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Toyota Professor: Doubleheader Preview

02/06/2012, 3:55pm CST
By The Toyota Professor

The Toyota Professor breaks down this weekend's competition

Jay Card #77 and Kevin Ross #71

Fresh off a tough 16-14 loss in Rochester Saturday night, your Minnesota Swarm return to The Hive for a rare, Friday-Sunday doubleheader… exactly what the team needs after putting up with insurmountable road woes against the Knighthawks. “Our routine was totally messed up in Rochester,” says Swarm Assistant Coach Aime Caines. “The Harlem Globetrotters played in the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester Saturday afternoon and we didn't get our usual shootaround or warm up. We only had a half hour and that threw us off our game a bit.”

Even though the pregame routine wasn't ideal, the Swarm looked good throughout the game. Leading 9-6 at halftime and tied at 11 after three quarters, Minnesota couldn't overcome 4th quarter penalties and a furious Knighthawk rush in the final stanza. On the positive side, goaltender Tyler Carlson continues to solidify his place as the team's top goaltender (38 saves in his first road start), and what can you say about Ryan Benesch… another 4 goals… he's averaging over a hat trick per game. Although we may think he picked up right where he left off after winning the NLL scoring title last year, Benny actually thinks he's not yet up to speed… literally. “I'm playing decent,” says Benesch matter-of-factly. “I could be playing much better. For some reason I haven't had my legs under me yet. I feel a little slow. Maybe I need to warm up differently… I'll figure it out.” Consider that a warning to the rest of the league. “Benny's put the team on his back again,' says Caines. “He's a handful for other teams. This year teams are gearing up for him but with the supporting cast we have, they can't only key on Benny. We're averaging just under 16 goals per game and that's without a lot of special teams opportunities. Benny's got shorthanded goals (2), power play goals (4)… he's a handful for any team to contend with.”

The best part about this Friday/Sunday double dip is that, unlike any week since training camp, the Swarm will actually be together for four days… a huge advantage in a season when the guys rarely see each other as a team. “We'll get the team together for a practice on Thursday,” says Caines, “then we play Edmonton on Friday and we'll practice again on Saturday and have a rare team building day together when we're all going to the Wild game (Saturday night vs. the Columbus Bluejackets). Then we have a rematch against Rochester on Sunday. Needless to say I and the rest of the team are really looking forward to this weekend.”

Expect the Hive to be rockin' this weekend. I've been to practically every home game in the eight year history of the Swarm and I've never seen the Xcel Energy Center as electric as it was in the home opener against the Buffalo Bandits a couple of weeks ago. It's undeniable that the home crowd was our crazed seventh man throughout the entire game… from the opening faceoff, through the bench-clearing brawl, right up until the final buzzer. “Our crowd is as good as any in the league,” says Caines. “Teams like Toronto are known to have good crowds but sometimes when the Rock is up by a bunch of goals, the crowd starts to golf clap. Not our fans… they're like the Colorado Mammoth fans that way… they're crazy and they get right into it. We love that!”

Here's Caines on:
Edmonton: “They're tough… they really are a complete team. They're tied with us for third in the West but they've gotten much better using the draft and through trades and after a tough 11-7 loss to Colorado last Saturday, they're looking for a big comeback win. As always, the Rush are going to come prepared. It's their defense that's big and rugged and that's the major thing we're going to have to contend with.”

Rochester: “We know what to expect and so do they. It's good that we can prepare for Edmonton first since we're very familiar with the Knighthawks now. If we play the way we know we can, like we did for three quarters last weekend, we'll be OK. We were in the game Saturday right up until the end. Penalties put us in a bad situation but I like the way we're playing right now and I think with our home crowd on Sunday, that'll be the advantage we're looking for.”

Before I dismiss the class for the week, one final note on Ryan Benesch. Anyone who knows me knows I'm a huge Boston sports fan. Growing up in Boston, I bleed for all four of the Boston teams, especially the Patriots. Little did I know that Benny is also a huge Pats fan… or should I say a huge Tom Brady fan. Flying back from Rochester with Aime Caines on Super Bowl Sunday, Benny insisted on wearing his Tom Brady #12 game jersey flying through JFK Airport in NY. “No one had the nerve to say anything to me… but believe me, I got a lot of looks,” said Benesch. You gotta love the guy's style. And even though Brady wasn't able to bring the Vince Lombardi Trophy back to Boston, something tells me when all is said and done on Benny's career, he'll have a few rings just like his idol does.

Class dismissed.

The Professor

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