The first 15 minutes of Sunday’s game between the Georgia Swarm (5-2) and the Saskatchewan Rush (3-2) ended up being the deciding factor in the Swarm’s favor. The Swarm rattled off five-straight goals and ended the quarter up 6-1 as the Rush did not play to their usual standards.
“I think after the first quarter, we were the better team,” Rush general manager and head coach Derek Keenan said. “I thought we dominated in all areas, but the first quarter, we were atrocious. A lot of turnovers. You give a team like that that many multiple possessions with the amount of skill they have, they can dominate.”
While they did not dominate, the Swarm did use strong performances from Randy Staats and Lyle Thompson to win 13-10 in Infinite Energy Arena. Staats continued his hot streak with nine points (2G, 9A). Lyle used seven points (2G, 5A) to record his 300th career point (138G, 162A).
Lyle broke the ice at the beginning of the game, and the Swarm piled on four more goals to give themselves a 5-0 lead halfway through the first quarter and chase Rush goaltender Evan Kirk from net. Mark Matthews got the Rush on the board before Shayne Jackson recorded the last goal of the quarter, the Swarm up 6-1.
“I said it right after the first quarter: when the offense is firing, it takes a lot of pressure off our D guys,” Chad Tutton said. “I think this was the first real game where we saw our offense just play with ease like they have in years past – not that they’ve been struggling at all, just everything was really clicking, and when that’s happening, it makes our job in the back end so much easier. It makes us kind of feed off their energy, if you know what I mean.”
The second quarter became a defensive battle, with only Zed Williams and Jeff Shattler finding the back of the nets. Compared to the three saves he made in the first quarter, goaltender Mike Poulin made 18 in the second quarter. The Swarm were still up by five at halftime, 7-2.
Williams recorded his first career hat trick after shouldering his way to the crease and diving across it for the goal, widening the Swarm’s lead to six goals. The Rush netted two goals within 40 seconds, but Lyle scored his second goal of the night to put the lead back to five goals.
Marty Dinsdale shrunk the lead again before Staats found the back of the net for the first time that night. With seconds left on the clock, Staats made a feed through traffic to Jackson for a catch-and-release goal, but a challenge flag from the Rush overturned the goal. The Swarm were up 10-5 at the end of the third quarter.
The Rush put themselves back within three goals thanks to Matthews’ hat trick and Shattler’s second goal of the night. Jerome Thompson responded with his first goal of the season, and Staats followed suit to widen the Swarm’s lead back to five goals.
Refusing to go away, the Rush went on a three-goal run, putting the score at 12-10 in the Swarm’s favor. The Swarm defense stepped up down the stretch. With time running out, the Rush pulled their goalie and went with the extra attacker, but it cost them with 1:08 min. left in the game as Connor Sellars scored on the empty netter. Once again, the Swarm ran out the clock, winning their fifth game of the season by a score of 13-10.
Jackson had himself a five-point (1G, 4A) night, followed by Williams and his four point (3G, 1A). Poulin made 46 saves on 56 SOG, good for an .821 SV%.
Shattler led the Rush with seven points (2G, 5A). Dinsdale (3G, 1A) and Ryan Keenan (4A) both had four points. Adam Shute replaced Kirk (40.91 GAA, .500 SV%) between the pipes, playing for the remaining 52:39 min. He allowed only seven GA and made 28 saves, finishing the night with a 7.98 GAA and an .800 SV%.
“It was going to be a situation where we were probably just going to put him in for a couple of minutes, but he got in, and he made some saves,” Keenan said about Shute’s performance. “Kirky had a tough start. He admitted to me he wasn’t ready to play today, and that happens sometimes … Shuter, we left him, he played really well, gave us the chance to win.”
The Swarm start their upcoming doubleheader weekend at home against the New England Black Wolves (4-1) on Friday, Feb. 1. Faceoff is set for 7:35 p.m. ET.
The Swarm then heads north to take on the Rochester Knighthawks (2-3) for the first time this season. Faceoff for Saturday, Feb. 2 is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.
“Our guys, I think they realized about getting a good start,” Comeau said. “We’ve had too many games where we’ve spotted teams two or three goals, and we did the opposite tonight. We got off to a good start. That’s really key, especially at home to get the crowd into it. We can’t rely on one player. We have to have everyone contributing, and that’s something we really had tonight.”
The Rush continue their eastern road trip with a game against the Toronto Rock (5-1). Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.
“This team over the years, we rarely lose two in a row,” Keenan said. “Very, very rarely. I don’t remember the last time we did. It might have been the start of the 2015 season, which turned into a championship year, but we don’t very often lose two in a row. We’ll bounce back.”
Fans can catch both games on the B/R Live app available through iTunes, Google Play, Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire.