#24 Jordan MacIntosh
SAINT PAUL, Minn. – With no home games on the schedule until the end of March, the Minnesota Swarm (3-3) will begin a four-game road trip tonight with a matchup against the Washington Stealth (1-5). Faceoff is set for 10 p.m. CT and fans can watch the game online on the NLL Network by visiting NLL.com.
Friday’s contest is the first of three meetings between these two teams in 2012 and the Swarm will make another road trip to Everett, Wash. on March 25 before returning home to face Calgary on March 30. Minnesota holds a 7-3 all-time series lead over the Stealth and won two of three in the regular season series a year ago. In their last meeting, Washington defeated the Swarm 14-8 in the first round of the 2011 NLL Playoffs at Xcel Energy Center.
“They’re a team that we’ve quietly built a rivalry with,” Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan said. “We’ve played them more than any other team the past two years.”
Sullivan became the Swarm’s fifth head coach in team history on Wednesday after spending the first six games in 2012 on the sidelines as an assistant coach. The Peterborough, Ontario native said that the mentality the coaching staff has been instilling in the team since training camp will remain the same as the Swarm enters a critical road trip.
“It’s not going to change,” Sullivan said. “Consistency and a strong work ethic is what we’re looking for. Without the work ethic, we’re just another team competing in an awfully tough league.”
Although Washington enters Friday’s contest with the league’s worst record at 1-5, the Stealth are well known for having as one of the most talented teams in the NLL. Washington has advanced to the Champions Cup the past two seasons (winners in 2010) and recently acquired one of the game’s better scoring forwards in Athan Iannucci (1g, 2a) from the Edmonton Rush. And as in years past, the duo of All-Star forwards Lewis Ratcliff (14g, 15a) and Rhys Duch (14g, 17a) once again pose a threat on offense.
“They’re going to be a real competitive team and it’s just a matter of time before they hit their stride,” Sullivan said. “... Any team that would take this team lightly would be sadly mistaken.”
Minnesota is hoping to bounce back out west after losing at home to division leader Colorado (6-0) 12-7 last weekend. The game was nearly identical to the Swarm’s season opening loss in Denver, where the Mammoth also went on a run in the fourth quarter to pull away with a win. “We’re going to live and learn,” Sullivan said. “And as we do, we just need to be able to get back on course after each game.”
Minnesota is 0-2 away from Treasure Island Field this season and is 3-3 all-time when facing the Stealth on the road.
After Friday’s game, four Swarm players will catch a flight to Buffalo for the 2012 NLL All-Star Game, which will air on ESPN3 this Saturday at 6 p.m. CT. Transition player Andrew Suitor (7g, 5a) was recently named an assistant captain for the West All-Stars and will start in his first All-Star appearance. Coming off the bench for the West includes Swarm forwards Ryan Benesch (16g, 15a) and Callum Crawford (8g, 28a), who will be making their second consecutive trip, and rookie transition player Jordan MacIntosh (8g, 9a), who is the first Swarm player to make the All-Star Game during his rookie season. MacIntosh currently ranks second in the NLL in loose balls (72), third in faceoff wins (92) and has recorded a goal in all six contests this season.
Fans can watch tonight’s matchup and Saturday’s All-Star Game at Cork’s Irish Pub in Downtown St. Paul. Swarm forwards Jay Card, Joel Henry, Pat Smith and Todd Baxter will join fans on Saturday night during the team’s official All-Star Game viewing party. Both nights will feature food and drink specials.