Rock looking for first-ever playoff win against Swarm

On a rare Monday matchup in the National Lacrosse League schedule, we could be treated to one of, if not the, best games of the first round.

The Toronto Rock will travel to Duluth for a matchup with the Georgia Swarm. It’ll be the fourth and final time the East Division rivals will go head to head this year.

Back in 2017, these two teams met in the East Division Final, where the Swarm swept the Rock. Since moving to Georgia, they are now 8-2 all-time against the Rock in the regular season. In the playoffs, they’re undefeated against Toronto.

This matchup will come down to the men in the cages. Mike Poulin is going through another strong campaign with Georgia. The 33-year-old posted a 10.94 goals-against average and a .791 save percentage in 17 games. He did miss the final game of the Swarm’s season, but there’s no way that he’ll miss a playoff game, especially against a former team that he’s had success against in the past. In three games against the Rock this season, Poulin has a .811 SV%.

Nick Rose will oppose him. The longtime Rock starter has been the backbone of the team again, putting up an 11.73 GAA and a .771 SV% while starting every game this season.

They’ll both have plenty of talent firing shots at them throughout the game.

One one side is Lyle Thompson, Randy Staats, and Holden Cattoni. All three surpassed the 80-point plateau this season, with Thompson posting 100-plus for the second time in his career.

Toronto will counter with their own three-headed monster of Tom Schreiber, Rob Hellyer, and Adam Jones. Schreiber just tied a career-high 94 points this season while Hellyer and Jones had 86 and 56 points on the year, respectively.

Both teams also feature solid supporting casts that will be sure to feature into the game.

The Rock will also rely on Challen Rogers heavily in this matchup. The likely Transition Player of the Year candidate has been playing more reps on offence down the stretch - he’s even featured on the Rock’s power play over the past few games.

Georgia went 2-1 against the Rock this year, and they succeeded by getting out in transition and getting the defence and Rose moving laterally.

In their lone win of the season against the Swarm, Toronto was able to keep Georgia to the outside by playing fast and physical on the back end. Offensively, they get into stretches where they tend to settle for shots from the outside. If they can get inside or even give Poulin some different looks, it’ll go a long way to winning this game.

Toronto is 4-5 on the road in 2018-19 and 6-7 all-time against the Swarm - both in Minnesota and Georgia. If they can get some shots to fall early, they have the defence and goaltending to keep them in any game. However, if Thompson and the offence start to run wild for the Swarm, it could be a tough night for the Rock.

Both teams will be keeping a close eye on the other East playoff game taking place over the weekend. After that game is finished, they’ll have to fight off a case of the Mondays and go to war.

Austin Owens