A nightmarish trip consisting of five gate changes, two delays, a cancellation, having to charter two jets and the first face-off being pushed back two hours could not stop Rochester and Georgia from playing.
Saturday’s Twitter Game of the Week overcame all odds to happen, and the wait was worth it for fans. The 6,254 fans who stayed to see Georgia’s festivities celebrating its first NLL Championship and Atlanta-based GRAMMY® Award-winning hip hop artist 2 Chainz’s halftime performance witnessed a hard-nosed game as Georgia earned its first win of the 2017-18 season with a 14-11 performance.
“It was a big effort to get here,” Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen said. “Once the whistle went, we had to get ready to play, and we got ready as best we could and started going.”
Despite the travel issues, it was Rochester that came out firing, scoring four unanswered to open the night. Joe Resetarits ended the run with back-to-back power play goals. Georgia tallied one courtesy of Bryan Cole, and the goaltenders switched nets with Rochester up 4-1.
“We were pretty high on emotion at that particular point and rode that for as long as we could here tonight,” Hasen said.
It was Georgia’s turn to come out firing, scoring three goals all within a minute to tie things up at four apiece. Two Knighthawks would end up in the penalty box, but Resetarits recorded his hat trick with a gutsy super shorty, giving Rochester the lead back.
“Don’t lose the ball,” Resetarits said about what was going through his head during that play. “Just move your feet. When you stop moving your feet, that’s when you get into trouble. I saw an opening, I took it, and it worked out.”
Rochester’s new lead would not be held long as Georgia went on another three-goal run to retake and widen the lead by two. Rochester was able to climb back to within one thanks to Eric Fannell before Lyle Thompson widened it back to two, Georgia up 8-6 at the half.
“We did a nice job playing 5-on-5, and we really played our style, an aggressive-style defense,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “When you have a lead or when you’re down, you can’t alter how you play. You got to play aggressive, and I thought once we did that, we were able to stop some goals and play some really good D.”
As both teams went to the locker rooms for halftime, everyone in Infinite Energy Arena enjoyed an electric performance from 2 Chainz.
For the third time this season, Georgia found itself with the lead as the third quarter started. The Swarm started man-up, but the Knighthawks’ defense shut down the Swarm offense again. After it ended, Jesse King put two more between the pipes to give the Swarm a four-goal lead.
“Guys going out there could go off in any type of game,” King said about his hot start to the season. “It just so happens that today I had a pretty good game … Everyone can go off at any time. When you have so many guys like that, it just makes it a lot more fun, and when we’re out there having fun, everyone’s playing a lot better, playing faster.”
Cory Vitarelli stopped Georgia’s run in the third quarter off a slick pass from Dan Dawson, and Josh Currier and Kyle Jackson followed suit to bring the Knighthawks back within one. The Swarm had the final say in the quarter thanks to Lyle, and Georgia still led by a score of 11-9.
“We came out hot, and I think our legs got a little tired towards the end with everything that went on,” Resetarits said.
Rochester battled hard at the end, but Georgia widened its lead to three goals and managed to hold it. Vitarelli scored both of Rochester’s goals in the final 15 minutes, but Kiel Matisz had the last say of the night via a power play goal, and the Swarm handed the Knighthawks its first loss of the season, 14-11.
Resetarits led the Knighthawks in scoring with five points (3G, 2A), and Vitarelli notched four points (3G, 1A). Matt Vinc earned the loss, saving 40 SOG to finish with a 14 GAA and a .747 SV%.
For the Swarm, Lyle led the way in scoring with six points (3G, 3A) and King continued his hot start after missing the 2017 season by scoring four goals. Mike Poulin earned his first win of the season with an 11 GAA and a .771 SV%.
The home team found itself man-up eight times tonight but was only able to capitalize on the power play once courtesy of Matisz.
“We were trying to get in lanes, getting in on their hands and trying to allow (Vince) to see a shot from where we want it from,” Hasen said. “They were good, had a lot of quality shots, lot of pipes, so we had a little bit of luck behind that as well. We just want to keep it as simple as we can and let V see the ball.”
“I thought we were quite frankly awful on our power play,” Comeau said. “We talked about how we’ve got to get better at that. We go 50% on that, and that game’s not even close. Credit to them, I thought Rochester’s goaltending was real good, made some great saves. But also, we knew they were going to block a lot of shots, and they did. They blocked probably 50% of our shots on power plays, didn’t even get through to the goal.”
Georgia has no time to rest as it welcomes the 2-0 Saskatchewan Rush to town on Saturday, Jan. 6. Face-off is set for 7:05 p.m. ET.
After the rough events of the past two days, Rochester gets a well-deserved rest before it travels to Toronto to take on the Rock on Friday, Jan. 12. Face-off is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.