#20 Andrew Suitor
SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Swarm (4-3) travels west again this week, this time to face the Calgary Roughnecks (5-2) at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday, March 3 at 8 p.m. CT. Calgary currently sits one game ahead of Minnesota for second place in the West Division.
Both teams are coming off impressive road victories last weekend; Minnesota handed the Washington Stealth (1-6) a 15-7 loss, while the Roughnecks became the first team in the NLL to defeat the Colorado Mammoth (6-1) with a lopsided 21-10 victory. With a chance to move up the standings and two games above .500, head coach Joe Sullivan emphasized that Saturday’s divisional clash is a game the team is eagerly awaiting.
“It’s a big game for us,” said Sullivan, who collected his first NLL win in his coaching debut last Friday. “We’re just playing it one game at a time, and working hard. The guys are excited to be in the thick of things and that’s going to be my job to make sure we remain there.”
Minnesota enters this weekend feeling confident on both sides of the ball. In Everett, Wash., 10 different scorers contributed to the Swarm’s 15 goals - two of those tallies were shorthanded conversions from D Jeff Gilbert. Minnesota currently leads the league with 10 shorthanded goals and tied a team record with three last Friday. Sullivan said both units have played an important role in the Swarm’s success as of late.
“Our defense can’t do their job if our offense isn’t hustling to get off the floor,” he explained. “The second effort that our offense is giving us so that we’re not always running into numbers and we’re able to get out there and get a settled defense against some of these great offenses, has allowed us to expose the game on the back end.
“By our offense getting off, and our defense getting out there, everybody is fresh and strong and we’re able to limit scoring opportunities and that’s really what our defense has done in collaboration with our offense.”
Calgary holds the all-time series lead at 5-4 between the two teams and is 4-2 at home against Minnesota. In two meetings last season, both teams came away victorious on their home floor. Calgary defeated the Swarm 15-12 on April 1 in their only trip to Scotiabank Saddledome. This season, the Roughnecks feature a deep lineup, headlined by 2012 All-Star MVP T Geoff Snider, who leads the league with 108 loose balls and 141 faceoff wins.
“They have a great transition game and they obviously have one of the best draw men in lacrosse in Geoff Snider,” Sullivan added. “They’ve got toughness, and they have speed. They are the real deal and they showed it by knocking off a first place team last week.”
Minnesota has found success this season in collecting loose balls and winning draws in large part due to the addition of rookie T Jordan MacIntosh. The 22-year-old who was teammates with Snider during the All-Star Game, ranks second in the NLL in loose balls (83) and fourth in faceoff wins (94). Forwards Callum Crawford (10g, 30a) and Ryan Benesch (18g, 21a) continue to anchor the Swarm’s offense as the team approaches the midway point. Rookie G Evan Kirk picked up Rookie of the Week and Rookie of the Month honors this week and is 2-0 with a 6.50 GAA and .873 SV%.
In 2012, the Swarm are 1-2 on the road, while the Roughnecks have posted a 1-2 record at home.
Fans can watch Saturday’s game on the NLL Network by visiting NLL.com. The Swarm will also host their official viewing party at Cork’s Irish Pub in Downtown St. Paul at 8 p.m.