The Georgia Swarm (15-5) welcomes the West Division Finalist Saskatchewan Rush (14-6) in Game 1 of the 2017 NLL Champion’s Cup this Sunday, June 4 to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena. Faceoff is set for 5:05 p.m. ET. Georgia will be making its first-ever Champion’s Cup appearance and will try to prevent the two-time defending champion Rush from a three-peat. The Champion’s Cup is a best-of-three series.
In addition to the first NLL Championship game in Georgia, Atlanta’s own three-time GRAMMY® Award Winning Artist Ludacris will be performing at halftime. Lower level seats start as low as $20 for this historic game and halftime concert. Tickets are available by calling 844-4-GASWARM or by visiting GeorgiaSwarm.com/Playoff. Game 1 and Ludacris’s performance will also be streamed LIVE via Twitter.
Georgia made it to the Champion’s Cup after sweeping the Toronto Rock in the East Division Finals. The team took a bye week off to rest and prepare for its final obstacle in the 2017 season.
“We’re all proud as a group of what we’ve accomplished,” head coach Ed Comeau said. “But as I’ve said before, nobody, no player, no team, no individual in the league, sets out to just make a championship team. We’re proud and happy with what we’ve done, but we know in order for this to be a successful season, we need to be the last team to win a game. That’s what we’re going to focus on, our next game and really try to continue to replicate the hard work and good results that we’ve had so far.”
The first meeting between the two teams in 2017 took place during the NLL season opener on Jan. 7 at The Hive. Georgia emerged victorious with an 18-10 victory. The Thompson Brothers set a Guinness World Record for having the most siblings (4) play in a single professional lacrosse game at the same time.
Since then, the two teams rose to the top of their respective divisions and stayed there for the entire season, clinching the No. 1 playoff seeds in the East and West with Georgia clinching the No. 1 overall playoff seed courtesy of its 13-5 regular season record.
“Are we surprised we’re seeing Saskatchewan? No,” Comeau said. “Over the last three or four years, they have been one of the top teams in the league and a two-time defending champion. It’s a group that’s been built to win championships, and they’ve done a great job … We know they know what it takes to win. We’re going to have to be at our best to take them down.”
Georgia and Saskatchewan feature well-matched defenses. During the regular season, Saskatchewan allowed 212 goals ( GA/GAME) with Georgia finishing right behind the Rush with 213 ( GA/GAME). In the postseason, both defenses were key to their respective teams’ success in sweeping their opponents in the Division Finals. Georgia held the Toronto Rock to 17 goals over two games, and Saskatchewan held the Colorado Mammoth to 19 goals in its sweep.
Georgia’s Mike Poulin finished the regular season with a 12-4 record, 11.77 GAA, and a .781 SV%. In the postseason, Poulin leads all goaltenders in GAA and SV% with an 8.50 GAA and an astounding .827 SV%. Saskatchewan’s Aaron Bold finished the season between the pipes with an 11-4 record, 11.22 GAA, and a .764 SV%. In the postseason, he has collected two wins while posting a 9.50 GAA and a .768 SV%.
Bold and Poulin know each other well as they have faced each other seven different times in the playoffs over the past five years, Bold with Edmonton/Saskatchewan and Poulin with the Calgary Roughnecks. Poulin made it to the 2014 Champion’s Cup against the Rochester Knighthawks but was ultimately defeated, and he channels that loss into motivation.
“When Mike came in to work with us here as a free agent, we knew what he does,” Comeau said. “He does a lot of great things, his leadership. Mike’s a guy that has had success in this league but has never won. We knew we were going to get a really motivated player. As the season’s gone on, we’ve seen how motivated he is to help out, be at his best to put us in a position that we could get to the Championship and compete for a Championship. Veteran guys like that, they bring experience and a sense of urgency to getting to this point … I’ve said in the past, good goaltending helps your defense and good defense helps your goaltending. I think we’ve got a good thing going right now between the two groups.”
The Champion’s Cup will also feature the two best offenses in the NLL. Saskatchewan’s offense scored 231 goals in 18 games (12.83 GF/GAME) while Georgia’s offense set a new NLL record in goals for in a single season with 266 (14.78 GF/GAME).
Georgia’s historic offense is led by MVP candidate Lyle Thompson, who finished first in points in the NLL with 116 (45G, 71A). During the regular season, Georgia’s offense set another record by having seven players finish with 50 points or more. Randy Staats leads the Swarm in points during the postseason with 10 points (3G, 7A).
The Rush’s offense is led by MVP candidate Mark Matthews. Matthews finished second in points this season with 113 points (40G, 73A) and leads the scoring in the postseason with 15 points. Robert Church and Adam Jones ended the season second and third on the team respectively in scoring with 77 points (35G, 42A) and 57 points (26G, 31A).
“Saskatchewan has a lot of talent there,” Comeau said. “We want to stick with what works for us. We move the ball, we move our feet. When we do that, we’re hard to defend. We need to make sure we stick with our game plan. Their defense is really good, and try not to let their defense determine what our offense is going to do, but rather our offense determines how their defense is going to react.”
Early arriving fans will receive Rally Towels courtesy of Amplifii. The first 1,500 fans will also receive commemorative Championship Posters. Tickets are available by calling 844-4-GASWARM or by visiting GeorgiaSwarm.com/Playoff.
Game 2 will take place at SaskTel Centre on Saturday, June 10 at 9:30 p.m. ET. If necessary, Game 3 will return to The Hive on Sunday, June 18. Faceoff is set for 5:05 p.m. ET. All games will be streamed LIVE via Twitter.