The Georgia Swarm started the season by spoiling a party. Now they want to have one of their own.
The Swarm went on the road to open their 2019-20 NLL season, and came back with exactly what they were looking for. They dominated the Rochester Knighthawks 14-4, leading from wire-to-wire against the expansion franchise playing its inaugural game.
Now they return home with a 1-0 record, and will open the home portion of the schedule against the Philadelphia Wings on Saturday night at Infinite Energy Arena. Faceoff is set for 7 p.m.
It was an all-around victory for the Swarm in Rochester. They jumped ahead to a 3-0 lead to silence the home crowd and never looked back from there. The usual suspects were on point, as Lyle and Miles Thompson scored four goals apiece in the victory. Shayne Jackson also got his season started with a hat trick and four assists, while starting goalie Mike Poulin got his 15th season in the league underway with a 36-save performance.
Backup goalie Kevin Orleman got his first work of the season in during the fourth quarter of the blowout, giving up two goals in the final frame.
“Getting in shooting lanes is something we really talked about a lot in training camp and really limiting not only the quantity of shots but the quality of shots,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “If we’re in shooting lanes, we’re going to soak some shots, and our guys did a great job of that. Credit to those guys. it’s not easy to stand out there and get hit by a ball without goalie pads on, but they made those sacrifices, and we got the win.”
Now the Swarm will turn their attention to their first divisional opponent of the season, one that will be looking to bounce back after a tough season. Philadelphia went just 4-14 last season compared to Georgia’s 11-7 mark, but the teams did split their two meetings.
It was the Swarm who claimed the victory in Philadelphia by a score of 13-11, but the Wings returned the favor and won 19-14 in Duluth in the Swarm’s final game of the regular season.
The Wings were the only team who did not play on the opening weekend of the season, a product of the NLL having an odd number of teams. Last season was tough for the Wings in terms of wins and losses, but they were very rarely blown out. Eight out of the 14 losses were within two goals, including four losses by just a single goal.
However they were a dismal 1-8 away from home, with the only win coming in that season finale against the Swarm.
Divisional games wins were keys to getting the Swarm back to the playoffs last season, as they went 10-3 against the East Division. The league re-aligned from two divisions to four divisions with a pair of expansion teams joining the fold, meaning the Swarm will play in a division with Philadelphia, New England and New York.
They will take on each divisional opponent three times, meaning those games will account for half of the schedule.
“Philly’s made a lot of changes from last year, and that was a team that lost a lot of close games,” Comeau said. “So, we expect them to come in ready to compete and much improved. A divisional game for us, so really big.”
The Swarm are a perfect 4-0 in home openers since the franchise moved from Minnesota in 2016, a streak that was extended by a 16-12 victory over the New England Black Wolves in last season’s curtain raiser.