NLL: Last-minute heroics from Thompson give Swarm win over Rock

Lyle Thompson of the Georgia Swarm celebrates a goal with teammates. December 28, 2018 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
(Photo by Ryan McCullough / National Lacrosse League)

With Toronto’s other two in-season professional sports teams out of the GTA for the night, the city stood witness to a nail-biting 12-11 home-opening loss for the Rock at the hands of the Georgia Swarm.

After the dust from an outstanding video tribute to former Rock captain Colin Doyle, new captain Challen Rogers and his team took the floor. They sprung out to a 2-0 lead early in the first quarter. Tom Schreiber notched his fourth goal of the season – and the first for the Rock at home – at the 1:51 mark. Following that, Rob Hellyer found the back of the net to put the Rock up two.

Facing an onslaught of rubber from the Swarm’s best in the Lyle Thompson and Randy Staats, it was Holden Cattoni who beat Nick Rose first to put the yellow and blue on the board. Cattoni, who was responsible for two of the Swarm’s three first-quarter goals, gave the team life. Georgia’s Adam Weidemann would go on to score the last goal of the side giving the Swarm a 3-2 lead after 15.

With both teams recording two goals each midway through the second quarter, it was evident this game was going to end in typical Rock-Swarm fashion – last goal wins. The Swarm took last year’s season series 3-0, with two of those wins on the strength of a single goal.

The back-and-forth action would be broken up by Rob Hellyer who knotted the game up at five as he recorded his first hat trick of the season.

Hometown fans saw what they can come to expect of the Rock this season. With the team losing former 50-goal scorer Brett Hickey to the new Philadelphia Wings, there were questions regarding whether the club would be able to fill that offensive hole. With five goals on the night and 13 points in two games, Rob Hellyer has stepped into that role, but he says he doesn’t shoulder the burden alone.

“Hicks was a great player and a great shooter,” Hellyer said. “It was unfortunate we lost him but we kind of just do it by committee. Last week I think you saw all of our offensive guys score more, at least one goal, and tonight, more guys chipped in.”

And doing it by committee is exactly what the Rock did in this game. Though they came up short, the Rock saw five different goal scorers contribute.

Entering the third, the Swarm saw themselves with a 7-5 lead. Schreiber cut the lead to one with a power play goal, and Kieran McArdle tied things up at seven with a shorty later in the period. But Georgia’s Bryan Cole would sting the top left corner to put the Swarm up 8-7 with one quarter left.

The fourth and final quarter was a fight for the final goal. They combined for eight goals in the frame with each team taking advantage of a run. But it came down to Lyle Thompson with a chance to win it with a penalty shot after Nick Rose stopped Jason Noble on a breakaway.

After building speed running down the empty floor with no one but himself and Rose deciding the fate of the game, Rose would stretch out his palm to come up with an unbelievable save on Thompson.

Moments later, with less than a minute left on the clock and Georgia on the attack, it would be none other than Thompson again who would beat Rose, finding an open spot, giving Georgia the win.

Georgia improves to 2-0 on the season which sits well with Randy Staats, who is used to stiff competition in Toronto.

“We come into the game knowing it’s the Rock and knowing it’s going to be a battle,” Staats noted. “I think last year it came down to us beating them one game for us to knock them out down the stretch.”

Hoping things are different this year when it comes to the Eastern Division standings, the Rock will face the Philadelphia Wings in week four of NLL action. Georgia welcomes the Vancouver Warriors to the Infinite Energy Center.