Minnesota snapped a four-game losing streak two weeks ago in Philadelphia. Photo Credit: nll.com
SAINT PAUL, Minn. – After clinching its sixth playoff berth in team history last weekend, the Minnesota Swarm (7-7) host the East Division-leading Philadelphia Wings (7-7) this Saturday, April 21 at 7 p.m. CT on Treasure Island Field at Xcel Energy Center. In honor of Hive Cares Night, the Swarm will wear black jerseys Saturday in an effort to Black Out against cancer. Proceeds raised throughout the evening will benefit the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund.
Minnesota snapped a four-game losing streak after posting a 13-9 road win against the Wings two weeks ago. The Swarm carried that momentum over last weekend and defeated rival Washington 14-9 on Treasure Island Field to clinch a playoff spot for the third straight season.
“We’re in the playoffs and that’s what we wanted,” coach Joe Sullivan said. “Our next goal is to get further than we did last year.”
One of the keys to success this season for Minnesota has been its ability to win against Eastern opponents. After finishing a combined 1-11 the past two seasons against the East, Minnesota is 3-2 this year. Regardless of Saturday’s outcome, Minnesota will post a .500 or better record against the East in 2012 for the first time since moving to the West Division.
“We looked this year and tried to align ourselves a lot better so that we could adjust a little bit,” Sullivan said. “The guys seem to have bought into our system. It’s a big thing for us to be able to go out and compete in both the West and East and still have success.”
While the Swarm continued to build momentum toward a playoff run last weekend, the Wings had an off week. Philadelphia is currently tied with Toronto for first place in the East and neither team has clinched a home playoff game.
“We're not looking to do anybody any favors, so we’re going to work as hard as we can to make sure that we spoil them a little bit,” Sullivan said. “Between the four walls of that locker room we have committed to finishing 9-7.”
With a first round home playoff game out of the equation, the Swarm instead has their minds focused on finishing the season strong.
A big reason behind the team’s recent two-game win streak can be credited to its aggressive defense. Minnesota has limited its opponents to 18 goals the past two games and forced a combined 31 turnovers. The Swarm leads the NLL with 161 forced turnovers this season.
“Right now, we are sitting with a lot of real good leaders who are starting to earn their stripes in the leadership and experience departments,” Sullivan said. “Guys like Dan Ball, Nik Bilic and Brendon Doran, who are not the big guys that you see in the highlight reels or anything, but their good play have allowed us to really get aggressive and play the style that we are looking to utilize.”
Minnesota also got a boost on offense last week when F Callum Crawford recorded his first three-plus goal game since the season opener. Crawford finished the night with a game-high seven points (4g, 3a) and leads the Swarm with 68 points (22g, 46a).
“Everyone knows what Callum can do,” Sullivan said. “It was just a matter of time before he got out of his little funk there.”
Minnesota is 4-2 at home this season, and has won two-straight against the Wings dating back to 2011. Philadelphia enters Saturday’s game on a three-game losing streak and is 3-2 against the West.
For the second straight season, the Swarm has partnered with the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund, an organization that supports the cancer community in Minnesota by funding research, prevention, treatment and other programs relating to the cancer community. Fans can bid on the Swarm’s commemorative black jerseys on mnswarm.com and proceeds raised will benefit the Randy Shaver Cancer Research & Community Fund. Fans can visit the Hive Cares Night page to learn more about the various ways to help “Black Out” against cancer.
Saturday’s game will air as a delayed broadcast on Channel 45 this Sunday, April 22 at 4 p.m. Fans not in attendance this weekend can watch the game LIVE via the NLL Network on nll.com.
Lower level tickets to the Swarm's remaining two home games in 2012 start as low as $20 and can be purchased by calling 1-888-MN-SWARM or visiting mnswarm.com.