First doubleheader weekend of the season to test Swarm trying to climb above .500
(DULUTH, Ga.) – The Georgia Swarm (3-3) have a busy weekend ahead of them, traveling on the road Saturday to take on the Buffalo Bandits (4-3) before returning home Sunday for their second game of the season against the Rochester Knighthawks (2-5). Faceoff for Saturday is set for 7:30 p.m. ET and for Sunday at 6:05 p.m. ET.
Georgia ended its West Division tour two weeks ago with a 16-12 win against the Vancouver Stealth. It rested for another bye week and now has a full plate ahead of it.
“We’re continuing to evolve,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “… We’re looking to be better than what we were the last time out. Hopefully, we can do that, and hopefully, we come away with some success on Saturday and Sunday night.”
Georgia has gone 3-1 in its past four games after its 0-2 start. The team’s offense is led by assistant captain Shayne Jackson and his 35 points (15G, 20A), followed by Kiel Matisz (5G, 23A) and 2017 NLL MVP Lyle Thompson (10G, 18A) with 28 points apiece. Randy Staats and Jesse King round out the top five in points for the Swarm, Staats with 26 points (14G, 12A) and King with 20 points (12G, 8A).
Standing strong between the pipes is veteran netminder Mike Poulin. Poulin’s 3-3 record has been earned after playing every minute of Georgia’s six games this season. He sports a 12.33 GAA and a .760 SV%.
The Swarm begins their weekend taking on Buffalo, themselves enjoying a doubleheader Friday and Saturday. After a 1-2 start to the season, the Bandits have since gone 3-1, including a stunning overtime victory in Saskatchewan which handed the Rush their only loss of the season.
Buffalo and Georgia have not seen each other since the 2017 season. The Swarm won all three games, the final one a 20-7 performance at KeyBank Center. Lyle led the team in points that night with 10 (2G, 8A).
This season, 2016 NLL MVP Dhane Smith is putting together a solid MVP-campaign with 47 points (15G, 32A). The 2017 NLL Draft No. 1 overall pick Josh Byrne has lead all rookies in points with 25 (11G, 14A), good for fourth most on the Bandits roster.
Buffalo has experienced up and downs between the pipes this season. Alex Buque has seen time in 321:44 min. and sports a 3-2 record. He currently has a 13.651 GAA and a .753 SV%. After losing Davide DiRuscio to injury, the Bandits picked up Zach Higgins. In 101:42 min., Higgins has a 1-1 record, a 13.57 GAA and a .744 SV%.
“Buffalo’s a team right now that has made a lot of changes from last year and is playing with a lot of confidence, riding a little bit of a win streak,” Comeau said. “For them playing at home, like every team in the league, you really want to be at your best at home, especially in front of a big crowd.”
After Saturday, Georgia flies back home to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena to welcome Rochester for the second time this season. After travel issues delayed the game two hours on Dec. 30, the Swarm and Knighthawks finally went at it with Georgia coming out on top 14-11, their first win of the season and Rochester’s first loss of the season.
That loss was the start of Rochester’s five-game losing streak. The Knighthawks are also experiencing a doubleheader weekend, welcoming the Toronto Rock Saturday night before traveling to Georgia Sunday. Rochester needs two wins badly to prevent the hole they’re trying to climb out of from getting deeper.
“Rochester’s certainly right now trying to get back into the win column,” Comeau said. “I know they’re working hard, and they’re looking at everything they can do to try to win. When we get to Sunday in front of Rochester, it will be a different team from what we saw in December and certainly a really motivated team.”
Rochester’s offense is led by Joe Resetarits and his 35 points (14G, 21A). After missing most of last season due to injury, assistant captain Cody Jamieson has been an assist machine, recording 25 of them in addition to his seven goals.
Even with the team’s struggles, veteran goaltender Matt Vinc has been dependable. In 373:09 min., he has a 2-4 record to go along with his 11.58 GAA and a .780 SV%.
All three teams have a busy weekend ahead of them and will be looking for two wins to help their respective standing. Georgia can catapult itself farther up the standings with two wins, but Comeau is making the team take things one game at a time.
“Any time in this league that we’ve had a back-to-back weekend, the message is that we only have one game, and we only focus on the most important game, which is our next game,” Comeau said. “So, we’re only focused on Buffalo. We haven’t talked about our second game and who we play or anything like that because you just can’t get ahead of yourself. We’re focusing on Buffalo and trying to get ready to play in that pretty hostile environment.”
After this weekend, Georgia’s next home game will be against the Toronto Rock on Saturday, Feb. 17. The Swarm will be hosting their inaugural Country Night presented by JT Stratford and will feature a 10-minute halftime and 30-minute postgame performance by country music superstar Scotty McCreery. Early arriving fans will receive cowbells courtesy of JT Stratford. Tickets are available at GeorgiaSwarm.com/CountryNight or by calling 844-4-GASWARM.