Saturday’s game between the Toronto Rock and Georgia Swarm was the type of game that makes spectators fall in love with box lacrosse.
Georgia (4-5) battled back from being down 5-0 within the first six min. of the game to defeat Toronto (5-4) with a 14-13 overtime win.
Roster moves on both sides shaped up for an interesting matchup on Saturday night. Toronto’s Tom Schreiber went on the Injured List at the beginning of the week, and Georgia activated forward Jordan Hall and transition player Chad Tutton on Saturday.
“We’ve been down a little bit with our record,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “Those guys haven’t lost a game yet this year. So, those guys coming in, we knew their character and the way they are around the room that it was going to give us a little bit of energy. Hallsy was great and did a lot of little things for us, and Tutts played solid D.”
The Rock came out firing against the Swarm. Dan Lintner, in for the injured Schreiber, scored 22 seconds into the first quarter. It was the start of a five-goal run in under six minutes, putting the Swarm into a hole. Georgia began to climb out of it with two goals from Jesse King and two goals from Hall.
“We came out and were real good early, maybe caught them not ready off the hop or whatever it might be,” Rock head coach Matt Sawyer said. “We got some momentum and kept building on it, and you saw that turn around real quick.”
Challen Rogers widened Toronto’s lead back to two goals, and the Rock found itself man-up. Toronto was unable to capitalize, however, and Georgia used the scrappiness of Jordan MacIntosh and Bryan Cole to corral the ball and get Cole to score a shorthand goal in transition. At the end of the first quarter, Toronto was up 6-5.
Toronto scored first again in the second quarter. It was still man-up, but Georgia killed the penalty, and then Brett Hickey scored seconds later to widen the lead to two goals again. Georgia went on the power play, and Miles Thompson shot in a dagger of a power play goal.
The Rock went back on the penalty kill again as Damon Edwards received two two-min. penalties. Randy Staats took advantage of one of the power plays and scored. Toronto killed the second one, but Kiel Matisz scored seconds later with a jump shot to give Georgia its first lead of the night. Hall fought his way inside to net his hat trick, but Kieran McArdle scored 19 seconds later. When the buzzer sounded, Georgia was up 9-8.
“Our offense was doing their job upfront, and on the backend, we didn’t have our best half to start the game,” Rock goaltender Nick Rose said. “We recognized that if we were going to win this thing that we definitely had to have one of our best halves of the year. I thought we did play pretty well, but we all left some plays or saves or whatever out there at the end of the day.”
“We just stressed that we were in a good spot,” Sawyer said, “and we just wanted to clean some things up and get a little bit better in little areas of the game, both offensively and defensively. I think you saw the game kind of settle in there. Goaltending was good both ways in the second half.”
During halftime, country music artist Scotty McCreery performed a 10-min. halftime show. He would later return after the game to do a 30-min. set.
Once again, Toronto came out firing, this time with two power play goals to retake the lead. Adam Jones assisted Rob Hellyer and Hickey on both of the goals. King recorded his hat trick a minute after Hickey scored his goal, and a defensive battle ensued. Neither team found the back of the net for the remaining nine minutes, and the third quarter ended tied at 10 apiece.
Georgia drew first blood with a goal hammered in by Zed Williams, retaking the lead. Jones and Reid Reinholdt retook the lead for the Rock before Jordan MacIntosh tied things once again. Jones would net his hat trick minutes later, giving Toronto a 13-12 lead.
The Rock found itself man-down for the fourth time that night, and Georgia did not let the chance slip away. Almost a mirror image of his first goal, M. Thompson scored his second power play goal to tie things at 13. The final 4:05 min. were tense as both teams played energetically, but the two still headed to overtime.
Georgia and Toronto met twice during the 2017 season in the regular season, and both games went to overtime with the road team taking the victor.
That is where the parallels between those games in 2017 and tonight’s game ended. Both teams played some heart-stopping lacrosse in overtime until Shayne Jackson set a pick for King, rolled to the cage, caught King’s behind-the-back pass, and shot it past Rose. Georgia players flooded the floor as they won the sudden death match with a score of 14-13.
“I saw Kinger, he had the ball low, and I just wanted to come in with speed and get separation from my guy and set a good pick for Kinger to get his hands free,” Jackson said. “I just wanted to make sure I rolled and got open, and Kinger was able to hit me. I caught it, and I was having trouble catching it all night, but when I caught it, I just wanted to reach around Rosie, and the ball went in.”
King recorded the most points on the team with six (3G, 3A). Staats posted five points (1G, 4A), and four Swarm players had four points apiece. Goaltender Mike Poulin earned the win in 63:55 min. His 45 saves on 58 SOG earned him a 12.20 GA and a .776 SV%.
For Toronto, Jones (3G, 4A) and Hellyer led the team in points with seven apiece. Reinholdt finished with six points (1G, 5A). Earning the loss, goaltender Rose made 37 saves on 51 SOG, good for a 13.14 GA and a .725 SV%.
Both teams have a bye week next weekend. Georgia welcomes the Colorado Mammoth to Infinite Energy Arena on Friday, March 2. The next night, it travels north to Air Canada Centre for a rematch against Toronto on Saturday, March 3. Fans can watch the games live via NLLTV.com.