#93 Johnny Powless scored the game-winner in overtime. (Photo Credit: Graig Abel)
By Ty Merrow
(TORONTO) – For the second weekend in a row, the Georgia Swarm (6-1) found themselves fighting from behind before finally coming out on top. The Swarm retained first place in the East Division with a dramatic 13-12 overtime win against the Toronto Rock (4-2) at Air Canada Centre in front of 8,385 fans Friday night.
This matchup featured the best offense (Georgia) and defense (Toronto) in the league and ended with a nail biter for lacrosse fans as Shayne Jackson tied the game up in the fourth quarter with 3.9 seconds left. In his first game back from the injured list, Johnny Powless was fed a pass from Lyle Thompson and threaded the ball off goalie Nick Rose’s right shoulder into the net 46 seconds into overtime to help Georgia win and widen its division lead on Toronto.
“We knew their defense was good, their goaltending was good, they could run the floor, and they did all that,” head coach Ed Comeau said. “I thought we played well. They had a bit of a run, but we were able to close it and kept close enough to give ourselves a chance at the end. Shayne came up with a big goal that sent it to overtime, and Johnny luckily finished it for us.”
Georgia quickly returns home to Harrah’s Cherokee Field at Infinite Energy Arena this Sunday, Feb. 19, to take on the Rochester Knighthawks during Native American Heritage Night presented by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Faceoff is set for 6:05 p.m. Call 844-4-GASWARM or visit GeorgiaSwarm.com/SingleGame to purchase tickets.
Almost lost in the tumultuous victory is Lyle’s performance. With a nine-point game (1G, 8A) tonight, Lyle topped the NLL scoring leaderboard with 49 points (19G, 30A). Lyle is second in both goals and assists throughout the league and currently sports a .211 shooting percentage, has collected 50 loose balls, and has gone 20-for-36 on faceoffs.
“Lyle’s a big part of our success,” Comeau said. “As I told some guys tonight, he got better going on last year. We were hoping he’d start the year off at that high level he finished at and continue from there. He’s certainly done that and more. I think he’s a threat – he’s a real matchup nightmare. He can beat guys underneath, he can shoot from outside, he’s a good feeder, and he can run back and chase loose balls and play D. He’s done it all for us … I think the guys are really rallying around him.”
It was not all easy for Georgia. Miles Thompson was able to score quickly for the blue and yellow in the first quarter, but Toronto answered with three goals of their own. It took nearly 10 minutes of penalty killing from the Swarm before Jackson was able to find the back of the net for a shorthand goal, his first goal of the night. Unfortunately, Toronto’s Kieran McArdle was working his way towards a hat trick and led the way for the Rock to finish the quarter up 5-2.
Trying to prevent a game where the team battles back from behind all game for the win, Georgia struck first in the second quarter with a power play goal from Jordan Hall. A defensive quarter ensued as neither team found the net for nine minutes until Toronto’s Brett Hickey answered with a power play goal of his own. Copying Hall and Hickey, Lyle retaliated with the final power play goal of the half, and both teams went to the locker rooms. Toronto led 6-4.
Mixing things up, Toronto found the back of the net first and fast in the third quarter off a goal from Stephan Leblanc. Undeterred, Georgia went on a three-goal run of its own led by Powless, his first of the season. Miles would score next on a power play, and captain Jordan MacIntosh capped the run off with a shorthand goal of his own to tie the game 7-7 with 8:40 left to play.
Toronto answered back with two quick goals of its own to retake the lead, and Georgia retaliated with two more from Kiel Matisz and Miles to tie it up again. McArdle got the hat trick, scoring last in the quarter as the two teams went to the fourth quarter with the Rock up 10-9.
Jerome Thompson started the scoring in the fourth with some trickery that caught Toronto asleep, and Matisz followed up with another power play goal for Georgia, a parkour jump up over the crease to beat Rose. Georgia took its first lead since the beginning of the first quarter, 11-10. Toronto beat Georgia twice in transition, and with 1:01 left in the game, it looked like the Rock would stop the Swarm and take first in the East Division with a 12-11 victory.
Georgia never gave up. With less than 30 seconds to go and the benefit of a man-up situation, Mike Poulin was pulled to give Georgia the extra attacker, a six-on-four situation. Hall grabbed the ball from the center of the floor and passed to Powless on the other side. With six seconds left, Powless quickly gave it to Matisz. Toronto’s defense was all over Matisz and knocked him down but not before he lobbed it to Jackson. Jackson took advantage of the one-on-one situation and snaked it under Rose to tie it up with 3.9 seconds left, 12-12.
“We pulled Poulin – we had a five-on-four power play, so we actually pulled Poulin to go six-on-four,” assistant coach Sean Ferris said, “so it actually spread them (Toronto) apart. It was good that we swung the ball over the crease. Rose had a hell of a game … it was nice to see Jackson bury that goal.”
It became the first overtime game of the season for Georgia, and both teams were hungry for a win. Toronto started off with the ball but was unable to successfully find the net. Fittingly, Powless netted the game-winner off a pass from Lyle and ended the game 13-12, giving the Georgia Swarm its sixth win of the season, a more comfortable hold on first place in the East Division, and the best record in the NLL.
“It was pretty good to score,” Powless said. “… I had a gut feeling I wanted to shoot far side high before the game even started.”
Special teams ruled the day for Georgia. Man-up six times throughout the night, Georgia found the back of the net five times. Man-down six times throughout the night, Georgia killed the penalty three times and scored twice.
Miles finished with the hat trick (3G, 1A), Hall had six points (1G, 5A), and Matisz and Powless both finished with five points each (2G, 3A). MacIntosh, not content with scoring a shorthand goal, went 15-for-25 on faceoffs and collected seven loose balls. After what seemed like a rough start, Poulin turned in a gem, blocking 52 out of 64 shots, a .823 SV%.
Play of the Game:
While the Johnny Powless game-winner in overtime was undoubtedly incredible to witness, the game would not have gotten to overtime if it was not for some last second heroics. Our Play of the Game goes to Shayne Jackson’s goal in the fourth with just 3.9 seconds left. Desperate Georgia Swarm fans watching the game on NLLTV leapt up triumphantly from their seats, fists pumping in jubilation as the team went to its first overtime match of the season.
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