#98 Callum Crawford
SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Swarm will open its eighth season of play in the National Lacrosse League (NLL) this weekend when the team heads west to take on the Colorado Mammoth on Saturday, Jan. 14 at Pepsi Center. The Swarm’s season opener is set for an 8 p.m. CT start time.
Minnesota will be looking to extend its recent success against Colorado, as the team has won five straight games against its division rival dating back to 2010. The Swarm swept Colorado in three games last season, and two of those wins came on the Mammoth’s home turf. The all-time series currently sits deadlocked at 5-5.
“Coming in with a five game-winning streak (against Colorado) is always great, but those were games in the past so they don’t really matter,” forward Ryan Benesch said. “We just have to be focused on this first game and really buckle down and come prepared.”
The last time the Swarm visited the Pepsi Center (March 4, 2011), Benesch sent a crowd of 13,597 Mammoth fans headed for the exits after he scored the game’s winning goal 33 seconds into overtime to give Minnesota an 11-10 victory. That was one of two game-winning goals in 2011 for Benesch, who went on to finish the year as the NLL’s scoring champion after registering a career-high 95 points (46g, 49a).
“Playing in Denver is always a treat,” Swarm Head Coach Mike Lines said. “They always have a good crowd and the guys always get pumped up for it. To get our first game on the road this year with all the changes we’ve made will give us a chance to gel together a little bit better before we head back to our home crowd in two weeks.”
In 2011, Minnesota finished second in the West Division after an 8-8 finish in the regular season and advanced to the postseason for the fifth time in team history. In addition to sporting new home and away uniforms this season, the Swarm’s roster also features a fresh look. Twelve players – eight of which are rookies - will make their Swarm debut on Saturday.
“We’re opening a new era so to speak,” Lines said. “It’s a new start for our organization and everybody is looking forward to it. We’re anxious to get out on the floor and see how we matchup against other teams.”
Last year, Minnesota fell short in its season opener against the Rochester Knighthawks in overtime. That’s something the team is hoping to avoid this year, especially against a division opponent. Minnesota is 3-4 all-time in season openers.
“You can’t let ones early in the year slip away,” 2011 All-Rookie team member and transition player Andrew Suitor said. “That could come back to bite you and the next thing you know, you’re in Week 16 and you’re one game out and it was that game in Week 1 that you took lightly or weren’t prepared for that cost you the postseason. We understand that and are ready to come out and run.”
Colorado finished 5-11 last season and snagged the fourth and final playoff spot in the West. The Mammoth likewise revamped their roster in the offseason and feature only eight returning players from last season. Fans can watch Saturday’s contest online at mnswarm.com or on the Altitude Network (Dish Network: Channel 410, DirecTV: Channel 681).
The Swarm will also host a viewing party for fans at Cork’s Irish Pub in St. Paul from 8 to 10:30 p.m.
Minnesota hosts the Buffalo Bandits on Treasure Island Field at Xcel Energy Center for its home opener on Saturday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. CT. The Swarm will celebrate Native American Heritage Night, which is sponsored by Treasure Island Resort & Casino, and will recognize local tribal communities as well as feature a traditional lacrosse match during halftime.
Tickets start as low as $20 and can be purchased by calling 1-888-MN-SWARM or visiting mnswarm.com. Swarm fans looking to lock up season tickets in 2012 can take advantage of a Buy 2 Get 2 at 50% offer. By purchasing two season tickets at full price, fans can add an additional two tickets for half the cost.
at Colorado Mammoth
Pepsi Center - Denver, Colo.
Time: 8 p.m. Central Time
TV: Altitude Network