February 20, 2014 - National Lacrosse League (NLL) - Minnesota Swarm
SAINT PAUL, Minn. - The National Lacrosse League's (NLL) Minnesota Swarm (1-6) are looking to make up some needed ground in the East Division as they hit the road for a pivotal doubleheader this weekend: taking on the Toronto Rock on Saturday at 6 p.m. CT at Air Canada Centre followed by a Sunday matchup against the Philadelphia Wings (3-6) at 3 p.m. CT from the Wells Fargo Center. Both games will be broadcast live on Swarm Vision and MNSwarm.com, via YouTube and The Lacrosse Network.
The trip out East comes on the heels of a tough loss at home for Minnesota last Saturday, when they ran into the league's hottest team in the Edmonton Rush. The undefeated Rush were able to build upon a 6-2 halftime lead en route to winning their seventh-consecutive game 14-9 at Xcel Energy Center. The Swarm found the bulk of their offense late in the game, outscoring Edmonton 5-2 in the fourth quarter, and energizing the crowd in attendance at The Hive.
"They guys have to learn that what they did in the fourth quarter they have to do consistently," Swarm coach Joe Sullivan said of the late push. "It shows that our systems and program work and our players work, but we have to do that for 60 minutes and not 15 or 20 minutes."
The two-headed monster of F Callum Crawford and T Jordan MacIntosh continued to lead the Minnesota attack, accounting for over half of the team's points on the night. Crawford tallied a season-high eight points (2g, 6a), while MacIntosh earned a hat trick for the second-straight game (3g, 1a) along with corralling 15 loose balls. Rookie F Logan Schuss added two goals and an assist, giving the No. 1 overall pick 13 points in his last four games.
While the Swarm may have come up short on the scoreboard, it wasn't for lack of execution on special teams. Minnesota's power play hummed at a torrid 4-for-6 clip against Edmonton while their penalty kill was a perfect 5-for-5, adding a shorthanded goal of their own.
Losers of four in a row, the last three to West Division teams, the Swarm are hoping to get back into the win column as they return to Divisional play. The upcoming doubleheader is the perfect opportunity for Minnesota to improve its positioning, as the Rock and Wings happen to be the two squads they are chasing for the East's third and final playoff spot. The Swarm sit two games back from Toronto and a single game back from Philadelphia entering this weekend's action.
"We put two wins together this weekend we're back in third place in our division," Sullivan explained. "It's really going to come down to a battle of execution."
Saturday's game in Toronto marks the first of three between the two teams in 2014, as well as the first trip to Air Canada Centre for the Swarm since their 20-11 victory in the East Division Semifinals last April. Minnesota currently leads the all-time series over the Rock 6-5. Toronto's 2014 contingent is led by a pair of forwards in the NLL's top-ten for points: Garret Billings, whose 49 points (13g, 33a) is good for third in the league, and Stephan Leblanc who sits in 10th with 39 points (19g, 20a).
While the first game in the doubleheader marks the beginning of a season series, Sunday's showdown marks the conclusion of one, as the Swarm and Wings return to the Wells Fargo Center for their 2014 rubber match. Each team won on the road during a home-and-home doubleheader on Jan. 18-19, with Minnesota taking an 11-10 victory in Philadelphia in the opener. The Wings responded by earning a 15-8 victory the next day in the Swarm's home opener.
Philadelphia has lost three straight dating back to a Feb. 1 victory against Vancouver, and is led by a trio of forwards who have already reached the 35-point plateau, in Kyle Buchanan (16g, 26a), Ryan Ward (9g, 30a) and Jordan Hall (16g, 20a). Both Ward and Hall have found success against the Swarm this season, each tallying 14 points over the two-game series.
"We know we can win in any facility, and that's the good thing with the players and character we have," Sullivan said of his team's mindset. "We know that we're still 100-percent aligned to get the Champion's Cup, which may seem like [miles] away, but that's our vision and we are not going to stray from it."
Swarm fans still looking to lock up 2014 Season Tickets can take advantage of a Buy 2, Get 2 at 25% offer. By purchasing two season tickets at full price, fans can add an additional two tickets for 25% off. Call 1-888-667-9276 for purchasing information. Minnesota returns to The Hive on Sunday, March 16 when they host Toronto. Lower-level seats start as low as $22.