GEORGIA – The Georgia Swarm (13-5) dropped the final game of the year to the Rochester Knighthawks (7-11) by a score of 9-8, Saturday night. Georgia set a new NLL record for most goals scored by a team in a season with 266 goals.
The Swarm, having earned a bye in the postseason by securing the top seed in the East Division, will now rest up for a deep postseason run. Georgia will host its historic first home postseason game – Game 2 of the East Division Finals was played on Saturday, May 20.
Some 5,126 fans witnessed history as MVP-candidate Lyle Thompson netted the historic goal on a power play three minutes into the game. Lyle also finished the weekend as the 2017 NLL scoring champion and set the team record in points with 116, a team-high and second-highest in team history 45 goals, and Swarm record-setting 71 assists. Despite scoring the hat trick in the loss to Rochester, Lyle’s behind-the-back second goal earned him a SportsCenter Top 10 recognition.
“I wasn’t coming in trying to get to a certain point on points I wanted or goals I wanted,” Lyle said. “It all just came with hard work and team chemistry. Last year, I started off slow coming into the league, and I progressed as the season went on. I don’t feel like I did well last year. I wanted to come back and be better and take a bigger role on the team. I worked on myself, just working to see what I had to do to be a better player. A lot of that comes with confidence.”
While not Georgia’s best offense in the season, the team did rest Miles Thompson and Randy Staats with Johnny Powless the scratch for the game. The Swarm defense stepped up big. Finding itself man-down ten times throughout the game, goaltender Brodie MacDonald and co. prevented Rochester from capitalizing on any of its powerplay chances.
“Rochester’s had some injuries down on their end,” head coach Ed Comeau said. “That’s not their number one power play, but we had a lot of man shorts and did a great job. I thought Brodie — he hadn’t played in a while and the first quarter’s always tough when you haven’t been in the net. Once he got in there, he settled in, played really well.”
Georgia started the game with its historic goal but lost the lead six minutes in from back-to-back goals from Rochester’s Dan Dawson and Luke Laszkiewicz. Lyle scored again for the Swarm to tie things up, but Paul Dawson scored on transition to give Rochester the lead again. Captain Jordan MacIntosh, with no one around him, received a long pass from Ethan O’Connor and beat Rochester’s Angus Goodleaf to tie things up once again. Joe Resetaritscapped the scoring for the quarter, and Rochester found itself up 4-3.
Only three goals were scored in the second quarter. Georgia found itself man-down due to penalties, but goaltender Brodie MacDonald — making only his second start of the season — made clutch save after clutch save, helping Georgia kill Rochester’s chances.
“Our defense has been playing unbelievable,” Jackson said. “Brodie hasn’t been playing that much this year, but to see him play the way he did tonight, we’re all really happy for him. He really deserved that. We’re going to need that. We’re going to need everyone. If something happens to one of our goalies, we need both goalies to step up. So, it was good to see that Brodie stepped up tonight.”
Laszkiewicz finally broke the ice in the quarter to put Rochester up by two. Lyle earned the hat trick with his second power play goal of the night, but D. Dawson scored the Knighthawks’ sixth goal. The teams went to their locker rooms with the score 6-4 in Rochester’s favor.
MacDonald and Georgia’s defense played even better in the third quarter, preventing Rochester from scoring once and killing six penalty minutes. Chad Tutton scored the only goal of the night, a behind-the-back pass received from Kiel Matisz.
With 15 minutes, left to play and the score 6-5 Rochester, Georgia needed some momentum its way, but played catch-up instead. Assistant captain Shayne Jackson scored a shorthand goal to tie things up five minutes into the quarter. Rochester’s Graeme Hossackput his team back on top before Bryan Cole scored on transition. Dan Lomas gave Rochester the lead for the penultimate time before Jackson made a slick catch and shot to tie things up for the last time that night.
Looking to prevent overtime, Georgia found itself with the ball with 31 seconds left in regulation. MacDonald was pulled to give the Swarm the extra attacker. Rochester forced a turnover, and Hossack got the ball and flung it straight at the empty net. The buzzer rang loud as the ball kissed the back of the net. Rochester won with an empty netter, the final score 9-8.
Lyle led the Swarm in goals with three. Jackson finished with four points (2G, 2A). MacDonald earned the loss, but only allowed eight goals all night.
The youngest Thompson Brother was not the only player to set records tonight. Hall set a personal career-best in assists with 60, and Matisz ended the regular season with a new personal high in points with 70 (28G, 42A).
Even with a tough loss, Georgia still retains the best record in the NLL and home field advantage in the playoffs. With a defense that has only allowed 25 goals over the last three games, Comeau is not worried going into the bye week the team earned with its top seed in the East Division.
“We obviously disappointed with some of our execution and things that happened,” Comeau said, “but our guys worked hard and battled hard with sort of a shorter lineup. and we think we know what we need to do to be successful in this league, will have a good practice next week, and be ready to go Game 1.”
Georgia will also host Game 2 of the East Division Finals on Saturday, May 20. The first playoff game to be played at The Hive.