Georgia Swarm rally to beat Saskatchewan in Game 1 of Champions Cup
By: Paul Thomas
Published: June 4, 2017
DULUTH — Midway through the third quarter, the Georgia Swarm trailed Saskatchewan by four goals in Game 1 of the NLL Champions Cup.
Then the Swarm turned the tide on the two-time defending champs. Georgia scored seven straight goals to take a lead it wouldn’t relinquish in an 18-14 victory in front 7,642 fans, who weren't treated to just a win, but a halftime concert from Ludacris as well at Infinite Energy Arena.
Game 2 in the best-of-three series is set for June 10 at 9:30 p.m. in Saskatchewan. If necessary, Game 3 would be at 5:05 p.m. June 18 back in Duluth.
Veterans Jordan Hall and Shayne Jackson led the comeback for the Swarm. Hall had five goals and three assists on the night, while Jackson had two goals with four assists.
“I think it was just about sticking with it,” Jackson said. “We didn’t really change anything. I thought we played pretty good in the first half. It was just about fixing little mistakes and tightening up a little bit and I thought we did a good job of that in the second half.”
During the Swarm’s seven-goal run, Hall scored twice and netted two assists. He began the run with a diving goal with 6:01 remaining in the third quarter.
After a Kiel Matisz (3 goals, 2 assists) goal, Hall then had two straight assists to Jackson to even the score at 11 all entering the fourth quarter. Hall scored first to open the fourth quarter and Randy Staats and Miles Thompson followed with two more for a 14-11 lead.
“I think with (Saskatchewan) you’ve just got to keep your feet moving,” Hall said. “(The Rush) play a system that if you get them moving a little bit, they kind of get lost just a little bit. We knew that going in, that was the game plan. I just tried to keep my feet moving and luckily guys were hitting me when I was open.”
The Rush stopped the bleeding with a 6-on-5 for Adam Jones’ third goal of the game, followed by Mark Matthews’ third power-play goal to make it 14-12. Matthews also had four assists.
Georgia was able to put together one more offensive run with four straight goals from Miles Thompson, Matisz, Hall and an empty netter from Bryan Cole. Jeremy Thompson (brother to Georgia’s Jerome, Miles and Lyle Thompson) scored the Rush’s final goal for his third goal of the night.
Georgia’s defense gave up just five goals in the second half. Goalie Mike Poulin made 36 saves on 50 shots.
The Swarm were able to force 28 turnovers in the game, including several key stops by forwards in transition to keep the ball on the offensive end.
“I thought defensively Mike Poulin made some big saves,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “He settled in. (The Rush have) got some great players, we knew they were going to score goals on us. I think they scored four power plays, two 6-on-5s and a couple transitions, but I think 5-on-5 we did a great job on both ends of the floor.”
Staats finished with two goals and three assists, Johnny Powless had two goals with three assists and Miles Thompson had two goals and two assists.
Robert Church had seven points for Saskatchewan with two goals and five assists and goalie Aaron Bold had 36 saves on 53 shots.
“We know they’re going to make some adjustments and they play great at home,” Comeau said. “I think they were 9-1 at home this year and it’s a hostile environment. They came and played in the Hive and we’re going to a hornet’s nest. We know it will be tough there, but we’re just going to take that game and see what happens.”
Notes: Only three of the four Thompson brothers were active for Game 1, with Georgia’s Jerome Thompson not active Sunday. Dan Taylor was inactive for Saskatchewan.