Miles Thompson scores winner in overtime.
Georgia Swarm win first championship in franchise history.
Lyle Thompson M.V.P. with four goals.
The Georgia Swarm defeated the Saskatchewan Rush 15-14 in overtime in front of 14,264 screaming fans at the Sasktel Centre on Saturday evening to become the 2017 National Lacrosse League champions.
Miles Thompson scored the game winner 1:17 into overtime off a pass from his brother Lyle.
“You can take a look at my college highlights, and you can see that pass from me to Miles a few times,” chuckled Lyle at the post-game press conference.
Head coach Ed Comeau praised his team for their tenacity and their drive.
“It obviously would be understating it to say it’s a great feeling,” said Comeau on the championship. “Everyone in the league starts the season for this. We got it done and it’s a great feeling. The only feeling better is trying to do it again down the road.”
The game was a classic battle throughout. Georgia took a 10-8 lead as they started the final quarter, then Saskatchewan went on a four goal run in just over three minutes of play.
“Lacrosse is a game of runs,” said Comeau. “We were up 10-8 and it went to 12-10, off a couple of miscues, and we were really feeling their energy.”
“None of us felt like we were out of it. We had the offense that could get us right back into it. Our offense picked us up when we needed it the most,” said Swarm goalie Mike Poulin, on countering the four goal run by the Rush.
Down 14-13 with eight seconds to go, the Swarm pulled Poulin to put added pressure on the ball. The Rush countered doing the same to take away the double-team on the ball handler. This is something the Rush have done all season and it had worked – until it didn’t.
“We (Joel White and I) worked on that play during the shoot around, we prepared for that exact moment. Our coaching staff prepared us for it,” said Lyle Thompson.
Comeau expanded on the play.
“It’s the right play to do and we would have done the exact same thing,” he said. They had a bad bounce and we capitalized on it. We had a plan for it and executed it. It’s hard to be double-teamed, that’s the strategy behind it. There’s lots of mistakes in the game and I don’t think that was the last mistake, but certainly they played their hearts out until the final buzzer.”
As the whistle sounded the double-team worked and Lyle Thompson was able to cause a turnover and fire a shot, only for it to be saved by his older brother Jeremy, but the rebound was put in by Joel White with two seconds remaining.
“I always played a lot more goal then Jeremy in our backyard. We always had a stick in our hands and played against each other,” said Lyle.
Goaltender Mike Poulin, who was part of history in 2014 when his Calgary Roughnecks fell to the Rochester Knighthawks in the finals, earning the three-peat for Rochester, obviously didn’t want to be on that side again.
“Playing against Georgia twice last season and seeing the firepower the Swarm have, that’s what attracted me to them. That’s an offense I didn’t want to see again,” said Poulin.
As the players went through the traditional handshakes following the game, it was extremely emotional, especially for Lyle Thompson.
“We didn’t say a word. We hugged,” he said of his handshake with older brother Jeremy. “I could feel the emotion. I know the kind of person he is – the same kind of person I am. We’re not leaving anything out there. When I hugged him, I wanted him to know I appreciate everything he’s done for me.”
Lyle continued by saying, “As my father preached it, we’re lucky to be playing this game, win or lose. That’s what I hope every person watching me is seeing. I don’t care how many goals I score, or about MVP. I want these kids out there watching to see how hard I play.”
“These are the two youngest teams in the league. When you factor that in, the talent and the fantastic coaching on both sides, it could be a good rivalry (going forward). We played an unbelievable team, with unbelievable fans. We plan on preparing to do it again, and we expect them to want it back as well,” said Mike Poulin on the Rush.
“What we said all year is about not being too high or too low, sticking with what we define as Swarm lacrosse. We believe in each other and got the job done,” said Comeau. “We beat them in the hive and knew there would be 15,000 screaming people here behind their team. It makes it hard for the visiting team, and we should have that in every rink.”
MVP Lyle Thompson (3G/4A), Randy Staats (4G/3A) and Shayne Jackson (1G/6A) led the offense for the Swarm.
Robert Church (4G/1A), Adam Jones (3G/1A), Ben McIntosh (3G) and Ryan Keenan (2G/3A) led the offense for the Rush. Mark Matthews was held without a goal in this crucial game but did record five assists.
CONGRATULATIONS GEORGIA SWARM! 2017 NLL CHAMPIONS!
— with files from Anna Taylor