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The journey to the Champions Cup begins

05/03/2012, 1:46pm CDT
By mnswarm.com

Minnesota heads to Colorado this Saturday, May 5 at 6:30 p.m. to open the postseason


Minnesota defeated Colorado 16-13 last weekend on Treasure Island Field. Photo Credit: Alex Carroll

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Having finished the regular season on a four-game winning streak, the No. 3 Minnesota Swarm (9-7) is looking to carry that momentum over to the postseason this Saturday on the road against the No. 2 Colorado Mammoth (11-5) during the West Divisional Semifinals at Pepsi Center. Faceoff is set for 6:30 p.m. CT and the game will be broadcast nationally on CBS Sports Network for the second straight week.

Saturday’s matchup is the first ever meeting between the two teams in the postseason and is the only game in the first round that features two teams above .500. Minnesota closed out the regular season last weekend with a 16-13 win against the Mammoth at Treasure Island Field and tied its second best finish in franchise history at 9-7. Now having defeated both Colorado and No. 1 Calgary this year, head coach Joe Sullivan said the Swarm is confident in their ability to compete against the top teams in the West this postseason.

“Now they (Colorado) have to think about us and it puts a little kink in their armor about how to prepare for us,” he said.

Minnesota finished a franchise best 4-0 in the month of April, and set a team record for most consecutive wins prior to entering the playoffs. Earlier this year when the team was facing four straight losses and a 5-7 record, Sullivan said the team made a goal to finish the regular season with a 9-7 record.

“We sat down as a team and as a coaching staff, and had a heart to heart with everybody and said, ‘What can we do, what does great look like?’ Good was what we did last year when we finished 8-8, so we asked, ‘What is achievable?’ At that point in time, 9-7 was a real stretch considering that we had just lost four games. The guys put it all together and we got there. That made for a great season.”

A lot of attention will take focus on the offensive end this weekend as Colorado ranked first in goals per game (13.6), while the Swarm finished close behind in third (12.6). Both teams combined to score 34 goals in the season opener back on Jan. 14 in Denver when the Mammoth won 20-14. Colorado won the regular season series 2-1.

“It’s going to be a game of two high potent offenses, a lot of transition, and tight checking,” Sullivan sad. “Each team has guys that need to be keyed on. It’s going to be back and forth all night long.”

A trio of forwards Callum Crawford (25g, 58a), Ryan Benesch (33g, 39a) and Kevin Ross (28g, 31a) led Minnesota's offense this season. Rookies T Jordan MacIntosh (23g, 28a), F Corbyn Tao (18g, 21a) and F Jay Card (13g, 21a) posted impressive numbers in their inaugural seasons with the Swarm as well.

On Colorado’s side, all eyes will be focused on slowing down 2012 NLL MVP F John Grant Jr., who set a league record last weekend for most point scored in a single season after he finished with 116 (50g, 66a).

“Everybody has to have their ‘A’ game,” Sullivan said.

Defensively, Minnesota will start one of its two rookie goaltenders in Tyler Carlson (5-2) or Evan Kirk (4-4) in net against Mammoth G Chris Levis (10-4). Carlson earned his fifth victory of the season last weekend after making 42 saves on 55 shots.

Fans can watch Saturday’s game at the Swarm’s official viewing party at Cork’s Irish Pub in Downtown St. Paul. Members of the Swarm will be accepting donations for former Swarm and current Colorado Mammoth forward Sean Pollock’s family. Sean’s wife, Jenna, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and all funds raised will go to support the Pollock family.

To find out what channel CBS Sports Network is shown on in your area, visit http://www.cbssportsnetwork.com/channelfinder

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