The East Division Finals between the Georgia Swarm and Rochester Knighthawks was primarily a defensive battle. Only four goals were scored between the two teams in the first half an hour.
The defensive clinic started to give way in the third quarter before the two offenses broke through in the final 15 minutes.
Rochester, having established a 4-3 lead in the third quarter, managed to hold on and prevent Georgia from any last second heroics. The Swarm were eliminated at Infinite Energy Arena, and the Knighthawks advance to the NLL Finals with a 9-8 win.
Knighthawks goaltender Matt Vinc became the all-time leader in postseason saves after making 46 saves on 54 SOG.
The first 30 minutes of the game were rife with pressure causing wide shots on goal and goaltenders Vinc and Mike Poulin stuffing transition shots with ease. The only offensive production in the first half came from Rochester’s Cody Jamieson and Georgia’s Miles Thompson. Both scored power play goals in the first quarter and one more each in the second to end the second quarter tied at two apiece.
The third quarter was another low-scoring affair, with Randy Staats being the only Swarm player to score. However, Rochester was able to tack on two more, courtesy of Jamieson’s hat trick and Josh Currier, and the third quarter ended with the visiting team up 4-3.
The defensive battle ended in the final 15 minutes as both Rochester and Georgia netted five goals. Eric Fannel broke the ice quickly for the Knighthawks before Staats responded to keep things close. Rochester then went on a three-goal run, widening its lead to four goals. The Swarm went on a run of its own with Miles scoring two and Lyle Thompson’s first on the night, bringing the score to 8-7.
Lyle made a spectacular effort a little over a minute after his first goal, but it was waived off due to a crease violation. Before Swarm head coach Ed Comeau decided to throw his challenge flag, Austin Shanks had scored. The refs reviewed whether Lyle was in the crease or not, but the call was upheld, and Rochester now enjoyed a 9-7 lead.
Georgia refused to go quietly. Receiving a beautiful clear from Connor Sellars, Shayne Jackson got the Swarm back within one goal off his transition opportunity. With 2:10 min. left in the game, the Swarm ramped up the intensity, but Vinc and the Knighthawks defense managed to keep Georgia from getting any shots past, holding on for the 9-8 win.
Jackson led Georgia with six points (1G, 5A), and Miles (4G, 1A) and Staats (2G, 3A) had five points apiece. Poulin made 35 saves on 44 SOG, finishing with a .795 SV%.
Rochester was led by Jamieson and his four points (3G, 1A). Vinc earned the postseason win after making 46 saves on 54 SOG, good for a .851 SV%.
Rochester now advances to the NLL Finals, its first trip there since 2014. It will await the results of Sunday’s NLL West Division Finals between the Saskatchewan Rush and Calgary Roughnecks to determine who its final opponent of the 2017-18 season will be.