Steady Swarm defense stops Rock in east final

Mike Poulin of the Georgia Swarm makes a save against the Toronto Rock in the east division semi-final on May 13, 2017 at the Air Canada Centre. (Photo credit: Anna Taylor)
Mike Poulin of the Georgia Swarm makes a save against the Toronto Rock in the east division semi-final on May 13, 2017 at the Air Canada Centre. (Photo credit: Anna Taylor)

After scoring nearly 40 goals over their past two games, the Toronto Rock’s offense disappeared in an 11-8 loss to the Georgia Swarm in game one of the east division final Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre.

The Swarm will try to close out the series this coming Saturday, May 20, in game two. If the Rock can tie the series, the teams will play a ten-minute mini-game to decide the winner.

The Swarm are known for their offense: with players like Miles and Lyle Thompson, the team’s d-corps isn’t talked about much. But it was that unit that stole the show.

In fact, the entire game was focused on defense.

The Rock led 1-0 after the first quarter, and shocked the Swarm with a 4-2 at the half.

“We got off to a good start,” Rock captain Brodie Merrill said. “Brandon Miller stabilized things for us, but we knew they were going to come at some point.”

Dan Lintner scored the only goal of the first. Damon Edwards and Stephan Leblanc increased the Toronto lead to 3-0 in the second. Shayne Jackson got the Swarm on the board but Brett Hickey answered that goal 32 seconds later. Jordan Hall scored his first of the game to close out the half.

The Rock were outshot by the Swarm 56-47, something that happened only twice during the regular season. Brandon Miller continued to be solid in goal for the Rock despite the loss. He only allowed nine goals on 54 shots. If he saw the ball, he stopped it.

“In a tight game you want to make sure you give your team the best chance to win and a couple squeaked in tonight that I wasn’t happy with, obviously, but that’s lacrosse,” Miller said.

Unfortunately for the Rock, Mike Poulin was also on the ball in the Swarm goal, although he wasn’t tested as often and didn’t have to face the same quality of shots.

Bradley Kri of the Toronto Rock and Jerome Thompson of the Georgia Swarm exchange words at the end of the east division semi-final on May 13, 2017 at the Air Canada Centre. (Photo credit: Anna Taylor)
Bradley Kri of the Toronto Rock and Jerome Thompson of the Georgia Swarm exchange words at the end of the east division semi-final on May 13, 2017 at the Air Canada Centre. (Photo credit: Anna Taylor)

“Both goalies played incredible and I’m sure it’ll be another low-scoring game next week with those two guys playing like that,” Swarm captain Jordan MacIntosh said.

Georgia took over the in the third quarter, outscoring the Rock 4-1 and taking a 6-5 lead. Joel White, Chad Tutton, Hall and Jackson scored with Kasey Beirnes responding on the power play.

“They’re so dynamic offensively so they started to take control, but I thought we responded,” Merrill said. “We had some good opportunities there to tie it but they were able to close it out and that was ultimately the difference.”

Randy Staats and Dan Lintner traded goals to start the fourth. Another run from Georgia upped the score to 10-6 with goals from Miles Thompson, Hall and White, into the empty net. Toronto pulled Miller early and got two goals with the extra-man from Tom Schreiber at 11:43 and Beirnes at 13:29, but a miscommunication on a late possession gave MacIntosh an empty-netter.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the lack of confidence in the refereeing in the game. Twice – once for each team – the referees reviewed potential scoring plays without challenges being called. The Swarm goal was ruled a goal – Hall was clear of the crease – but the Rock goal was called back despite the front view showing an inch of blue carpet between the goal line and the ball.

“They don’t explain anything to us, so we’re watching the same replays as them and they determined, I guess, that it wasn’t conclusive,” Sawyer said. “There’s nothing we can do about that except move on and play the next shift.”

The fans at the ACC, however, weren’t happy and rained boos on the referees. One or two rally towels even ended up on the floor. The outcome of the game did nothing to relax things; Swarm defender Chad Tutton went down hard towards the end of the game and was booed for taking too long to get up while the trainer attended to him.

It was a rough game all-around.

“With the week off we’ll be able to heal some wounds,” MacIntosh said. “We expected the intensity level to be pushed up and I’m sure next week will be another level so we have to make sure we’re rested and ready to go.”

“This was a playoff lacrosse game and we came up on the wrong end of it,” Sawyer said. “We need to be better and we’re confident that we will be but the loss stings right now.”

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