Whenever the Georgia Swarm and Toronto Rock clash, fans are practically guaranteed an excellent game. Sunday night at Infinite Energy Arena was no exception as the two teams traded goals in the second half before the Swarm (8-7) held on 11-10 to down the Rock (7-8) for the third time in 2018.
With the win, Georgia has swept the season series against the Rock and enters into a three-way tie with Buffalo and Rochester for first in the East Division.
Lyle Thompson and Dan Lintner each recorded five goals for their respective teams, as goaltenders Nick Rose and Mike Poulin made save after sensational save to keep things close.
In the end, it took a dunking goal from Jesse King to be the final tiebreaker. Being scored within the last two minutes of regulation, the play was reviewed, and it seemed like Jordan Hall may have been in the crease, but inconclusive evidence made the call stand as a good goal. Georgia would hold on for the final 53 seconds for its third-straight victory.
“Anytime you get a win in this league, it’s a good feeling,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “I thought Toronto played really well in the second (half). They battled back, and there’s no quit in them, and I think even when we got down, there’s no quit in us.”
Toronto kicked things off quickly with a goal in the first eight seconds of action from Sheldon Burns. The lead lasted for a while until Hall scored with a second left on the shot clock a few minutes later. Randy Staats performed the same shot, and Lyle capped the Swarm scoring in the first quarter with his first two goals of the night. Reid Reinholdt ran around the floor to score the final goal of the first quarter, and the Swarm was up 4-2.
Lyle netted his hat trick quickly with a shorthand goal to put Georgia up 5-2. Hall followed up after Chad Tutton caused a turnover and passed him the ball. Lintner began his scoring onslaught with a goal at the 13:34 min. mark, but the first half would end with Georgia up 6-3.
“We’ve got a great defense,” Lintner said. “We’ve got one of the best goalies in the league and some of the best D guys in the league, as well. They were giving us a chance, and we had to do our part. We just said stick to it and moved our feet and swung the ball a little bit more, got some touches in all four corners. We focused on getting topside here, and it definitely paid off a bit in the second half.”
The visiting team kept the Swarm from scoring the entire 15 min. as the Rock netted four to take the lead, 7-6. Brodie Merrill and Adam Jones scored early on in the third. Lintner got his hat trick in the quarter, the final goal of the quarter a catch-and-release goal to retake the lead for Toronto.
“That’s why we have halftime, is to go into the room, settle down and make adjustments, and that’s exactly what Toronto did,” Poulin said. “They’ve had a lot of success the past game and tonight with transition goals, so it was apparent right from the start of the second half that they were running. They came in flying … Credit to our guys, too, for battling back.”
Kiel Matisz finally stopped the Swarm’s drought and tied the game off a gutsy pass from Staats, dodging his defender to net the ball in the top left corner. Lintner responded with a transition goal to retake the lead. Lyle danced on the crease to tie the game at eight goals apiece, but Lintner once again retook the lead for the Rock with his fifth and final goal of the night.
The back-and-forth continued as Miles Thompson tied things up at the 10:12 min. mark. With his second five-goal game of the season, Lyle used a back-step whip to give the Swarm the lead again, 10-9. The lead was short-lived as Brett Hickey scored a transition goal after receiving a clear from Merrill.
In the final minute of regulation, Hall tried to make a diving goal on Rose, but it bounced behind the net as Hall fell into the crease. King managed to grab it, and Hall quickly scrambled out as Rose tried to scramble to the opposite corner. He was too late as King jumped and dunked the goal in, giving Georgia an 11-10 lead.
The play was reviewed since the goal was scored in the final two min. of regulation and was upheld due to inconclusive evidence. The Swarm held on for the final 53 seconds and swept the Rock in 2018 with its 11-10 win.
“It’s a tough one to lose, that’s for sure,” Rock head coach Matt Sawyer said. “We competed, and we battled out there, but that’s the game sometimes. We felt like we maybe deserved a bit better, but we came in on the wrong end again. We need to correct that next week, and we’ve put ourselves in a position where the Rochester game’s a must-win, pretty much.”
In addition to his five goals, Lyle also recorded an assist to lead the Swarm with six points. Matisz and King posted four points (1G, 3A) each, and Hall had two goals and two assists to match them in points. Poulin blocked 36 shots and finished the night with a .783 SV%.
Lintner’s five goals led the Rock in points Sunday night. Merrill finished with four points (1G, 3A). Rose earned his third loss against the Swarm this season after making 29 saves on 40 SOG, a 725 SV%.
Toronto returns home to Air Canada Centre to welcome the Rochester Knighthawks on Friday, April 13. Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET. Fans can catch the game live via NLLTV.com.
“We control our own destiny, and you don’t need any help,” Sawyer said about the message he gave to the Rock to move on from Sunday’s loss. “That’s kind of the message, let this one sting, but focus on the positives from this game. Again, we have no choice but to carry that into the Rochester game.”
Georgia heads to Saskatoon to face the Saskatchewan Rush (12-3) on Saturday, April 14. Faceoff is set for 9:30 p.m. ET. For the second straight week, the Swarm will be part of the NLL Twitter Game of the Week, and fans can catch the action at live.Twitter.com/NLL. Fans can also watch the game on NLLTV.com.