NLL: Rock eke out victory in Georgia to keep Swarm winless

TJ Comizio leaps to stop Zach Manns. Toronto Rock @ Georgia Swarm, February 10, 2023. (Photo credit: Kyle Hess)

Over their five-game win streak, the Toronto Rock have been rolling over teams. That was not the case Friday night as the winless Georgia Swarm battled back from a 7-2 deficit to scare the new Eastern Conference leaders; but in the end, Toronto extended their streak to six straight with an 11-10 victory.

Toronto wasn’t lulled into a false sense of security by Georgia’s record. Both Tom Schreiber and Josh Dawick credited the Swarm, saying they’re a better team than their now 0-6 record indicates. Schreiber added, “They always play us tough.” With Dan Dawson unavailable, Dawick got the call for his second game, and scored his first two NLL goals. He also knew, “They weren’t going to quit.”

Head coach Matt Sawyer admitted it’s a tough situation for Dawick to jump into. “A tough defense to play against – very athletic – he steps in and scores two big goals in a one-goal game.”

The first came with two minutes left in the first quarter, and made the score 4-1. Dawick’s outside shot caught a piece of starter Brett Dobson and trickled across the line. His second was a quick-stick into the top corner off a Mitch de Snoo transition break and spelled the end of the night for Dobson, who was replaced by Craig Wende, who would allow just four goals from 30 shots, many of his saves acrobatic, ending in full splits.

“One of the things we’ve been focusing on in practice is catching the ball off swings and shooting quick,” said Dawick. “On the first one, I set a pick, saw [Corey Small], and tried to get it off as quick as I could.”

Dobson allowed seven goals from the Rock’s first 19 shots. Wende would not surrender a goal until Schreiber’s second of the game near the end of the third quarter when he switched hands and shot around a defender – a stretch of 20:55.

Over this time, Georgia had run off four straight goals to pull within two. Lyle Thompson had three points over this stretch, and would score his second of the game with five seconds to go in the quarter. Thompson started in the low corner, broke double coverage and shot side-arm while fading away. The ball hit off the arm of Nick Rose to make it 8-7.

The home side would tie it within two minutes of the fourth. Shayne Jackson completed his hat trick with a quick stick on the crease following Adam Wiedemann’s transition break. Jackson added an assist in the game to finish with four points.

Wiedemann would then score his lone goal of the game with a perfectly placed bounce shot in transition. Sawyer saw this as a key moment in the game. “I thought we had a chance to put it away on the power play,” he said. “But, we gave up a shorty. So, that’s something we need to work on.”

The goal drew the Swarm within two, and Andrew Kew’s hat trick goal out of the final media time out brought Georgia within one. Kew, who had his second-straight six point game (three goals, three assists) faked a low shot from the top and curled behind Latrell Harris to use him a screen.

With Gas South Arena as loud as it had been all game, Brad Kri grabbed the jersey of Ryan Lanchbury in the final minute to put the Rock down a man for just the second time in the game. Georgia went back to the quick-stick play on the side of the crease, but this time Rose made his move to force the ball off the side of the net. Rose ended the night with 37 saves.

Despite never leading, Georgia fought back all night coming up just short of their first win of the season, 11-10.

Toronto was unhappy with their offensive output. Said Schreiber, “Across the board, we weren’t our best… It took just about everything.”

Sawyer echoed the statement saying, “Offensively, start to finish, it was not a night we were shooting very well.” He did admit though, “We found a way … [We] faced a little adversity and figured it out.”

The teams will meet again in Week 12.

“We’ll be ready for it, I’m sure they’ll be ready for it,” said Sawyer. “It usually makes for a pretty intense second game, so we’ll see what happens.”