The Georgia Swarm (12-4) will end the 2017 regular season with a two-game weekend against the Rochester Knighthawks (6-10). The two teams will faceoff at the Blue Cross Arena Friday, April 28 before flying south to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena for the final game of the season on Saturday, April 29. Faceoffs are set for 7:30 p.m. ET and 7:05 p.m. ET respectively.
Both teams won big last week. Georgia dashed the Buffalo Bandits hopes at a playoff berth with a 20-7 victory on the road, and Rochester bested the New England Black Wolves, keeping its playoff aspirations alive. Rochester can clinch the final playoff spot if it defeats Georgia twice this weekend.
The Knighthawks will have its work cut out for them as Georgia’s offense has been destructive this year, especially the past four games. Led by MVP-candidate Lyle Thompson, the first player in Swarm franchise history to surpass 100 points in a season (currently sits at 108 – 40G, 68A), the team has scored an incredible 79 goals in the past month while going undefeated. Georgia has the best GF/GAME by nearly two goals, averaging 15.31 per game.
“Our offense has been playing real well,” head coach Ed Comeau said. “I thought our defense and goaltending were good last game. We do have confidence, but offense happens with consistency, and we’re going to need to make sure we are consistent in how we play on both ends of the floor. Rochester has done a real good job this year of shutting down transition, trying to let their 5-on-5 defense and their goalie keep them in games, and I think that’s going to be the same for us. Really trying to keep the tempo of the game fast and take advantage of our transition opportunities, continue to move the ball on offense, and also generate really good scoring opportunities.”
Last week, Georgia scored 20 goals for the third time this season as it knocked off the defending East Division Champions. Lyle finished with 10 points (2G, 8A), Randy Staats ended the night with seven points (4G, 3A), Kiel Matisz also recorded seven points (3G, 4A), assistant captain Shayne Jackson scored six points (2G, 4A), Miles Thompson had five points (4G, 1A), and Jordan Hall and Johnny Powless both finished with four points (2G, 2A) each.
Georgia’s defense, led by goaltender Mike Poulin, held Buffalo to only seven goals all night, allowing only 39 shots on goal and preventing the Bandits from scoring on its only power play opportunity. Joel White had 9LB+3CTO, captain Jordan MacIntosh had 8LB+4CTO, Bryan Cole scooped up 5LB, and assistant captain Jason Noble went 5LB+1CTO in addition to scoring his first goal of the season in the third quarter.
Rochester will try to stop an offense averaging 19.75 goals in the past four games and somehow get its league-worst offense – averaging 9.75 GF/GAME – to step up big in the final two games. Joe Resetarits and his 57 points (23G, 34A) leads the team just ahead of Kyle Jackson and his 55 points (24G, 31A).
The Knighthawks defense – third best in the NLL with a GA/GAME of 11.75 – will feature Matt Vinc between the pipes. Vinc has an 11.26 GAA and a .777 SV% throughout 842:06 min. this season. Georgia did not face him on February 19, instead besting Angus Goodleaf that night with 15 goals.
“Rochester has gone through a lot of changes with their lineup through injuries,” Comeau said. “They’re playing a lot of young guys. This is their opportunity, their chance to show that they can play in this league. We know those guys will be very good. Their record isn’t where they’d like it to be, but if you look at them defensively, they’re one of the top in goals against in the league … With them still chasing a spot in the playoffs, Friday night’s a good game for them. Coupled with the fact they’ve got some of the young guys trying to earn permanent spots in their lineup, they’re going to be very motivated. We’re looking forward to playing.”
Even after clinching first place and the No. 1 seed in the East Division, Georgia still has work to do as it seeks the best record in the NLL and home field advantage in the NLL Championship. Rochester will be throwing everything it has at the Swarm this weekend, a Hail Mary for the final postseason berth in the East Division.