By Ty Merrow
Photo Credit Paul Sasso
After two weeks of thrilling NLL play against top-ranked division rivals, Swarm fans were treated to a blowout as Georgia (7-1) rolled over the Rochester Knighthawks (2-6) 15-9 in front of 4,170 fans on Sunday, Feb. 19 during Native American Heritage Night. The conclusion of a two-game weekend for Georgia ended at Harrah’s Cherokee Field at Infinite Energy Center with the Swarm retaining the top spot in the NLL.
Lyle Thompson regained his status as the NLL points leader with a 10-point performance (6G, 4A), bringing his season total to 59 (25G, 34A). Last year, Lyle had a season-total of 60 points (27G, 33A) in 18 games. Mike Poulin, helped by an aggressive Georgia defense, turned in a gem of a game. Poulin held Rochester to only two goals through the second and fourth quarter, finishing the game with a 9.00 GAA and a .833 SV%.
“Tonight was just one of those nights for me, getting a lot of bounces my way,” Lyle said. “When you get a feel for it and your teammates are telling each other to get me the ball, that puts a lot of confidence in yourself and – I wouldn’t say pressure because confidence is a huge thing – but I try to be both. I like to be someone who can go to the net and score if a team’s not respecting my ability to score, and if a team’s overplaying that, that’s when I start feeding the ball.”
After being stifled by the Toronto Rock Saturday night, Rochester traveled to Georgia looking to move out of a last place tie in the East Division. After a back-and-forth first quarter, the Knighthawks found themselves in a four-goal hole at the half and just could not gain any momentum the right way.
“We tried to play with a lot of intensity,” head coach Ed Comeau said after the game. “I’ll give Rochester a lot of credit; coming off back-to-back (games) with travel, they battled hard, and they were right in the game until late in the third.”
Rochester got on the board first with goals from Jarrett Davis and Kyle Jackson before Georgia responded with a Jordan Hall goal. Dan Dawson of the Knighthawks scored once more for Rochester before he found himself in the penalty box two minutes later. Johnny Powless used the man-up opportunity to find the back of the net. Seconds later, Chad Tutton caused a huge turnover, and John Ranagan managed to get downfield to beat goalie Angus Goodleaf for the third Georgia goal of the quarter. Josh Currier had the final say in the first fifteen minutes, putting Rochester up 4-3.
Lyle, held pointless in the first quarter, ran circles on Rochester’s defense in the second. Catching a rebound from a bad Rochester pass, Lyle ran up the floor and passed to Connor Sellars for the transition goal. Kiel Matisz scored his first goal of the night, a power play after Andrew Suitor was sent to the penalty box with a high stick major penalty, a five minute non-releasable. Still man-up, Lyle scored his first goal of the night, then proceeded to score two more, getting the hat trick in under five-and-a-half minutes.
Poulin was a wall for the entire quarter. Rochester had 13 shots on goal and Poulin stopped all of them. Even in one-on-one transitions, Rochester just did not have an answer for No. 30 as Poulin turned in a perfect 15 minutes, and Georgia went to the locker room up 8-4.
“We talked about being aggressive and playing hard and making it hard for them to get space,” Comeau said, “and I thought we did a great job of that.”
Rochester tried to mount a comeback in the third quarter, scoring three times, but Georgia had an answer every time. Joe Resetarits found the net first for the Knighthawks before Powless answered with a power play laser past three Rochester players. Lyle started working towards the sombrero, scoring his fourth goal three minutes later. Resetarits and Dylan Evans brought the game within three goals with under five minutes left in the quarter, 10-7. Jerome Thompson stopped Rochester’s potential comeback, catching a behind-the-back pass from Hall to feed the ball through a tiny gap past Goodleaf. Georgia still lead at the end of the quarter, 11-7.
Defensive miscues plagued Rochester in the final quarter. Two minutes in, Miles shot straight at Goodleaf who boldly blocked the shot off his chest. Goodleaf, well out in front of the goal posts and seemingly thinking his own team had corralled the rebound, found himself stung by Lyle for the fifth time in a 27 minute period. Both teams would visit the penalty box seconds later, and Rochester would have had another penalty coming with the change of possession less than a minute later. Georgia took advantage, pulling Poulin for the extra attacker. Jerome had the ball and drew attention to himself before passing to a wide-open Matisz, and Georgia found themselves with a comfortable six-goal lead before four minutes had passed in the quarter.
Hall scored next with some beautiful stick feints before netting the goal, and Lyle got the sombrero, helping himself on his own rebound. Fired up, Georgia got in the faces of every Rochester player to take the floor. Dawson and Adam Bomberry were able to score in the final minutes, but Georgia effectively wasted the last three minutes to come out on top 15-9.
In his second game back, Powless repeated his success against Toronto on Friday with another five-point performance (2G, 3A). Hall echoed Powless with the same totals. Ranagan and Sellars both scored their second goals of the season. Miles Thompson and Shayne Jackson were both unable to find the back of the net, but both recorded four assists. Another repeater, team captain Jordan MacIntosh went 15-for-25 again on faceoff opportunities.
“Just being back’s awesome, being back with the guys is really fun, and it’s a bonus when we win both games,” a clearly excited Powless said.
Georgia’s defense was able to kill half of Rochester’s man-up opportunities. In the first quarter alone, they forced Rochester to five shot clock violations with constant pressure and kept that pressure up all game.
Both assistant coach Sean Ferris and Alex Crepinsek celebrated their birthdays this weekend.
“We had a couple birthdays,” Comeau said. “That’s what someone said they both wanted. We got a win on Friday and we got a win tonight, so that’s a good weekend for those guys.”
Georgia, with the best record in the NLL and a seat atop the East Division, will take a well-deserved bye week before traveling up to Calgary to take on the Roughnecks on Saturday, Mar. 4. Playing in Scotiabank Saddledome, faceoff is set for 9:00 p.m. ET. Fans can catch the game LIVE via NLLTV.com
The Swarm returns to The Hive for a rematch against Calgary on Friday, Mar. 17. Faceoff is set for 7:35 p.m. ET. Tickets are available. Call 844-4-GASWARM or visit GeorgiaSwarm.com/SingleGame to purchase tickets.
Play of the Game:
The NLL points leader was his own best friend tonight. To achieve the sombrero, Lyle took a shot with Georgia’s shot clock under five seconds that Goodleaf blocked. It rebounded out of Goodleaf’s reach and straight into Lyle’s. With some deft stickwork, Lyle snatched the ball up and deposited it over Goodleaf, the last goal of the night for both him and the Georgia Swarm.