The Toronto Rock will be looking to head into the New Year with a 2-0 record when they return home on Friday, but that will be easier said than done against the Georgia Swarm.
The pair of foes had contrasting seasons a year ago. Georgia won the Eastern Division while Toronto missed out on the playoffs. They faced off three times last season, and while the Rock kept a few of the games close, they came out on the losing end of all three matchups.
Like Toronto, the Swarm suffered casualties at forward in the 2018 Expansion Draft. Philadelphia selected Kiel Matisz third overall and veteran Jordan Hall fifth overall. However, Georgia’s depth at the position made the departures less of a blow to the team.
The Swarm opened the season with a 16-12 win at home against the New England Black Wolves in Week 1. The Rock also gave themselves an early Christmas gift with a 17-12 victory on the road against the rival Buffalo Bandits a week ago.
Each team was also able to spread the wealth offensively. The Rock had 11 players score, while the Swarm had seven different individuals find the back of the net.
It’ll be a battle for every possession on Friday night at Scotiabank Arena, as Jay Thorimbert and Jordan MacIntosh will go head to head in the faceoff x. The former went 15 for 29 (51 percent) while the latter won 12 of 23 draws (52 percent).
Each team offers high-scoring offences, mobile defences, and veteran goaltending. It’ll be a battle at the newly named Scotiabank Arena on Friday night. With this being the first of another three-game season series, each squad will be looking to gain the upper hand with a victory.
Tom Schreiber – Another game, another standout performance from Schreiber. It’s just expected that he’ll find a way to break out in every contest. He finished with a hat trick and seven points against the Bandits. It won’t be easy against Georgia’s mobile defence, but Schreiber will have to find a way to consistently get looks for himself and his teammates.
Rob Hellyer – Hellyer finished first in scoring on the Rock last season with 93 points and picked up right where he left off with a six-point outing in the season opener. He and Schreiber will have to run the two-man game more than usual in order to create some space. The 26-year-old is very crafty and excels at creating space and shots for himself. With Schreiber getting heightened attention, it could be a big game for Hellyer.
Challen Rogers – Rogers was an absolute horse for the Rock against Buffalo. He was flying up and down the floor all game and chipped in a four-point performance. Toronto will need its captain to be at his best in this game if they hope to defeat Georgia.
Johnny Powless – The Rock’s key offseason acquisition got the team on the scoresheet against Buffalo, potting the first goal in the middle of a rough first-quarter drought. After one game, he’s nearly a quarter of the way to his point total from last season, and he’s only had a few weeks to gain chemistry with his new teammates. He’ll be looking to have a big game against his former team.
Lyle Thompson – Undoubtedly the quarterback of the Swarm offence, Thompson had an 86-point campaign with 123 loose balls last season. He managed seven points in the opener and usually plays at least a small part in every goal Georgia scores. He is one of the most dangerous players in the league and will be treated as such by the Rock’s defence.
Randy Staats – With eight points in his first game of the year, Staats led the Swarm offensively. He doesn’t get as much attention as he should, primarily because he shares the same side of the floor with Lyle Thompson. He’s a big body who is money from anywhere on the floor. He will be a big threat in the pick-and-roll game.
Shayne Jackson – The lefty has been a thorn in the side of the Rock throughout his NLL career. He tweaked his ankle in the Swarm’s season opener against New England but only missed a handful of offensive shifts. He only had four points in the Swarm’s opener, but he won’t be held to those numbers very often. With three straight campaigns with over 80 points under his belt, don’t sleep on Jackson – he’ll make you regret it.
Holden Cattoni – The offseason acquisition from Calgary had seven points in his first game as a member of the Swarm. Cattoni had his best season as a pro in 2018, scoring 36 goals and finishing with 76 points on the campaign. He’s a former fifth overall pick and should be a great addition to the Swarm’s attack alongside Jackson on the lefty side.