One perfect record will fall this Friday when the Georgia Swarm visit the Toronto Rock at Scotiabank Arena. Oh, it’s too early in the season for making that a big deal? Alright, fine.
Hyperbole or not, each team currently sits at 1-0 on the young National Lacrosse League season. The Swarm were victorious 16-12 over the New England Black Wolves at home in Sting City on December 15th and the Rock defeated the Buffalo Bandits 17-12 last weekend in Banditland.
The Swarm were the only team in the first two weeks of the season to win their home opener. Shayne Jackson, Randy Staats, Holden Cattoni and both Lyle and Miles Thompson had big games as Georgia’s 4-0 second period propelled them over the Black Wolves. Highly-touted Hopkins’ grad Joel Tinny had a goal and assist in his debut. Mike Poulin made 42 saves as the Swarm look to finish the regular season in first place again.
Toronto started slow against the Bandits, falling behind 5-2 in the first period while taking four penalties. They turned the tables in the second, though, and outscored the Bandits 7-2. They kept the pressure on through the second half of the game with all their expected big guns contributing. Only four runners were held without a point. Nick Rose was also solid in goal making 52 saves.
Last season the Swarm took the season series against the Rock 3-0 with scores of 14-13 OT, 12-7 and 11-10. Georgia finished atop the regular season standings while the Rock, in fourth place, did not make the playoffs despite only being three games behind because of the very tight Eastern Division. The Swarm fell to the Rochester Knighthawks in the Eastern finals.
Losing three times to a team you have a close record with is tough, so the Rock are looking to exact revenge on the Swarm this season. They’ll need to have a quick start on Friday to shake off any lingering doubt about their ability to best the bees. Working in their favour is their transition game. Georgia will rely more on their forward core, while Toronto’s defense is prone to running whenever they can. That allows for a more balanced plan of attack as Toronto will spread out their scoring.
Key Players to Watch:
Tom Schreiber, O
Schreiber started the 2019 season off with a bang, to nobody’s surprise, leading the team with three goals and four assists. There may not be a defense in the NLL that can stop him. Schreiber also missed all three games versus the Swarm last year so he’ll be wanting to help his teammates avenge their losses. Put Schreiber in those three games and things could have been vastly different.
Billy Hostrawser, D
Toronto lost Brodie Merrill (San Diego) and Sandy Chapman (retirement) and is missing Brock Sorensen and Jordan Magnuson with injuries, which means that the Rock’s back end is young. All of Toronto’s D will run but against Georgia they’re also going to have to concentrate on playing a shut-down game. This starts with veteran Billy Hostrawser, now in his seventh pro season. Hostrawser won’t be afraid to put himself between Nick Rose and the Swarm shooters and get on their hands to take away shots. Hostrawser was fourth on the Rock with 109 loose balls last season so he’ll be ready to pounce on any opportunities the Swarm give up in their offensive end.
Holden Cattoni, O
The lefty forward, acquired from the Calgary Roughnecks during the draft, scored twice and added five assists against the Black Wolves. Those assists demonstrate that he’s already comfortable passing the ball around with his new teammates. Cattoni scores a lot of highlight-reel goals but playing alongside other natural scorers like Lyle Thompson and Randy Staats gives him a chance to turn into a coveted playmaker as well. He’s a player that improves with every game he plays. With Toronto’s defense missing a few pieces so look for Cattoni to take charge of the offense and try and exploit any holes the Rock leave open.