by Ty Merrow
The Georgia Swarm (7-2) jumped to an early lead against the Rochester Knighthawks (2-5) and never looked back on Saturday night at Blue Cross Arena, winning their second game of the weekend by a score of 16-12.
After Saturday’s win, the Swarm tied their best start in franchise history and tied their season-high in goals with 16.
Holden Cattoni (5G, 5A), Shayne Jackson (3G, 4A), Randy Staats (3G, 8A) and Lyle Thompson (4G, 5A) put on an offensive clinic, recording 37 of the Swarm’s 44 points and all setting season-highs.
“On offense, when we play spacing, when we have proper spacing with speed, we can compete with any team in the league,” Swarm assistant coach Sean Ferris said. “The ball just moves and our feet our moving, no one’s parking it. It’s good to see. Give the O guys credit tonight, it was great ball movement – actually all weekend, but really particular it was good tonight, the ball movement, good to see.”
Cattoni’s five goals matches his career-high in goals in a single game, and Staats tied his career-high in single game points with 11 while setting a new career-high in single game assists with 8. Goaltender Kevin Orleman made his first NLL career start and earned his first win.
“He was a little nervous, but he knew at some point he had to start,” Ferris said. “(Swarm head coach) Eddie (Comeau) told him this morning that he got the start, and he was all excited.”
“A lot of nerves, but a lot of excitement,” Orleman said about his reaction when was told he got the start. “They told me right as we were getting on the plane, and I don’t think the smile left my face the whole flight.”
“(Mike) Poulin was very professional about it and understands it,” Ferris continued. “You can’t have people sitting out that long, and he’s (Orleman) been with us for two years, and he had his chance. He was good tonight. There are always games where goalies want to take some goals back, but I thought he stepped up. He played well.”
Both team’s Jacksons kicked off the scoring in the game, first S. Jackson followed by a dunking goal from Kyle Jackson. Cattoni recorded a natural hat trick in 5:08 min. before Joe Resetarits cut Cattoni’s run with a dunk of his own. The Swarm benefitted from a Knighthawks penalty in the final seconds, and Lyle quickly recorded his first goal of the night. The Swarm ended the first quarter up 5-2.
Rochester started the scoring in the second quarter as Cory Vitarelli and Austin Shanks put the home team back within a goal. Lyle netted a diving goal before Cody Jamieson responded with his first of the night. Staats and S. Jackson widened the Swarm’s lead back to three goals. Shanks’ second goal of the night cut the lead down to two, and the two teams ended the first half with the Swarm up 8-6.
The third quarter was a defensive battle for 9:13 min. before S. Jackson received a feed through traffic from Staats to score his hat trick goal. Lyle followed suit with his own hat trick goal, then Cattoni capped the Swarm’s three-goal run with his fourth goal of the night. Cory Vitarelli stopped the bleeding in the quarter after snagging Resetarits’ missed shot and taking advantage of Orleman being out of position. When the quarter ended, the Swarm were still up, 11-7.
10 goals were scored in the last 15 min. of the game. Staats kicked the quarter off with his hat trick goal before the Knighthawks recorded two goals of their own, narrowing the Swarm’s lead down to just three goals. The two teams traded blows back and forth for the remainder of the game, but Miles Thompson had the final word after receiving a pass from Lyle and scoring his first goal of the contest. The Swarm ran out the clock for the final three minutes to finish the night with a 16-12 win.
“We got everybody rolling, which makes a difference,” Ferris said. “Sign of a good team.”
After dropping their first doubleheader of the season two weekends ago, the Swarm closed out their five games in 16 days with back-to-back wins.
Orleman made 33 saves between the pipes, finishing his first game with a .733 SV%.
For the Knighthawks, Jamieson led the team with seven points (1G, 6A). Shanks had five points (4G, 1A), followed by Vitarelli with four points (3G, 1A). Former Swarm goaltender Warren Hill took over between the pipes after the Swarm chased Angus Goodleaf from his post. Hill spent 50:56 min. there, allowing 12 GA and making 42 saves. He finished the night with a 14.14 GAA and a .778 SV%.
The Swarm return home on Saturday, Feb. 9 to take on the Buffalo Bandits. The Swarm will be celebrating Native Heritage Night presented by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort. Early arriving fans will receive a Mike Poulin bobblehead. Fans can get tickets by visiting GeorgiaSwarm.com/NativeHeritageNight or by calling 844-4-GASWARM.
For fans not in attendance, Saturday’s game will be broadcast on the B/R Live app available through iTunes, Google Play, Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire. Fans can also listen to the game on Atlanta Sports X 1230 AM/106.3 FM.
Play of the Game:
His first win of his NLL career started with his first save, and it came early on. K. Jackson tried to get away from Alex Crepinsek, but unable to create some distance, he instead fired off an overhead shot towards the five-hole within the first 10 seconds of the game. Orleman stopped it easily, and the rebound ended up batted out of play to give the Swarm possession. It was the first of 12 shots he faced in the first quarter as the Knighthawks came out firing.
“The speed of the game is so high,” Orleman said about his impressions of his first NLL game. “Being thrown in the fire like that, you’re constantly making sure you’re not six steps behind, because the guys are world-class, best players in the world. They can move the ball like crazy. Rochester’s a really good team.”
Good team or not, Orleman made the big saves when he needed to and helped the Swarm win their seventh game of the season.
“It kind of felt like it’s been a long time coming for me, and just to finally realize this dream is pretty awesome,” Orleman said.