Minnesota's defense leads the league with 177 forced turnovers in 2012. Photo Credit: Alex Carroll
SAINT PAUL, Minn. – In the midst of a three-game winning streak, the Minnesota Swarm (8-7) is looking to finish the 2012 regular season on a positive note this Saturday when it hosts the Colorado Mammoth (11-4) at Treasure Island Field. Faceoff is set for 6:30 p.m. CT and the game will be broadcast nationally on CBS Sports Network.
Saturday’s game will serve as a precursor for what is to come in the opening round of the 2012 NLL Playoffs. Last weekend, Minnesota clinched the #3 seed in the West Division with its 15-10 win over Philadelphia and secured a road meeting with the #2 seed Mammoth on Saturday, May 5 at 6:30 p.m. CT on HealthONE Field at Pepsi Center.
Before the two teams clash next weekend to start their journey towards a Champions Cup, they will first battle it out on national television with plenty still left to play for. Excluding Toronto who was not on Minnesota’s schedule this season, Colorado is the lone squad the Swarm has yet to post a ‘W’ against this year. The Swarm has dropped both of their contests to the Mammoth this season, but previously held a five-game winning streak against Colorado from 2010-11.
“We’re coming in just as prepared as we have been if not more than any other game,” coach Joe Sullivan said. “It’s important for us to go into the playoffs with momentum.”
Colorado won the most recent meeting between the two teams back on Feb. 18 at Xcel Energy Center 12-7, but the final score was not indicative of how close the game actually was. With less than six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the score was deadlocked at 7-7 until Colorado finished the game with five unanswered goals, several of which were empty netters.
“We were right there with them, but we fell apart at the end,” Sullivan said. “I think we’re a better team because of it. When you endure some losses, you’re really able to focus on some things that you might not if you get a win. We’ve lived and learned through every loss we’ve had this year.”
Sullivan likewise believes his young team has come a long ways since the two teams met during the first week of the NLL season on Jan 14. Minnesota lost 20-14 that night, but bounced back with its first career home win against Buffalo the following game and went on to finish the first half of the season 5-3. To this point, a league-high 12 rookies have seen floor time with the Swarm and have combined to record 67 goals, which is over a third of the team’s 187 goals this season.
“We started off in Colorado and we were very raw,” Sullivan said. “Our systems were just getting going. We’re in a situation now where we feel real confident in our systems and the guys trust each other. They’re playing with confidence and aggressiveness.”
If there’s one major storyline to watch for on Saturday night, it will certainly surround Mammoth F John Grant Jr. and his chase for the NLL single season points record. Grant Jr. currently sits at 110 points despite missing two games this season, and is six points shy of surpassing Bandits F John Tavares’ mark of 115 points set back in 2010.
“It’s going to be a real competitive game, and a real focused game,” Sullivan said, “and then there’s a lot of things going on behind the scenes with John Grant Jr. trying to break the points record, and on our side of it, it’s getting to that 9-7 record that we’ve committed to.”
Minnesota is also looking to finish the season 6-2 at home, which would tie a team record set back in 2008. Sullivan accredited his team’s success at home this season to their commitment to staying focused and working together as a unit.
“The way that these guys have gelled and pushed each other every practice and shootaround… it’s really only a matter of time before it starts to come to together and it’s our intent that the time is now,” Sullivan said.
Saturday’s game marks the second straight season that the Swarm will host a game on national television. Sullivan said his team is excited to once again have the opportunity to show the country what the NLL and Minnesota lacrosse community are all about.
“These guys work 9-to-5 jobs. Some of them are construction guys, some are laborers, some of them are market traders, but they all have jobs,” he said. “Essentially on Friday, they roll their sleeves up and come to play for the fans in Minnesota.”
Grant Jr. won’t be the only one chasing records on Saturday. Swarm rookie T Jordan MacIntosh, who has collected a team-high 140 loose balls on the season, is 13 loosies shy of setting a new record. Jay Thorimbert holds the franchise mark of 152 loose balls set in 2010.
The Swarm is currently the only team in the NLL with two goalies ranked in the Top 5 in GAA in Evan Kirk (9.81) and Tyler Carlson (11.90). Both rookies have posted four wins a piece this season and Kirk also leads the league in save percentage at .807. An aggressive, athletic defense has aided the duo and the unit ranks first in the league with 177 forced turnovers. Defenseman Jeff Gilbert has forced 25 of those turnovers, which is second best in the league.
After posting a career-high eight assists last weekend, F Callum Crawford continues to rank among the league leaders in assists with 54. The NLL’s defending scoring champion, F Ryan Benesch, became the first Swarm player to reach the 30-goal mark last week after tying a season-high four goals. Forward Kevin Ross could also reach that feat this week. Ross has scored in every game this season and ranks second on the team with 27 goals.
Lower level tickets to the Swarm’s final home game in 2012 start as low as $20 and can be purchased by calling 1-888-MN-SWARM or visiting mnswarm.com.
By Maria Jollie
9:16pm – And it is enough, your Minnesota Swarm are victorious with 16 points to beat Colorado Mammoth, who ended with 13. This game was an intense game of skill, speed, and general awesomeness but the real test will come next weekend when the Minnesota swarm tries to defeat the Colorado Mammoth in the first round of NLL play offs.
FINAL Swarm 16 Mammoth 13
9:08pm - An organized form of crazy ensues in the last few minutes and F Jay Card scores for the form with a commanding goal that causes a deafening scream from the crowd. The Mammoth make it close with a wrap around goal in the last 2 minutes, but will it be enough?
0:48 Swarm 16 Mammoth 13
9:02pm - The ball is swooped, cradled, tossed, ruthlessly shot and occasionally fumbled in the madness as our game continues. Forward John Grant Jr. has just made history by scoring the Colorado Mammoth’s 12th goal. His 116th point of the season is the new NLL record for points in a single season. Congrats to Grant, but please, no more.
3:45 Swarm 15 Mammoth 12
8:54pm - After a quick break for the much loved kiss cam, we are back in it. The action doesn’t seem to stop and no one wants it to. Forward John Grant Jr. is just 1 point shy of breaking an NLL record and T Jordan Macintosh is having the game of his life with a career high 6 points and 4 assists. Stay tuned for the riveting outcome.
7:09 – Swarm 15 Mammoth 11
8:43pm - The 3rd quarter starts off right, with F Joel Henry scoring his 4th goal of the game with stud muffin form. Mammoth T Illja Gajic did not fancy Henry’s goal and got aggressive right way. Gajic got kicked out for misconduct and Henry spent some time in the box, but I think we are all ok.
Forward Ryan Benesch completes a hat trick on a sweet shot from far out. There was no stopping Benesch’s strength with that goal.
9:00 Swarm 15 Mammoth 9
8:32pm - Forward Ryan Benesch’s mesh is a blur of white lightning as he takes a shot from outside to stun the goalie and score. And T Jordan Macintosh doesn’t want to be left out of the fun as he weaves in and out to catch the goalie before he can recover. Our 3rd and 4th quarter domination trend continues.
Swarm 12 Mammoth 8
8:24pm - The Colorado Mammoth have somehow found the fire and are trying to close the gap by scoring twice.
This crowd is insane. Fans are jumping, dancing, singing, yelling, sipping, thunder clapping, and discussing the undeniable capability of the Minnesota Swarm to stop the Colorado Mammoth and remain victorious. I suggest you create the same atmosphere at your current location.
2:11 Swarm 10 Mammoth 8
8:15pm - Just when it may appear the energy had died down, F Josh Gillam takes a rebound shot to the back of the net to bring the crowd to their feet and off again as they jump up and down. Gillam has re ignited the Swarm fever.
6:45 Swarm 10 Mammoth 6
The Swarm lead the Mammoth 9 to 4 after the second quarter. The Swarm have 27 shots on goal while the Mammoth have 22, each of whom took 14 in the second quarter.
The Colorado Mammoth are 1-2 for Power Plays and have no players to score more than one goal each. Goalie Chris Levis made 14 saves but allowed 8 goals and was replaced with Tye Belanger for the last 5 minutes, who has made 14 saves and allowed one goal. F John Grant Jr. is just 4 points away from the prestigous single season points record.
F Joel Henry leads the Swarm in goals with 3, while F Callum Crawford shows us he can assist with his 3 of the game so far. G Tyler Carlson is defending his goal in a heroic way with 18 saves. The Swarm have capitalized on Power Plays and are 3 for 3 tonight. Great performance from the Swarm so far, we are looking forward to even more magic as the Swarm have a 3rd quarter trend of dominating. The Swarm have outscored its opponents 45-38 in the 3rd qaurter this season and is 7-0 when leading after the 3rd.
7:47pm - The ball appears to be more of a rocket as F Kevin Ross takes his shot on a breakaway. The goal is barely scored when T Nik Bilic and D Dan Coates drop their gloves to start an intriguing brawl that soon subsides with Bilic taking the upper hand. The fans go crazy with their thunder sticks to make it seem that lightning could appear at any time.
End of 2nd Quarter Swarm 9 Mammoth 4
7:29pm - Forward Joel Henry is assisted by F Callum Crawford and F Ryan Benesch and sails it just inside the right post to score. That is some dynamic teamwork by our charming Swarm players. And your team continues to rev up the Hive with a quick shots to score by F Joel Henry and T Andrew Suitor. The heat is undeniable.
4:14 Swarm 8 Mammoth 4
7:17pm - Defenseman Brendan Doran gets a taste of success by collecting a goal as he tallies his 2nd of the year, a feat he has so far only accomplished in contests against the Colorado Mammoth.
8:58 Swarm 5 Mammoth 3
7:10pm - The Swarm is quick to recover from a strong Colorado offense and F Callum Crawford fires from out of nowhere to keep the Swarm on top, a top notch way to end a promising quarter.
Swarm 4 Colorado 2
7:03pm - Hearts are broken as T Tyler Hass is denied a goal on a challenge. Hass’s crease violation, combined with Mammoth Coach Bob Hamley’s keen eye combine for goal that was won and immediately lost. The heartache drones on with a F Derek Hopcroft goal. But hearts are on the mend with a stellar performance by the Swarm Performance Team and hope is in the air as we look forward to the last 4 minutes of the period.
Swarm 3 Mammoth 2
6:53pm - Thunder sticks are rumbling as F Kevin Ross weaves his way in and out of Mammoth players to score in response to F Sean Polluck’s goal for Colorado. And the excitement continues as F Ryan Benesch fools everyone in front of that goal to sneak one in! Swarm 3 Mammoth 1.
6:44pm - Goalie Tyler Carlson makes his second start in a row, a slight deviation from the usual every other start between Carlson and Goalie Evan Kirk. And Minnesota is the first to score, with F Joel Henry tallying his seventh goal of the year! His fearless shot sped smoothly by G Chris Levis to hit the net.
6:30 - Welcome Swarm fans! Get ready for some major swarming as your Minnesota Swarm get ready to take on the Colorado Mammoth for the first of two consecutive encounters. The two teams will face off again next Saturday, May 5th for the first round of the 2012 NLL Playoffs in Colorado.
Recent performances by the Swarm have induced wins and a 5-2 at home record is looking mighty fine for our boys tonight. The Swarm would love to end their losing streak against Colorado, with a 0-2 record against the Mammoth so far and will do everything it takes for sweet victory tonight.
A certain Mammoth F John Grant Jr. could prove a slight hindrance for the Swarm tonight. Grant is a scoring machine who is aiming to surpass the NLL’s single season points record of 115. Grant has notched 110 points this season and his fiery shots will be hard to stop.
Can the Minnesota Swarm continue with its smokin’ hot winning streak and shut down Grant? Will Grant prevail to make NLL history? Stay tuned for updates for this play off preview from Treasure Island field at Xcel Energy Center.