Playing on back-to-back nights didn’t seem to bother Georgia Swarm goaltender Mike Poulin.
Not even one bit.
Poulin stopped 44 shots, backstopping the Swarm to a 12-7 win over the Toronto Rock in front of 10,679 fans at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday.
The 32-year-old Poulin and the Swarm (5-6) defense were terrific holding the Rock (5-5) scoreless for over half the game. The Rock offense did not score for 32:30 – a stretch starting from early in the second quarter to midway through the final frame.
The win was all that more important for Georgia as 24 hours earlier, the Swarm suffered a disheartening loss against the Colorado Mammoth. Georgia led late but allowed the Mammoth to rally back into the game and eventually, the Swarm watched helplessly as Colorado’s winning goal trickled across the line with five seconds left in regulation.
“It’s one of those nights,” Poulin said about the response. “After what happened last night, you can either pack it in or get the ball rolling. We decided to give our best effort of the year. We decided to shake last night off. We were able to come in here and beat a tough east opponent. It’s huge.”
“We are modern-day athletes”
Swarm forwards Shayne Jackson (3G, 2A) and Miles Thompson (2G, 3A) both led the way for Georgia with five points. Miles Thompson (3G, 1A) was a significant threat all game while Kiel Matisz (2G, 2A) was also a factor for Georgia.
“I thought we built on our effort from last night,” Swarm coach Ed Comeau said. “Our defense and our goaltending were good. We shut them out on all six of their power plays. That’s a great night. We got some timely goals. That helps too. It is tough to win on the road and on back-to-backs. Our guys played with the energy and the anger you need to get wins in this league.”
Poulin, who faced 52 shots the previous night, says he was prepared for the extra work.
“We are modern-day athletes,” Poulin said. “We make sure we do the right things during the week to be sure we are ready. We use it as a rally call. We get pumped up about the challenge of [playing-back-to-back games]. No excuses.”
It marked the second time in two weeks that the Swarm celebrated a victory over the Rock, after a 14-13 OT home victory on February 17.
Quiet night for Rock offense
The Swarm have now won 7 of 8 games against Toronto (including playoffs) since the franchise moved to Georgia for the start of the 2016 season.
“Right now, we are not able to handle [Georgia],” Rock coach Matt Sawyer said. “We need to find a way when we play them or anybody to bring our best performance. If we are going to be like [tonight], we aren’t going to be successful.”
It was a quiet night for the Rock’s normally potent offense. Toronto’s big trio of Adam Jones (2A), Rob Hellyer (1G, 2A) and Brett Hickey (2G) were all held in check. Kieran McArdle chipped in with two goals in the first quarter. Tom Schreiber remained on the sideline with a knee injury.
The Rock never scored more than three goals in a quarter and were 0-for-6 on the power play.
“You’re not going to win any games with the production that we had out the front door,” Sawyer continued. “That’s an area that needs to be better and needs to get better in a hurry.”
Nervous moment for Nick Rose
After trailing early, Georgia took its first lead of the game when Jordan Hall made it 6-5 at 8:09 of the second quarter. And the Swarm never looked back.
With Georgia leading 9-5 in the third quarter, a nervous hush came over the Air Canada Centre crowd with 9:34 left in the frame when Nick Rose went down in pain after stretching to make a save. Rose – who has played in all 10 games this season for the Rock – stayed down for several minutes but managed to continue.
Moments later, Hall was issued a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct for a devastating hit on Rock defender Damon Edwards. Edwards also remained in the game and the penalty gave the Rock a 5-on-3 power play.
But the Rock’s offense could not beat Poulin once.
“We gave up an opportunity to get back in the game,” Sawyer said about the power play. “A 5-on-3 and a five-minute penalty, it was an opportunity for our team. We weren’t very good up to that point. And we didn’t take advantage of that opportunity.”
The Swarm shut out the Rock in the third quarter and took a 9-5 lead into the final frame.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Rock had gone over 32 minutes without a goal until Hickey finally scored at 6:22 of the fourth quarter. Hickey’s second of the game ended Toronto’s goalless drought at 32 minutes and 30 seconds.
Toronto has now lost three of its last four games.
The Swarm and the Rock will meet for the third and final time this season in Georgia on April 8.
The Rock look to bounce back Sunday, March 11 against the visiting New England Black Wolves at the Air Canada Centre. The Swarm wrap up their two-game road trip in Rochester when they take on the Knighthawks on Saturday, March 10.
Three stars selected by the media
- Mike Poulin (Georgia)
- Shayne Jackson (Georgia)
- Kiel Matisz (Georgia)