From the first Georgia Swarm goal scored nine seconds in the contest to the final save from Mike Poulin with 35 seconds left in the game, there was never any doubt that the Georgia Swarm (11-4) were the better team Friday night against the Toronto Rock (8-4).
In Infinite Energy Arena, the Swarm used a 14-5 handling of the Rock to remain undefeated in March, take the season series against the Rock and move into sole possession of second place in the East Division.
The Swarm came out firing to jump to an early lead and buried the Rock in the second half, holding the visiting team to one lonely goal in the third quarter.
“In order to win in this league and be successful in the season and the playoffs, you have to have full 60-minute games,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “That might have been our best one.”
Poulin had the best game of his career after making 47 saves, finishing with an .904 SV% and 5.00 GAA, both personal bests. His goaltending was instrumental in the Swarm penalty kill preventing the Rock from scoring at all during a 5-min. power play, and the Swarm defense just held the Rock to a lone power play goal all night.
“This was just one of those days where I’m the beneficiary of a whole team effort,” Poulin said. “That was the best team game we’ve played in a long time, and it’s the right time of year, so hopefully we can keep that up, and I can continue to reap the benefits.”
After Chad Tutton set a new record for fastest goal scored in Georgia Swarm history last week, Jordan MacIntosh beat it handily by scoring within the first nine seconds of the game. Kieran McArdle answered back 35 seconds later, and the Swarm responded by rattling off four-straight goals. Up 5-1, the goalies swapped nets at the end of the first quarter.
Shayne Jackson capped the five-goal run with his first goal of the night. Challen Rogers scored in transition to finally get the Rock on the board in the second quarter. The East Division rivals traded blows throughout the quarter, and both went to their locker rooms with the Swarm up 8-4.
“The whole defense played unreal, and it’s so hard to say one guy played good,” Randy Staats said. “I think the entire group back there played great … Mike made some saves that were just ridiculous on top of the crease.”
The Swarm had another five-goal run in them, and Staats took off, scoring three of his five goals in the third quarter. Lyle Thompson and Miles Thompson also found the back of the net in the quarter, and Brandon Slade scored the Rock’s last goal of the night at 10:47 min. The third quarter ended with the Swarm still in control, 13-5.
The fourth quarter was a clinic in defense. Whether five-on-five, benefitting from a 5-min. major penalty, or in transition, the Rock were unable to solve Poulin and the Swarm defense.
“Eddie made a great point earlier in the year,” Poulin said about his team’s penalty kill success in the last few games. “I think at the time we were last place in the league at penalty killing, and that’s personal. As a goalie, you want to be your team’s best penalty killer, and you know each guy up there, you have a lot of pride. So, when I heard that, it was very frustrating. I know we really, really wanted to focus in on that and come back stronger, so I think the past couple games, it’s been a chip on our shoulders.”
Receiving a long feed from Staats, Jackson scored shorthanded to widen the Swarm’s lead to nine goals, and they proceeded to kill the clock from there. Poulin stymied the Rock offense, and the Swarm emerged with a 14-5 win.
Staats’ 10 points (5G, 5A) marks the second time in his career that he has scored five goals in a game. Lyle was quietly effective with his eight points (1G, 7A), and Jackson finished the night with a hat trick and two assists.
“Us getting through the middle, setting hard picks, getting off the floor, shutting down their transition offensively, and moving the ball and finding the open guys, I think those were our big keys for tonight, and we executed on our open shots,” Staats said about the offense’s performance.
For the Rock, Tom Schreiber and Brad Kri lead the team in points with two assists each. No other Rock player had more than one point.
Rose spent 34:58 min. in net and made just 21 saves on 32 SOG for an 18.87 GAA and .656 SV%. Hutchcraft fared better in his 25:02 min., making 13 saves. He finished the night with a 7.19 GAA and .813 SV%.
The Rock’s weekend continues as they head to KeyBank Center to take on the Buffalo Bandits (11-3). Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.
The Swarm have next week off before returning to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino at Infinite Energy Arena on Friday, April 5 to take on the San Diego Seals for the first time ever. Faceoff is set for 7:35 p.m. ET.
“Any sport is ‘What have you done for me lately?’” Comeau said. “So that’s in the rearview mirror. We have an off-week for guys to get healed up a little bit and get some good workouts in and training, and we get ready for San Diego. They’re the No. 1 team in the West right now, and they’d like nothing better than to come in here and beat us.”
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