NLL: Rock take second consecutive game over Swarm

HAMILTON, ONTARIO – National Lacrosse League between the Toronto Rock and Georgia Swarm at FirstOntario Centre on February 18th, 2022 in Hamilton, Ontario. (Photo by Ryan McCullough / Toronto Rock)

In just over three minutes of post-game availability, Toronto Rock head coach Matt Sawyer used the word ‘good’ nine times; four in reference to being good every night. His team was good in the second half, using a nine-goal run to down the Georgia Swarm in back-to-back weeks 16-7.

Yes, they scored nine goals from six different players in a twelve and a half minute span. But, it followed a first quarter of missed shots for the second straight game. Sawyer said, “Our last three games, we found ways to win.” He also observed, “You need to try to be at your best night in and night out. That was the challenge here tonight. We sure were in the second half. It took us a while to get going though.”

Eleven minutes to be exact.

Challen Rogers broke an 11:12 deadlock to open the game with a sidearm shot from the ad logo at the tail end of a power play. The goal led to three straight Rock goals in ninety seconds to lead 3-0 after the first. They’d be up 5-0 before the first media time out in the second quarter. Coming out of the break, Andrew Kew put Georgia on the board wheeling over the top for his first of two.

The Swarm would end the half on a 3-1 run, with a close goal from Bryan Cole called off for a crease violation. (Ed Comeau’s ensuing challenge was unsuccessful.) Toronto led 6-3 at halftime.

Much as they fought from behind in week twelve’s 11-10 loss, Georgia kept coming in the third quarter. Lyle Thompson’s second (of three) came from a low, quick-stick shot on the power play. Following the Rock’s sixth straight win Feb 17, numerous Toronto players credited their opponent’s efforts. Nick Rose, who stopped thirty-seven shots for his eighth win of the season, echoed those statements again saying, “They’re not where they want to be in the standings, but they should have a lot more wins than they do right now, just the way they play.”

As pesky and resilient as the Swarm play, they would not score again for nearly 20 minutes.

Not only did the Rock rattle off nine goals, and chase starter Brett Dobson for the second straight week (he took the loss allowing ten goals from thirty-five shots), but, as Rose says, the defense also stepped up in the second half. “Five-on-five we’ve been pretty dominant in terms of dictating where the shots are coming from.” It’s a sight he’s used to seeing. “Kind of the same as usual lately.”

None of Toronto’s goals during the streak came in transition, which had been strong over the previous few games. Partly due to Rogers playing out the front door in the absence of Dan Dawson, but also Toronto playing without reigning transition player of the year Mitch De Snoo.

TD Ierlan kept the ball in Toronto’s sticks winning 19 of 28 faceoffs, including career faceoff win number 400. He’d finish with 11 loose balls. Latrell Harris had six, putting him over 500 in his career.

Georgia finished with three power play goals in just under three minutes, but ended up on the wrong side of a 16-7 loss. They remain winless on the season, now 0-7. Meanwhile, the win was Toronto’s seventh in a row, and sees the Rock move into a tie for first in the East at 8-2.

Georgia saw goals from just four players; Lyle Thompson (3 goals, 5 points), Andrew Kew (2), Shayne Jackson and Bryan Cole.

Toronto was led by another strong night from Tom Schreiber (4 goals, 5 assists). Corey Small also had a nine point night (3 goals, 6 assists).

Toronto’s bye week now comes at an opportune time. Says Rose, “We’ve been going every weekend since we got out of the holidays, so it’s a good time to get a weekend off.” It also comes before a crucial matchup against the Rochester Knighthawks – a game that could determine the East’s top seed. “Rochester’s playing great lacrosse this season. That’s one we just got to have if we want to finish first,” he said.

His head coach echoed the statement, “If you want to control where you play in the playoffs,” said Sawyer, “you better keep winning.”