Swarm and Rock finished regular season with identical 12-6 records
After five months of regular season action, the Georgia Swarm (12-6) now turn their attention towards the East Division Semifinals against the Toronto Rock (12-6) at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena on Monday, May 6. Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.
After an intense 2018-19 NLL regular season, two teams tied for the second-best record in the NLL will clash on Monday, May 6 to decide who advances to the East Division Finals to take on the winner between the Buffalo Bandits and New England Black Wolves. Monday’s game will mark the fourth-straight postseason appearance for the Swarm.
“There’s obviously a sense of accomplishment making the playoffs,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “Not everyone makes the playoffs, so guys are happy that we got there, certainly happy that we’ve got a home game. But there’s also that feeling of there’s a lot work to be done. We know that just getting to the playoffs is not the bar that this organization has set.”
The Swarm play host on Monday after taking the season series against the Rock, winning two of the three meetings. Their last matchup was on March 22 at Infinite Energy Arena, and the Swarm played arguably their best all-around game of the season as they sent the Rock back home with a 14-5 loss.
The end of the regular season went in different directions for the East Division rivals. The Rock put their feet on solid ground with two wins, their last one a dominant 15-9 road win against the Vancouver Warriors. Meanwhile, the Swarm dropped both of their final contests, playing over a game-and-a-half without veteran netminder Mike Poulin, who was placed on the Injured List due to a lower body injury.
“The last two losses were disappointing but not defining to us,” Comeau said. “We had injuries in both those games, with guys getting injured during the game or not dressing, and that obviously impacted our performance. More importantly, we used this off-week to really focus on some of the things we need to do better, especially going through a season where you’re not playing with a safety net now. There’s no opportunity to have a bad game and come back and avenge that; this is really the time of season where we have to be at our best.”
Poulin’s goaltending has been solid, and he’s turned in one of the best campaigns of his 14-year career. Over 899:32 min. in the regular season, Poulin posted a 10.94 GAA and a .791 SV%. Backup goalie Kevin Orleman spent 162:32 min. in net in his first season of action. He finished his first campaign with a 14.40 GAA and a .725 SV%.
Offensively, the Swarm boast two of the best righties in the game with Lyle Thompson (43G, 62A) and Randy Staats (37G, 59A). Lyle had himself another MVP-worthy season after finishing with 105 points – the third-most points and goal in the NLL –, and Staats broke his previous career-high and record-setting 95 points he set as a rookie with his 96-point season.
The Swarm also boast Shayne Jackson (31G, 49A) and Holden Cattoni (27G, 53A), both finishing their season with 80 points.
The Rock boast some impressive firepower of their own. They are led by Tom Schreiber (29G, 65A), who matched his career-high 94 points he set as a rookie. Rob Hellyer (36G, 50A) leads the Rock in goals and is second on the team in points.
Between the pipes stands Nick Rose. Over his new career-high 1028:03 min., Rose posted an 11.73 GAA and a .771 SV%.
The Swarm have historical success against the Rock on their side. They swept their division rival in 2017 on the way to their first-ever NLL Cup, and have won eight of 10 regular season contests against their northern foe.
With the postseason format changed to single elimination in the first two rounds, however, the Swarm cannot put much stock in their past successes against the Rock.
“We expect them to come in and be at their best,” Comeau said. “They had the chance to play last weekend, to get out and travel with the team, which is always great to be together as a group. We know they’re going to come ready, and they’re feeling the same way as we do. That’s an organization that’s won championships, and they’re not going to be happy just getting to the playoffs. They’re want to come in and continue playing and advance past us.”
The Swarm are 4-2 all-time in the playoffs. Their four postseason wins all came in 2017 when they swept the Rock and Saskatchewan Rush to win the franchise’s first-ever NLL Cup.
Friday’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.
The 2019 NLL Playoffs are sponsored by Michelob Ultra.