The Georgia Swarm (8-4) got back on track with a win at Infinite Energy Arena against the Rochester Knighthawks (2-8) on Saturday night, but the game was not without a plethora of chippiness from the visiting team.
“Being in the position they’ve been in before in previous years, we know they’re scratching and clawing to get back into this thing, and we knew that they were going to give us their best,” Shayne Jackson said. “It was going to be a big battle, and that’s exactly what it was. It was hard-hitting and fast-paced, but that makes for good lacrosse. We had a good crowd tonight, and I thought it was a great game.”
The first half was a back-and-forth affair. The Swarm built up a 4-2 lead thanks to a three-goal run in the middle of the first quarter, but the Knighthawks tied things up thanks to an extra attacker goal from Pat Saunders and a power play goal from Kyle Jackson. He shot the ball between his legs with his back to the goal and netted it into the top right corner with under a second on the clock.
The Knighthawks continued to widen the lead into the second quarter, but the Swarm kept right with them. Bryan Cole tied the game 7-7 after cutting across the crease and receiving a slick feed from Shayne Jackson. The Swarm headed to the locker room to make adjustments for the second half of the game.
“At halftime, we just reviewed the goals we gave up, and we said there were at least a few of them that were preventable,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said.
“I think we were having some good success on offense running what we were trying to run,” Cole said. “I think our shooting percentage got a little better, and I think we were taking better shots and working for better shots, and then obviously on the back end we were covering up transitions, stuff like that.”
Those adjustments paid off as the Swarm outscored the Knighthawks 8-4 in the last 30 minutes. Saunders’ hat trick on the power play was the last lead of the night for the visiting team as the Swarm rattled off seven-straight goals, the most goals the team has scored in a single quarter all season long.
Zed Williams kicked it off with his second diving goal of the night, followed 20 seconds later by Jackson on the power play. Jackson’s goal was the 200th goal of his career.
“It feels good,” Jackson said about achieving the personal marker. “I’ve been lucky to play with very good teammates and have really good coaches help me out along the way. I’m just a small part of it; I’m not stupid to think it’s just me. Every teammate I’ve had and played with, it’s thanks to them also.”
Randy Staats netted his second goal of the game, but a fight broke out at the Swarm bench between Brendan Bomberry and Cody Jamieson. Not even 50 seconds later, Billy Dee Smith kept punching Jackson in the helmet and was sent to the penalty box for seven minutes.
Holden Cattoni made the Knighthawks pay with a power play goal, widening the lead to 11-8 in the Swarm’s favor. Staats recorded his hat trick, and Rochester started going with the extra attacker to try and stop the Swarm’s run. Jordan MacIntosh would score an empty netter as Angus Goodleaf tried to get in front of him, but Goodleaf elbowed MacIntosh hard to the ground after the shot went off and received a major penalty.
Miles Thompson capped the run after receiving a pass from Lyle Thompson and scoring right on the edge of the crease. The third quarter ended with the Swarm up 14-8.
Saunders netted his fourth goal of the night with another power play goal. Cole retaliated by running parallel to the net and whipping his hat trick goal in from his hip. Stephen Keogh and Jamieson had the last words of the night, but the Swarm prevailed with a 15-11 win.
Lyle led the Swarm with seven (1G, 6A) points, followed by Cole (3G, 3A) with the best game of his career so far.
“Those guys on offense are pretty good, right,” Cole said about his success. “I’m just trying to be up there and move bodies and cut the middle hard and kind of do my job up there. Those guys are good. They’ll find you pretty much anywhere on the floor, so I’m just trying to stick to the game plan and run our offense.”
Jackson and Cattoni ended the night with five points (1G, 4A) apiece, and Williams and Staats both finished with four points (3G, 1A).
Mike Poulin made 45 saves on 56 SOG, finishing the night with an 11 GAA and an .804 SV%.
For the Knighthawks, Austin Shanks led the team with six points (1G, 5A), and Saunders tacked on an assist to his four goals. Goodleaf was chased from net 41:13 min. in after allowing 14 GA on 32 SOG, an 20.38 GAA and .563 SV%. Warren Hill closed out the game between the pipes for Rochester and blocked all 21 shots.
The Swarm head north for a rematch against the Buffalo Bandits (9-2) on Saturday, March 9. Faceoff at KeyBank Center is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.
“Buffalo is playing well,” Comeau said. “They’re the top team in the East right now, so we know when you go up there that you’re going to have a tough game and big crowds. We just need to be consistent. That’s the focus we talked about, just being consistent shift to shift. We gave up a really large run of goals against them here, and you just can’t do that against a good team. Our focus is going to be trying to play with good tempo but really play smart and try to limit their opportunities.”
The Knighthawks return home after a bye week to welcome the Swarm for the third and final time this season. The two will play on Saturday, March 15. Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.