Swarm raise championship banner, rebound from slow start for first win of the season
The Georgia Swarm (1-2) opened up their home campaign with a hard-fought 14-11 win over the Rochester Knighthawks (2-1) in front of 6,254 fans at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena.
The game was scheduled to start at 7 p.m. ET, but due to bad weather in the northeast (or airline incompetence according to Angus Goodleaf) the game began after 9 p.m. The Knighthawks’ travel troubles consisted of five gate changes, two flight delays, a cancellation and the charter of two jets. They arrived in just enough time for a brief warm-up before the start of the game.
The smarter thing may have to been postpone the game, but Georgia’s highly-hyped raising of their 2017 NLL championship banner couldn’t wait.
In his post game conference Knighthawks’ head coach Mike Hasen said that “it was a big effort to get here. Once the whistle went, we had to get ready to play, and we got ready as best we could and started going.”
Rochester did start with a delay of game penalty, so the first two minutes they played shorthanded. Despite the penalty, they opened the scoring with the first four of the game. Cody Jamieson and Kyle Jackson scored 22 seconds apart for a quick two-goal lead. Joe Resetarits scored the next two on the power play before the Swarm’s Bryan Cole scored to make it 4-1.
Georgia then showed their championship calibre by outscoring the Knighthawks 7-2 in the second quarter as it looked like the travel complications finally hit Rochester. The Swarm tied the game at four, scoring three goals in under a minute by the 3:07 mark. It seemed like the Knighthawks couldn’t find their stride as the Swarm took the lead and held on tight. Jesse King and Lyle Thompson each scored twice in the second frame.
After an energizing halftime performance by Georgian rapper 2 Chainz, the Swarm opened a four-goal lead two minutes into the second half, but the Knighthawks fought back and scored three straight to get within a goal at 10-9, but that would be as close as they would get.
“It was awesome,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said in a team press release. “We said at some point, we need to put an end on last year and start focusing on this year. That was a great way to do it. We did a nice job playing 5-on-5, and we really played our style, an aggressive-style defence.”
Joe Resetarits and Cory Vitarelli led the Knighthawks in scoring. Each recorded a hat-trick.
Jesse King (4G) and Lyle Thompson (3G/3A) led the attack for the Swarm. Kiel Matisz and Randy Staats chipped in with four assists each. Matisz also scored on the power play.
Mike Poulin was strong in net, rebounding well after allowing four straight to start the game. Poulin stopped 37 shots for the win.
Matt Vinc struggled in the second quarter but played strong and stopped 40 shots, but was saddled with the loss.
Georgia will host the Saskatchewan Rush next week in a rematch of last year’s title game.
Rochester will have a bye week as they prepare for a back-to-back weekend. January 12 they will visit Toronto, and return home on January 13 to host the New England Black Wolves in a crucial weekend for the eastern division.