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It's time for another run for the Champion's Cup!
In 2017, the Georgia Swarm box lacrosse team snapped our metro's 22-year-long professional sports title drought, winning the National Lacrosse League championship. This past weekend, they clinched the Eastern Division regular season crown and are awaiting their opponent for the NLL East Division Championship. Unlike 2017's series, this will be a single, winner-takes-all game, and it will be on May 12 at Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth.
Things weren't looking too hot in early March, when an 11-10 loss to the Rochester Knighthawks dropped the Swarm to a middling 5-7 record. But they've since gone on a tear. The hottest team in NLL, Georgia (11-7) closed out the regular season winning six in a row, including an impressive 16-10 victory in Saskatchewan, beating a Rush team that was last season's runners-up and this season's best team (14-4), going undefeated in the Western Conference.
This year's Swarm outfit was not the offensive juggernaut like last season's record-breaking unit. But they still have 2017 reigning MVP and 2017 Finals MVP Lyle Thompson in their corner! Lyle continues to be flanked by his brothers on the Swarm, fellow forwards Miles and Jerome, and his 46 goals still ranked 4th in the NLL. He and the Swarm offense have been ably aided by forwards Shayne Jackson and Kiel Matisz, whose 52 and 50 assists rank 10th and 11th in the league.
With the chance to defend their NLL title in jeopardy, Lyle Thompson asserts that the Swarm have been in playoff mode for awhile.
Mike Poulin, meanwhile, continues holding down the fort in goal for the Swarm. Although the offense endured a downturn, Georgia allowed just two more goals in 2018 than they did in their championship season. That's thanks largely to strong play by defenseman Jason Noble, 2017's NLL Defensive Player of the Year, and the netminding by Poulin (2nd in NLL for saves, 1st in minutes played among goalies), who was named last season's NLL Teammate of the Year.
The biggest threat to keep Georgia from returning to the Finals appears to be Rochester, who took two of three games versus the Swarm, gave Saskatchewan half of their four losses by sweeping both contests, and finished the season with a plus-26 goal differential, the best in the East. But the Knighthawks must first win an elimination game at home this weekend, versus the New England Black Wolves and NLL goals leader Kevin Crowley.
If a rested Swarm team prevails on the 12th, they'll likely have a rematch with the Rush in the best-of-3 NLL Champion's Cup Final. It will be hard to top last season's Game 1 comeback win in Duluth or, especially, that hair-raising, title-clinching season-ender in Saskatoon!