The Georgia Swarm (3-5) ends the first half of its 2017-18 season with a visit on Saturday, Feb. 17 from the only East Division foe it has not faced this season, the Toronto Rock (5-3). Faceoff is set for 7:05 p.m. ET.
The Swarm will be hosting its inaugural Country Night presented by JT Stratford and will feature a 10-minute halftime and 30-minute postgame performance by country music superstar Scotty McCreery. Early arriving fans will receive cowbells courtesy of JT Stratford. Tickets are available at GeorgiaSwarm.com/CountryNight or by calling 844-4-GASWARM.
Georgia’s first doubleheader weekend was a step back for the team as it dropped both games, Saturday against Buffalo and Sunday against Rochester. The Swarm is still in the hunt for one of the three East Division playoff spots, but the journey to get back to the top has to start with a win against a Rock team it has not seen since the 2017 East Division Finals.
“We asked our guys and everyone to really look in the mirror of what we can do better and what we can bring,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “I think we had some really good dialogue … I think the big thing for us is to be mentally prepared, doing everything we can to put ourselves in position that when this all goes, we’re ready to perform at our highest possible levels. That’s not something that we’ve done consistently this year.”
Despite its recent two losses, Georgia still features a varied offense, with four players recording 30 points or more. Assistant captain Shayne Jackson leads the team with 41 points (15G, 26A), followed by Lyle Thompson with 36 points (14G, 22A) and Randy Staats (17G, 14A) and Kiel Matisz (7G, 24A) with 31 points apiece.
Goaltender Mike Poulin has seen 436:46 min. between the pipes and has made 292 saves so far this season. He currently sports a 13.46 GAA and a .749 SV%.
The Rock ran rampant for a month at the turn of the new year, averaging 20.5 GF/GAME and 9.5 GA/GAME during that time span and improving its record to 4-2. The team has gone 1-1 since then, using a 12-9 win against Rochester to put itself back in the win column.
Unfortunately, Toronto was hit earlier this week with the news that it would be without its 2017 NLL ROY Tom Schreiber for 6-8 weeks following a lower body injury he suffered in the fourth quarter against the Knighthawks. Before moving to the Injured List, Schreiber recorded 49 points (19G, 30A) in eight games.
“From our perspective, we know his absence is going to be an opportunity for another player to step up,” Comeau said. “They have lots of highly effective offensive players in their lineup. No one person is ever going to replace what Tom Schreiber did for them this year, but that just means other guys are going to get opportunities and get some more shots and get some more touches. With or without Tom, they’re going to be an extremely dangerous team.”
Toronto still has an impressive group of forwards even with Schreiber’s absence. Adam Jones has 52 points (21G, 31A) in eight games, followed by Rob Hellyer and his 44 points (18G, 26A).
The Rock still feature a solid defense on the backend, led by Nick Rose. The veteran goaltender is turning in one of his usual stellar campaigns, having posted an 11.28 GAA and a .779 SV% in 420:03 min. of action. Toronto’s penalty kill unit is operating at a league-worst 35.5% rate, complimented by its league-leading 21.75 PIM/GAME.
With the recent struggles Georgia had last weekend, the team has done some collective soul-searching to try get itself back on track for the remaining 10 games in the season. It does have a large Rock to surpass, but Comeau knows consistency will get the talented Swarm group back to where it is used to being.
“In order to be successful in this league, you need consistency over more than just a quarter and a half,” Comeau said. “You need to put full games together. Looking at teams that are winning right now, that’s exactly what they’re doing. We think we know what we need to do. We need to make sure we are ready at opening faceoff and ready to go and play a full game.”