EVERETT, Wash. - It was a night of firsts for the Minnesota Swarm (4-3) in Friday's 15-7 road win against the Washington Stealth (1-6).
Newly appointed head coach Joe Sullivan picked up his first career win, rookie T David Earl (1g), D Jeff Gilbert (2g) and T Greg Downing (1g) all tallied their first career goals as members of the Swarm, and rookie G Evan Kirk collected his first career road win after stopping 43 of 50 shots in just his second NLL start.
And in the end, it was only fitting that Minnesota also notched its first road victory of the 2012 season.
“The guys are just thrilled to get a win against Washington,” Sullivan said. “We had a bad taste in our mouths from what we experienced in the first round of the playoffs last year. We wanted to come into to their barn and be competitive, and we were.”
After watching its offense sputter in front of its home crowd last weekend in a 12-7 loss to Colorado, Minnesota put forth one of its most dazzling offensive performances in team history at the Comcast Arena at Everett on Friday night. In total, a season-high 10 players found the back of the net against the Stealth, which included five rookies. In the process, the Swarm managed to tie a team record with three shorthanded goals and added five power play goals on eight chances.
“We got everybody scoring and everyone contributed,” Sullivan said. “We had a young goalie who stood on his head, a defense that turned away some pretty tough shooters and an offense that really clicked and found their groove.”
Minnesota’s memorable night got started in the second quarter after it outscored the Stealth 7-0 to build a 10-3 halftime lead. Impressively, all seven of the Swarm’s goals came from as many players and three were notched on power play chances. Downing registered the Swarm’s first shorthanded goal of the game with 2:24 left to play in the first half to send the Swarm into the locker room with their heads held high.
Minnesota’s offense cooled down a bit in the third quarter, but Gilbert’s unassisted shorthanded goal midway through the quarter helped the Swarm regain their focus as the team led 11-4 at that point. The Swarm entered the fourth holding an 11-6 advantage.
Gilbert then added his second unassisted shorthanded goal of the game in the fourth, which put an end to a 3-0 run from the Stealth and pushed Minnesota’s lead back to five at 12-7 with 11:47 left.
“For him to do it twice is unbelievable. He had a great night,” Sullivan said.
All-Star F Ryan Benesch led all scorers with eight points (2g, 6a) and F Kevin Ross added a season-high six points (2g, 4a). Fellow All-Stars F Callum Crawford and T Jordan MacIntosh also notched two goals respectively. Both of MacIntosh’s goals came unassisted.
Kirk, who held the Rochester Knighthawks to just six goals in his first career start on Feb. 12 in the Swarm’s 9-6 home win, was just as spectacular in his road debut on Friday. The Orangeville, Ontario native held the Stealth scoreless in the second, and to just one goal in the fourth. He currently leads the team with a 6.50 GAA and a .873 SV%.
“He’s playing like a veteran,” Sullivan said. “He’s a young guy who is confident because the young guys around him are confident in him. They play for each other and when Evan is in there, he is able to stand big, stand tall, and make the saves.”
Minnesota sits above .500 for the second time this season and improved to 8-3 all-time against the Stealth in regular season play. The two teams will meet again in Everett on March 25 at 8 p.m. and then for one final meeting on Treasure Island Field at Xcel Energy Center on April 14 at 7 p.m. Stealth F Dean Hill led Washington with three goals and G Chris Seidel stopped 18 of 30 shots in the loss.
Benesch, Crawford and MacIntosh along with team captain T Andrew Suitor will head to Buffalo on Saturday to compete with the West All-Stars in the 2012 NLL All-Star Game at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN3. Fans can watch online or at Cork’s Irish Pub in Downtown St. Paul during the Swarm’s official All-Star Game viewing party.
Minnesota returns to action next Saturday for a huge divisional game against the Calgary Roughnecks (5-2) on the road at 8 p.m. CT.