NLL: Swarm take family-affair contest over Panther City

Connor Sellars tries to chase Lyle Thompson. Georgia Swarm @ Panther City Dickies Arena 4.23.22 (Photo credit: Mary Adger Bowen)

Going into the penultimate week of the regular season, this contest between Georgia and Panther City Lacrosse Club was more crucial than it seemed. Neither team could officially be eliminated from playoff contention, but a win sure would go a long way. Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas was jumping. Hold on to your britches!

Georgia sat in the fourth spot in the East and PCLC was on the outside looking in for the final spot in the West. Oh, and if this wasn’t interesting enough, Miles and Lyle Thompson faced off against their brother Jeremy. Miles, Lyle, and the rest of the Swarm got the better of Jeremy and PCLC, 12-9, keeping their playoff hopes alive.

This contest as a whole was very much back-and-forth with timely scoring and even better goaltending down the stretch. Georgia came out of the gates hot, with Miles Thompson scoring the game’s first goal on the power play. Phil Caputo and Nathan Grenon answered right back with two goals in less than 30 seconds to shift the momentum in PCLC’s favour. Jordan MacIntosh silenced that, scoring the first of four straight for Georgia, followed by two from Lyle and another from Miles Thompson. Lyle’s first goal was arguably the goal of the night as he ducked through two defenders and shot while diving in front of the crease. 5-2 Swarm at the end of one.

PCLC, being winners of six of their last seven games, wasn’t going to just roll over. ROTY contender Patrick Dodds notched his first of the night on the power play to open the second. Ryan MacSpadyen answered right back under a minute later. PCLC went on a nice three-goal run to end the quarter. Goals from Grenon, Will Malcom and a slick coast-to-coast goal from Liam Patten, knotted the score up 6-6 going into the half.

“These are games you want to win. Again, this whole process has been about learning,” said PCLC head coach Tracey Kelusky. “We were certainly resilient in six of the last seven to find those wins, but when the going gets tough, I thought tonight we were in a spot of hoping instead of just going to do.”

Both Mike Poulin and Nick Damude were solid in the first half, limiting a lot of the opposition’s scoring chances. Poulin was solid on any outside chances from PCLC, while Damude made a ton of saves on inside shots.

Miles Thompson was asked at half about the keys to continuing the potent offense.

“Keeping our game plan, moving the ball, moving our feet, and hopefully the goals start going in,” he said.

Regarding the PCLC defense and limiting their momentum, Miles added, “they have a good defense, so you have to credit them. We just have to stick to our principles, we (the offense) just have to do our job, and hopefully our defense can feed off of that.”

The third quarter was a continuation of the seesaw battle that was ensuing. Stephan Leblanc squeaked one past Damude to give Georgia the lead. The seesaw swung PCLC’s way with two quick goals from Cam Milligan and Grenon. Grenon’s goal gave him his hat trick on the night and was the “oops” moment of the game. With one second left on the shot clock, Grenon spun and lobbed a shot at Poulin that took a funky bounce and beat the goaltender short side. With 11 seconds left in the quarter, Lyle Thompson loaded up the rocket and fired an absolute snipe from the Dickies’ logo that beat Damude up top. 8-8 going into the final frame. If the playoff implications in this game weren’t enough, the back-and-forth nature certainly was.

Miles and Lyle took over to start the fourth. Miles scored twice to start the frame, both of which were assisted by Lyle. The second of those two was on the power play and was courtesy of a slick behind-the-back pass from Lyle. Most of all, those two goals proved to be detrimental to a PCLC comeback. Caputo notched his second of the night on the powerplay to make it 10-9, but that was about all she wrote for PCLC. Outstanding defense and stout play from Poulin proved to be the deciding factor in the fourth. Shayne Jackson scored the final two goals of the game, the second being an empty netter. Your final, 12-9, Swarm.

Players of the game for PCLC were Grenon (3+1), Caputo (2+2) and Dodds (1+4). Damude faltered a bit late, stopping 39 of 51 on the night. As for the Swarm, the stars were Miles with four goals, Lyle (3+4), and Jackson (2+2). Poulin was solid all night, especially so late in the game, stopping 39 of 48.

The Georgia postgame was a family affair.

“I missed this game; it’s an experience being back and I’m just trying to enjoy the moment,” said Miles Thompson, in a post-game interview alongside his brother Lyle, with their parents and brother Jerome in the stands. “I think it just comes down to chemistry. It’s something that we built and we just try to spread it out with the team.”

Lyle was asked about the team effort and the message on the bench.

“Keep the energy up and have a positive attitude,” he said. “It was tough, they went on like a six-goal run, and when those situations happen, you just have to reset.”

Both brothers were asked if they were going to brag to Jeremy. They both smiled and were looking forward to a hug and a nice photo op instead, and when the interview concluded they did give him that hug.

Georgia (9-8) currently sits in fourth in the East and go back home to take on the Philadelphia Wings (8-9) next Saturday night. The Wings are right on the cusp of a playoff spot, so that’ll be quite the contest. PCLC (7-10) has some work in front of them and will need some outside help to get in. For starters, they’ll need to take care of the Saskatchewan Rush (7-10) next Saturday. Week 22 is going to be bananas, hold on to your seat.