A seven goal run in the second half by the Georgia Swarm propelled them to an 18-14 win over the Saskatchewan Rush on Sunday afternoon in game one of the Champion’s Cup final.
The Swarm are making their first-ever appearance in the finals, while the Rush are the back-to-back defending champions. It will perhaps be one of the most entertaining playoff series in league history, and that’s not even because of the extra entertainment: rapper and actor Ludacris performed at half-time to the delight of his hometown crowd.
Robert Church (2G/5A) and Mark Matthews (3G/4A) led the Rush with seven points each while Adam Jones and Jeremy Thompson had hat-tricks. Jordan Hall led the Swarm with eight points including five goals. Shayne Jackson had six (2G/4A) while Lyle Thompson (1G/4A), Kiel Matisz (3G/2A) and Randy Staats (2G/3A) all had five.
Saskatchewan led 4-3 after the first quarter on the strength of a pair of Mark Matthews’s power play goals. The Rush would eventually go 4-4 on the extra-man while the Swarm were 0-2. The Rush kept up the pace and led 9-7 at the half, involving special teams again. Adam Jones scored shorthanded and Curtis Knight scored with an extra attacker.
The Rush looked to be in control, increasing their lead to 11-7 in the third. However, that was when the Swarm started their run, with Kiel Matisz kicking things off at 8:59. The Swarm scored three more before the quarter was out and continued their run for 3:38 more into the fourth, putting them on top 14-11.
A five-minute high-sticking major to Swarm captain Jordan MacIntosh stopped the run as Jones scored on the delayed penalty with an extra attacker, and Matthews tallied on the ensuing power play. Once the penalty was over, propelled by the record crowd of 7642, the Swarm picked right back up and scored four more to put the game out of reach. Jeremy Thompson got one back in vain with 50 seconds to play.
Aaron Bold and Mike Poulin each made 36 saves.
Georgia outshot Saskatchewan 54-50. Loose balls were nearly even at 79-78. Sask won in the face-off circle 19-35.
Game two goes next Saturday evening at 9:30 p.m. ET. at Sasktel Centre. Game three, if necessary, will be back at the Infinite Energy Centre on June 17.