Georgia Swarm forward Johnny Powless scored a hat trick en route to a five-point night to lead the Swarm to a 13-10 win over the Rochester Knighthawks Saturday night in front of 6,221 fans at the Blue Cross Arena. The Swarm locked up the best record in the NLL and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with the victory, while Rochester was officially eliminated from the playoffs with the loss.
“We’re obviously happy to get where we got to,” said Swarm head coach Ed Comeau. “Happy to get a win on the road. Rochester is always a tough place to play. They battled hard. We got up on them, but they certainly didn’t quit. . . We think with that offense, we’re not an offense that relies on one guy. We’ve got every guy that contributes. I think if you extrapolate Johnny’s points if he played a full season, then he’d be up near 100 points.”
“Johnny Powless was just clutch,” said Georgia goalie Mike Poulin. “He’s been like that all year. He’s a quiet leader. . . Johnny’s just been a quiet, consistent level-headed guy you can always count on for a night like that.”
When people think about the Swarm, the names on offense that come to mind quite often are Miles and Lyle Thompson. Yet Powless is not one to forget, with 46 points in only nine games played heading into tonight, even if he’s simply focused on the end result.
“It feels good to get the win,” said Powless. “We locked up first place, and that’s pretty good.”
The game looked like it would get out of hand early as the Swarm scored three times in the first 12 minute, including Powless’ opening tally. The BCA was quiet as the fans grew restless. Had Rochester really come out and laid an egg needing a win to stay alive?
Then the Knighthawks’ leading scorer, Joe Resetarits responded 22 seconds after Georgia grabbed that 3-0 lead, kicking off a four-goal run that culminated in Kyle Jackson’s first goal since missing last Saturday’s 15-13 victory over the New England Black Wolves.
That would be Rochester’s only lead of the night. They would tie the game up later in the second quarter before former Knighthawk Jordan Hall beat goalie Matt Vinc with less than six seconds left in the first half. Jackson would strike again 4:13 into the third to tie the game, but that was as close as the game would be the rest of the night.
Georgia went on a four-goal run that included a short-handed goal and two assists by goalie Mike Poulin, who had a good night in net with 50 saves on 60 shots to go with those assists.
“We kind of dug ourselves a big hole in that third quarter where they went on that big run,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “We couldn’t score on the power play. . . That’s been the way we’ve done it all year. We dig ourselves a hole.”
“We said all year that Mike was a goalie we wanted to bring in,” Comeau said. “When he got here, we realized how great of a leader he is, what a great guy he is, fits in well with the guys. He’s like having another ‘D’ coach there, really talks to the guys, really positive stuff. He’s been great for us. We have a lot of confidence in him. He’s been really good for us. . . He controls rebounds really well, helps our ‘D’ out, and comes up throwing the ball. That pass to ‘Mac’ (Jordan MacIntosh) was just a perfect pass. He does a lot of things for us, and not just stopping the ball.”
“Physically, I was pretty gassed by the end of it,” said Poulin. “It was the type of game I needed. We’ve been in a whole bunch of games lately that our offense has just taken over. Going into playoffs, that’s the kind of game I needed. I’m glad we could come out on top, because anything could have happened in that fourth quarter. . . It’s been a while since I’ve had one (an assist). Funny thing about an assist is that no matter how nice of a pass you make, the player has to finish. So great goals by our guys, that’s a tough goalie to beat at the other end. I’ll take ’em! I love throwing the ball. Love throwing the ball. I’m a big Aaron Rodgers football fan, so I try and zing them in there too. Love throwing the ball. Anytime I get a chance like that, it’s pretty fun for me.”
The Knighthawks did go on a small 2-0 run to close the gap to 10-8 at the end of three, but Georgia scored three times in the first 5:16 of the fourth, including two power-play goals to put the game out of reach.
The Knighthawks did score twice in the final three minutes and threatened multiple times, but Poulin was certainly up to the task to preserve the win and the best record in the league.
“A couple of late ones to make it interesting,” Comeau said. “But I thought in the fourth quarter, Mike Poulin made a lot of great saves and some real big, key saves in transition, and special teams helped up preserve the win.”
This is only the fourth time in franchise history Rochester has missed the playoffs and first time in franchise history where they have missed the playoffs two years in a row.