When Georgia and Rochester had their first meeting in the 2017-18 season back on Dec. 30, the Knighthawks were riding high on two strong victories, and Georgia was looking for its first win of the season.
Since then, the Georgia Swarm (3-3) went on to post a 3-1 record as the Rochester Knighthawks (2-5) slid to the bottom of the East Division standings on the back of its five-game losing streak.
The two teams now have full plates in front of them as they both play back-to-back games this weekend. Georgia takes on the Buffalo Bandits on Saturday, Feb. 10 at KeyBank Center, and Rochester welcomes the Toronto Rock to Blue Cross Arena the same night. The two then turn around for an early Sunday flight to battle at Infinite Energy Arena in Georgia. Faceoff on Feb. 11 is set for 6:05 p.m. ET.
The importance of this weekend is not lost on either team, especially a Rochester team that does not want its five-game skid to lengthen.
“We can be either further in the hole, or we can be that closer to .500 and on the right end of things and on the right track,” Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen said.
Rochester turned in its third highest scoring game of the season last week when it took on the Bandits, but the 14 goals it posted was not enough as Buffalo put on the pressure and netted 16 for the win.
Pinpointing what has been the source of its struggles has been difficult, and Hasen admits there is not one particular thing to point out about the team’s performance on either end of the ball.
“Last weekend against Buffalo for the first half, we kept everything loose,” Hasen said. “It was a tight game, but the ball was moving well, feet were moving well, we were clearing and our transition was moving well, and then we just kind of got away from it when they went on their group of runs.
“We’ve just got to stick to our game plan, and it’s a pretty typical thing, but we’ve just got to play the same way for 60 minutes.”
While its two East Division rivals duked it out, Georgia had a bye weekend. The week before, Georgia finished its third straight game against a West Division opponent by downing the Vancouver Stealth 16-12.
Georgia and Rochester’s first meeting this season may have kicked things off in different directions for both teams, but the game on Dec. 30 nearly did not happen. The Knighthawks had trouble getting to Georgia due to inclement weather, and while the two teams did manage to meet each other on the floor, they did so after a two-hour delay to the game’s start time.
The Swarm played well enough to earn a 14-11 win as the Knighthawks ran out of gas after its explosive four-goal streak to start the night. Lyle Thompson led the way for Georgia with six points (3G, 3A), and Joe Resetarits posted the most points that night for Rochester with five (3G, 2A).
Rochester goaltender Matt Vinc earned the loss after making 40 saves on 54 SOG, a .741 SV%. Georgia netminder Mike Poulin took his first victory of the season by making 37 saves on 48 SOG, good for a .771 SV%.
“I don’t know if (Rochester) was at its best, and they’re certainly right now trying to get back into the win column,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “I know they’re working hard, and they’re looking at everything they can do to try to win.”
Since Dec. 30, Georgia has steadily improved its record to .500. The team is led by assistant captain Shayne Jackson and his 35 points (15G, 20A). Poulin has played in all but one second of the Swarm’s six games this season and has a 12.33 GAA and a .760 SV%.
Rochester’s fall to the bottom of the East Division standings masks the good its players are doing. Resetarits leads the team in points with 35 (14G, 21A). Alternate captain Cody Jamieson has supported his teammates as best he can, evidenced by his 25 assists to go along with his seven goals. Vinc has been winless over the past five games and sports an 11.58 GAA and a .780 SV%.
Georgia and Rochester know how much a two-win weekend can change the season for them and will be looking to finish their doubleheaders strong on Sunday night. Before they meet, however, they have their respective first games to worry about on Saturday before turning their attention towards one another.
“Regardless what happens for either team Saturday night, (Rochester’s) going to be hungry, and they’re going to want to get a win and keep climbing back into the standings,” Comeau said.
Fans can catch the game LIVE via NLLTV.com.