June 13

Wild finish leads to Georgia Swarm’s first Champion’s Cup


By: Paul Thomas

Published: June 13, 2017

It’s a situation that’s been simulated countless times in the Thompson brothers’ backyard. One brother makes a pass to another for a game-winning goal in the championship game.

On Saturday, it wasn’t a simulation.

Lyle Thompson’s pass to brother Miles gave the Georgia Swarm a 15-14 win in overtime against the Saskatchewan Rush to clinch the National Lacrosse League Champion’s Cup at Sasktel Centre in Saskatoon, Sask.

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“You can take a look at my college highlights (at Albany) and you’ll see that pass from me to Miles a few times,” Lyle said. “It was just a crazy series of events that went down at the end of the game.”

Lyle was named Champion’s Cup MVP after he scored three goals and dished out four assists, including the game-winner. Miles had two goals and an assist.

On the cup-clinching goal, Lyle drew a double team and was able to throw a one-handed, underhand pass to Miles, who hit the corner of the net to give Georgia its first championship in franchise history. The Swarm won Game 1 of the title series 18-14 at Infinite Energy Arena a week earlier.

“To be honest, I knew we were going down in time (on the shot clock),” Miles said in a release from the team. “I was going to go set a pick for Lyle, but he went over the top, and he drew two guys — which was my defender and his defender — so he turned back toward me. I just started running down. He one-handed a pass to me and all I saw was goal-side top corner. So that’s what I shot, and after I shot that, I don’t know what happened. It’s crazy.”

The sudden-death goal was a wild end to a hectic finish in the game.

Shayne Jackson’s goal with 2:44 left in the game gave Georgia a 13-12 lead. Saskatchewan came right back with goals by the oldest Thompson brother, Jeremy, and Adam Jones to regain the lead with 1:12 left in the game.

After a save by goalie Mike Poulin gave Georgia the ball back inside a minute left in the game, Lyle’s shot was also saved with 26 seconds left. Saskatchewan called a timeout with 10 seconds on the clock to avoid a turnover.

Georgia pulled Poulin and Saskatchewan did the same with Aaron Bold to avoid a double team. Thanks to pressure by Lyle and Joel White, Saskatchewan turned the ball over on an errant bounce pass.

The Swarm got the ball to Lyle, who took a shot toward the empty net, but Jeremy came in at the last second to save the shot.

“I tried to put that (shot) in the corner, all he did was put his arm in the corner,” Lyle said. “It was crazy.”

But the Swarm caught another break as the ball bounced right to White, who put it in the net for the equalizer.

During Saturday morning’s shoot around, Lyle said the Swarm went over that exact same scenario. Head coach Ed Comeau had his team prepared for that situation. He also defended the Rush’s decision to pull the goalie with the lead.

“That’s the right play to do,” Comeau said. “It’s the right play to do and we would have done the exact same thing. I know Mike Poulin wouldn’t like to hear that, but we would do the exact same thing. It was the right play, they just had a bad bounce and we capitalized on it. As Lyle said, it was something we talked about. We had a plan for it and luckily we executed.”

The win capped off an incredible season for the Swarm (17-5), who swept Toronto in the division finals and Saskatchewan in Champion’s Cup.

Georgia set the league record for goals in a season with 266. Lyle led the league in points with 116 and Poulin boosted the defense to another level in his first season with the team.

In four postseason games, Poulin had a save percentage of .786, with 165 saves, 48 of which came in Game 2 against Saskatchewan.

Second-year pro Randy Staats scored four goals with three assists in the decisive game, while Johnny Powless had two goals and three assists to win his fourth Champion’s Cup.

Saskatchewan had won the last two Champion’s Cups before being unseated by Georgia.

Poulin agreed with reporters after the game when asked if there could be a budding rivalry between the two franchises.

“I think those are the two youngest teams in the NLL,” Poulin said. “When you kind of factor that in and the amount of talent and the fantastic coaching on both sides, it really could be. We looked at it this year as to be the best you have to beat the best, and I think we did that. That’s an unbelievable team that we just played … we don’t take that lightly. We played an unbelievable team with unbelievable fans, so it just kind of makes it sweeter. But that being said, like coach already said to me, the best feeling is doing it again, so we plan on preparing for that and we expect them to want it back as well.”