Georgia Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said the team feels a sense of accomplishment for clinching the franchise’s fourth consecutive playoff berth — and a home game at that — but the squad realizes this isn’t a time for pats on the back.
The bar that the remaining members of the Swarm’s 2017 NLL Champions Cup squad set two years ago still stands as Georgia (12-6) hosts the Toronto Rock (12-6) in the sudden-death East Division Semi-Finals on Monday Night at Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth.
Comeau thinks of Georgia’s bye week as an advantage, even after Toronto is coming off a squashing of Vancouver, 15-9, in its regular-season finale.
“We had a good weekend of practices where we could try to keep our guys ready at game speed,” he said. “We went real hard and I thought it was a great weekend for our team.”
Georgia and Toronto’s Eastern Conference rivalry so far has been in favor of the Swarm, and that includes just the 2019 regular season. Georgia won two out of the three meetings between the two teams and out-scored the Rock 35-30. The most lopsided game was a 14-5 win in the previous meeting. Georgia held Toronto to one goal in the second half of that game, en route to a lopsided 6-1 second half. That game is the reason Toronto will travel to play Georgia, rather than the inverse scenario.
Monday’s playoff game is the 12th overall meeting between the two teams in the last four years and the Swarm are 10-2. Although Georgia swept Toronto in 2018, Comeau mentioned that two of those games were decided by one goal. That was also Georgia’s margin of victory in the first meeting between the two teams in the 2019 regular season. Comeau also expects the Rock to play like a revitalized team since activating defenders Brock Sorenson and Sheldon Burns from injured reserve. Both logged meaningful minutes against Vancouver last week.
“We expect them to come in and be at their best,” Comeau said. “They had a chance to play last weekend, which is always great to be together as a group.”
Familiarity can breed a little contempt, Comeau said, especially since Georgia has won two of the three overtime games between the two teams since 2017.
The Swarm, however, are not surging into the playoffs since losing back-to-back games against Calgary and the league bottom-dweller Philadelphia. The last two losses were disappointing, Comeau said, but not defining. Injuries impacted Georgia’s performances, including starting goalie Mike Poulin heading to injured reserve prior to the season finale.
Comeau had no concrete update on Poulin’s status for Monday’s game, but he knows the veteran goaltender’s personality and dedication to make every effort to suit up.
“He practiced this weekend and looked pretty good,” Comeau said. “We’re taking it slowly and we’re evaluating him when we get down to Georgia on the weekend.”
Forward Randy Staats took the week off against Calgary for soreness but returned to score three times against Philadelphia.
The matchup is set for Monday, May 6 at 7:30pm ET and will be previewed at 7:00pm on NLL Playoffs Pregame LIVE on the NLL’s Facebook and Twitter accounts with the game action streaming on B/R Live and Fanseat.