The Toronto Rock return home to Scotiabank Arena this Friday night to once again host the Georgia Swarm, a team against whom an intense rivalry has developed over the past three seasons.
These teams always play each other closely but things intensified even further after Lyle Thompson’s last-minute heroics on December 28th that gave the Swarm a 12-11 win. Georgia led that whole game by a goal or two until the fourth quarter when a three-goal run put the Rock up 11-10. Thompson tied the game then scored the winner with 24 seconds left.
Thompson leads the Swarm with 22 points (11G/11A). Randy Staats (6G/15A) and Holden Cattoni (6G/13A) sit second and third, but after that production drops off dramatically, and surprisingly, for a first place team, which means that Swarm’s defense is hard to break through.
In two home games, the Rock were able to rely on several players to contribute nearly all of their offense – against Georgia, Rob Hellyer scored five goals. Adam Jones and Tom Schreiber scored five each against Philadelphia. To beat the Swarm, they’ll have to score by committee. Schreiber leads the Rock with 26 points (11G/15A). Hellyer is second with 10G/14A and Jones third with 9G/9A.
Mike Poulin has slightly better numbers in goal compared to Nick Rose. Poulin sports a 10.50 GAA and .789 save percentage, while Rose has a 10.83 GAA and .793 save percentage. Rose had trouble with Philadelphia’s transition game but rebounded well last week. He should be able to handle the Swarm’s transition easily.
Each team is coming off a win. Last week the Swarm defeated the Wings 13-11 in Philadelphia. They scored eight-straight goals but allowed the Wings back into the game in the second half. The Rock kept the Colorado Mammoth winless at Pepsi Center with an 11-10 win. Toronto had the upper hand in the first and fourth but allowed Colorado to take the lead in the middle frames. Like their previous game against Georgia, it was a three-goal run in the fourth that put the Rock on top while Nick Rose was able to hold off a late push from the Mammoth.
The Swarm are undefeated at 4-0 and in first place in the East Division. The Rock are right behind them at 3-1 and would love to pull into a tie for first and even the season series. If the Rock and Swarm stay close in the standings, head-to-head could come into play to determine playoff seeding.
Lyle Thompson, F – Thompson is the one people want to watch, and Rock fans will of course be keeping a close eye on him after his heroics in their first matchup. He scored four goals in that game and three last week against Philadelphia. None of them are standard fare, either. All could be on highlight reels. All of Georgia’s offense flows through Thompson. He’ll be the one that Rock’s defense will have to key on.
Brock Sorensen, D – With his size and reach, Toronto’s Sorensen is one of the Rock’s best chances at stopping Thompson. That said, Toronto’s D as a whole will need to step up their game against the most prolific scorer in the game. Sorensen gets down the floor quickly during transition attempts. He scored his first goal of the season last week against Colorado and in the past few years seems to be more comfortable using his large frame on offense. Fans will remember his behind-the-net dunk goal last year against New England; though he missed on the same kind of attempt against Philadelphia two weeks ago, he’ll be able to surprise most goalies with that move.