Lyle Thompson and Randy Staats may be far behind their offensive totals of last season, but they looked every bit the lethal weapons on Saturday night.
Thompson finished with five goals while Staats scored four goals and added four assists in leading the Georgia Swarm (9-7) to a 16-10 win over the Saskatchewan Rush (13-4). With the victory, the defending league-champion Swarm moved into a first-place tie with Rochester in the NLL’s East Division, while the Rush saw their three-game winning streak comes to an end. It was the second game of the weekend for the Rush, who had earned a 20-10 win in Vancouver on Friday night, and it was clear from the outset that the rested Swarm would have a decided advantage.
After giving up the first goal of the night to the Rush’s Jeff Shattler, the Swarm began to scamper away. Georgia scored the game’s next four goals and then outlasted a brief Rush rally by scoring two more goals. After Mike Messenger got the Rush to within one at 4-3 with an end-to-end run, Lyle Thompson restored a two-goal cushion as he got away from two Saskatchewan defenders and struck for a shorthanded marker. With less than two minutes to go in the first half, Kiel Matisz made it 6-3 for the Swarm as he went in alone on Rush goalie Evan Kirk, then airborne before tucking a low shot in.
Georgia dominated the third quarter and essentially took full control of the game. Just 27 seconds into the third, Lyle Thompson unleashed a rocket from two steps shy of midfield that stunned Kirk and found the back of the net for his hat trick. Only 1:13 later, Staats made it 8-3 and he pushed the Swarm ahead further on a power play as his hot shot trickled through Kirk across the goal line.
The Rush got one back on Ryan Keenan’s power-play tally, but the Swarm went up 10-4 with their second shorthanded goal of the night as Jordan MacIntosh outhustled the Saskatchewan defenders and put his shot in.
Saskatchewan mounted a bit of a comeback bid in the fourth, eventually getting the Swarm lead down to four as Matthews sent a cannon past Georgia goalie Mike Poulin to make it 12-8. But the Swarm withstood the pressure and countered almost immediately as Lyle Thompson blew past his brother Jeremy Thompson trying to defend him and counted his fifth of the night.
Jordan Hall, MacIntosh, and Shayne Jackson each scored twice to bolster the Swarm scoring, while Poulin finished with 39 saves.
Messenger, Matthews, Keenan, Shattler all scored a pair for the Rush with Kyle Rubisch and Robert Church getting one goal each. Kirk ended the night with 35 saves.
The Rush have next weekend off and then wrap up the regular season on Saturday, April 28th at home against the Calgary Roughnecks.
The Swarm also have a bye next weekend before a doubleheader on the final weekend of the regular season as they host the Vancouver Stealth on 28th and then visit the New England Black Wolves on Sunday, April 29th.