The Georgia Swarm are emerging as one of the National Lacrosse League’s hottest teams as the season winds down and the playoff plot thickens.
The Swarm (12-4) increased their winning streak to five games by beating the San Diego Seals 17-10 at Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth, Ga., on Friday night. Georgia’s win snapped San Diego’s (9-5) own five-game streak, and the Swarm held the Seals to their lowest score in seven games.
“Not giving teams long runs — that’s a big thing for us to control momentum and making sure we have those opportunities where they score a goal, we score a goal back,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said.
Lyle Thompson’s four goals were a game-high for the Swarm. Georgia also had three players with hat tricks: Miles Thompson, Shayne Jackson and Holden Cattoni.
Cattoni scored a natural hat trick in the fourth quarter. He already had five assists at that point. It was his first multi-goal game in more than two months since accomplishing the feat at Rochester on Feb. 2. His natural hat trick was part of a 5-2 fourth quarter for the Swarm to close out the win. Georgia scored four times on seven shots to start the quarter.
The offensive push came after a quiet third quarter when both teams were limited to two goals. Cattoni said a late score by San Diego’s Casey Jackson before halftime may have contributed to that. Jackson scored with fewer than two minutes left in the first half to cut Georgia’s lead to 10-6. The Swarm played more tense in the third quarter, but the ball flew beautifully from stick to stick in the fourth quarter.
“We broke into the fourth quarter and stretched our lead. That’s when we started to pour in on,” Cattoni said.
Georgia was also playing without team captain and transition player Jordan McIntosh.
Dan Dawson led San Diego with three goals and three assists. Jackson was the only other Seal player with multiple goals (2).
Sharp on special teams and in transition
Two defensemen scored in transition for Georgia. Adam Wiedemann notched his third goal of the season off a long pass from Connor Sellars that ended in a crease dive into San Diego goalie Frank Scigliano. The Swarm rookie from Belmont Abbey has scored in back-to-back games since he tallied his second goal on March 22 against Toronto.
Georgia also scored three short-handed goals. All three were in the final quarter. Defender Alex Crepinsek scored roughly three minutes into the final quarter. The Swarm were booked for three minor penalties in the fourth quarter but turned all of them into offense.
“We talk about what we want to do in transition. Certainly guys take advantage of opportunities,” Comeau said. “We scored three shorthanded goals too, which is pretty rare. We also want to make sure we’re not giving up those opportunities to other teams.”
Georgia scored once on a power play in the fourth quarter and limited San Diego to one power play goal in five chances.
The big body of San Diego’s Dan Dawson made its presence felt for stretches of Friday night’s game. He scored three times on eight shots. His first goal was at the 9:31 mark in the first quarter, a much-needed answer after Georgia took a 2-0 lead to start the game.
The 6-foot-5 veteran forward scored on a bounce shot from outside on a quick catch-and-release.
The 38-year-old forward is having a renaissance season after playing 13 games in the previous two seasons. Dawson’s season total is up to 24 goals and 43 assists.
“Dan’s been really rejuvenated in San Diego and playing great this year,” Comeau said. “He’s just so big and so strong on his feet, and his reach to get around guys. He’s been in the league and he knows when he’s got an good matchup and takes guys to the net.”
Swarm forward Randy Staats, the 2016 NLL Rookie of the Year, played his younger brother San Diego forward Austin Staats, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 entry draft, for the first time in their lacrosse careers.
Austin Staats was off to a good start with a goal in the first quarter and an assist early in the second quarter. A fall in the second quarter seemed to aggravate his right knee, on which he wears a brace. He was sidelined for most of the second quarter and was visibly testing it during halftime warmups. Austin Staats didn’t record a point after that.
Randy Staats had one goal to go with six assists.
If Austin Staats’ injury holds him out for Saturday’s game against New England, it would interrupt a strong rookie campaign for in which he’s tallied a team-high 32 goals.
“I think he’s — if not the top — one of the top candidates (for Rookie of the Year),” Comeau said. “That would be cool for their family and the NLL if they could have two Rookies of the Year. Pretty good genetics.”