to take on the Black Wolves for the first time since the Season Opener. Georgia won that home game 16-12, preventing New England from scoring at all in the second quarter before cruising to its first win of the season.
Trying to stop Lyle | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess
Since then, New England has played the two best teams in the West Division, the defending champion Saskatchewan Rush and the Calgary Roughnecks. The Black Wolves beat the Rush 11-10 before handling the Roughnecks 16-10.
“They’ve played well,” Comeau commented. “Any team that can beat Saskatchewan and then go into Calgary and win in Calgary, those are big wins. They’re probably looking back and saying their opening night, they had a lot of new faces in the lineup. Now they’ve had a few games to adjust, I’m sure they’re looking forward to having another shot at us with a little more experience as a group and a little more experience together.”
Callum Crawford and his 20 points (7G, 13A) lead the Black Wolves in scoring, followed by Reilly O’Connor (11G, 5A) and Stephan Leblanc (4G, 11A). New England has used both Alex Buque and Doug Jamieson to guard the net this season. Buque is 1-0 with an 11.00 GAA and a .776 SV%. Jamieson is 1-1 with a 12.50 GAA and a .779 SV%.
With chances to clinch both season series this weekend, Friday and Saturday will have huge implications for the entire East Division. But Comeau and the Swarm know they have to take things one game at a time and concentrate on the immediate foe.
“We tell the guys that we have one game, and we focus on that one game. When that game’s over, we focus on the next game,” Comeau said.
Georgia returns to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena on Sunday, Jan. 27 to take on the Saskatchewan Rush. Faceoff is set for 4:05 p.m. ET. Billed as the Meeting of the Champions presented by IceByrd Frozen Yogurt, the last two teams to win an NLL World Championship will meet for the only time this regular season.
Early arriving fans can receive a Stinger Snowglobe. Tickets are available at GeorgiaSwarm.com/Champions or by calling 844-4-GASWARM.