#33 David Earl. Photo Credit: Alex Carroll
SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Swarm (6-7) begin a three-game homestand to finish the 2012 regular season this Saturday, April 14 against the Washington Stealth (4-9) at 7 p.m. CT on Treasure Island Field at Xcel Energy Center.
Minnesota is coming off a convincing 13-9 road win last weekend in Philadelphia, which snapped a four-game losing streak. Second-year pro T Tyler Hass – the Week #14 Transition Player of the Week – led the way with a career-high four goals and a team-high 10 loose balls. With a win this weekend, the Swarm will clinch a playoff spot for the sixth time in team history and would move back to .500 in the standings.
To clinch that playoff spot, the Swarm need to pick up a victory against a familiar foe in the Washington Stealth, a team they’ve already seen twice this season on the road. Minnesota won the first of two meetings in convincing fashion 15-7 on Feb. 24 and fell 20-13 on March 25. Last season, the Swarm won the season series 2-1, before falling to Washington in the first round of the playoffs. Minnesota is 8-4 all-time against the Stealth in the regular season.
“We not only lost, we got a little embarrassed by them and we’re not going to accept that again. I won’t accept that and I know the players won’t,” coach Joe Sullivan said about the Swarm’s most recent loss to Washington. “To beat them and win the season series is big, and it’s equally as important because we can solidify a playoff spot with a win.”
Saturday’s game marks the first time Sullivan will act as the Swarm’s head coach at Xcel Energy Center. Despite taking over the position in late February, Sullivan has yet to coach a game on Treasure Island Field. The Peterborough, Ontario native had to miss Minnesota’s home contest against the Calgary Roughnecks on March 30 because of personal commitments. Minus the Calgary game, the first-year coach has posted a 3-3 record.
“I know the guys are excited,” Sullivan said. “I’ve yet to coach a home game as a head coach in Minnesota. I’m personally looking forward to it in a big way. There’s nothing better than playing in Minnesota in front of our fans in that great arena.”
Minnesota currently sits in third place in the West Division and has posted a 3-2 record at home this season. Despite appearing in the past two Champions Cups, the Stealth find themselves in last place in the division at 4-9 and is 2-5 on the road.
Seventh-year forward Callum Crawford leads the Swarm with 61 points and 43 assists in 2012. Having missed the past three games with a concussion, F Ryan Benesch still ranks first on the team in goals (25) and power play goals (9). In Benesch’s absence, F Kevin Ross posted 14 points (6g, 8a) and in the process set new career-highs in points (44) and goals (21).
Defensively, D Jeff Gilbert ranks third in the NLL with 19 forced turnovers. Gilbert faced the Washington Stealth the past two seasons in the Champions Cup as a member of the Toronto Rock.
“We’ve surrounded ourselves with a bunch of leaders,” Sullivan said. “Jeff has a calming effect out on the floor that allows the guys to gravitate with somebody who has been there (Champions Cup). That’s a strength and an intangible that you just can’t measure.”
Captain Andrew Suitor sits close behind Gilbert with 17 forced turnovers, which is fifth best in the NLL. Rookie goalies Evan Kirk and Tyler Carlson both have posted three wins in 2012, and continue to form the only rookie goalie tandem in the NLL. On special teams, rookie T Jordan MacIntosh still sits among the Top 5 leaders in both loose balls (123) and faceoff wins (133).
This weekend, the Swarm is celebrating College Night at The Hive, where local students can show their college ID’s to receive discounted tickets.
Saturday’s game will air as a delayed broadcast on Channel 45 this Sunday at 4 p.m. Fans not in attendance, can watch the game LIVE via the NLL Network on nll.com.
Lower level tickets to all remaining three home games in 2012 start as low as $20 and can be purchased by calling 1-888-MN-SWARM or visiting mnswarm.com.