By Ty Merrow / Georgia Swarm
The Georgia Swarm (1-0) took off against the Saskatchewan Rush (0-1) with a run of seven unanswered goals and never looked back as they bested the Rush in the only matchup between these two teams this regular season. Georgia came out on top 18-10 at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena.
Close to 5,000 fans braved the below-freezing temperatures uncommon to Georgia and were treated to history as all four Thompson Brothers set a Guinness World Record by all taking the floor at the same time in a professional lacrosse game. The three Swarm brothers made the new record even better as every one of them scored against the Rush. Miles Thompson recorded five points (4G, 1A), Lyle Thompson tallied eight points (2G, 6A), and Jerome Thompson finished the night with two points (1G, 1A).
Big free agent signing Mike Poulin earned his first win in yellow and blue, allowing only three goals on 24 shots in over 38 minutes of play. He replaced Brodie MacDonald in the middle of the second quarter and sparked the Swarm on both sides of the floor.
“Mike went in and did what we asked him to do,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “It was great. I thought he seemed to see the ball very well tonight and did a great job of coming up throwing which helped us in transition opportunities as well.”
Georgia scored first in the game with Miles Thompson scoring on a power play a little over two minutes in the quarter. Both teams traded goals back and forth with the quarter ending in Georgia’s favor, 4-3.
A lull fell on Georgia in the second quarter as Saskatchewan scored four unanswered goals. But the team snapped out of it fittingly with a goal from team captain Jordan MacIntosh – returning from a hamstring injury which had him sidelined during the Swarm’s training camp – with Lyle Thompson and Jerome Thompson getting the assist. Georgia scored three more goals – all on power plays – to end the half still ahead by one goal.
“He (Comeau) always talks about how this is a game of runs,” Lyle Thompson said, “and all he said in the locker room is don’t get too high or too low. We came off of a run going into halftime, but we were only up by one against the two-time defending champs, and that’s exactly what we did. We couldn’t be too high; we couldn’t be too low. We had to go out there and keep grinding.”
When both teams took the floor again 20 minutes later, Georgia continued their scoring streak, rattling off three more to make the score 11-7. Robert Church of Saskatchewan would score on a power play to snap the seven-unanswered Swarm streak, but it was not enough. On too good of a roll, Georgia’s defense refused to let the Rush score again in the quarter while the offense added one more point for good measure nearly four minutes later, ending the third quarter up 12-8.
Georgia started the fourth quarter with two men in the penalty box. Undeterred, assistant captain Shayne Jackson scored his third of four goals shorthanded. Lyle followed up 30 seconds later, also scoring shorthanded.
The Rush would score twice more in the fourth quarter, but the lead established by Georgia was just too much to overcome. 2016’s NLL ROY award winner Randy Staats had the final say in the game, getting the hat trick and putting Georgia up 18-10.
“They’re (Rush) a team that’s come back from lots of deficits in the past,” Comeau said. “We were pretty conscious of that, and we knew what we needed to do. Credit to our guys. We executed the right decisions at the right time – some of that was by young rookies playing their first NLL game. That’s a good sign.”
Georgia’s unselfish offense continued its excellence from last season, no doubt helped with the addition of new assistant coach Dan Ladouceur. Randy Staats gave an all-star performance with seven points (3G, 4A), Shayne Jackson scored four goals (4G, 2A), Lyle Thompson led the team with eight points (2G, 6A), Jordan Hall – one of Georgia’s big offseason signings – helped out a third of the goals with six assists, and Georgia’s first pick (No. 4 overall) in the 2016 NLL Draft Bryan Cole scored his first professional goal.
On the other side of the floor, Georgia showcased an improved defense. Led by Poulin, the defense held Saskatchewan to only three goals in the final 38 minutes of the game. Connor Sellars, John Ranagan, Chad Tutton, and Bryan Cole played aggressively until the final buzzer signaled the game’s end.
The victory crows from the Swarm’s renovated locker room echoed the resounding jubilation coming from the pleased crowd in the stands. But as monumental as this victory is, Georgia knows they cannot – in Comeau’s words – get too high.
“It’s nice, but it’s one game,” Shayne Jackson said after the game. “We got to turn to Buffalo. They’re one hell of a team, too. We’ll enjoy this for about an hour or so, and then we’ll turn our attention to Buffalo next weekend.”
Georgia travels up north to face the Buffalo Bandits (tied for the best NLL record in 2016) on Saturday, Jan. 14 at 7:30 p.m. ET at KeyBank Center. Fans can catch the game LIVE via NLLTV.com.