Gilbert, a four-year NLL veteran, is looking to go to his third Champion's Cup with a win this Saturday. Photo Credit: Alex Carroll.
One of the new additions to the Swarm this season, defenseman Jeff Gilbert spent the first three years of his NLL career with the Toronto Rock and won a Champion's Cup last season.
This season, Gilbert notched 11 points (2g, 9a), 66 loose balls and 26 forced turnovers (ranked second in the NLL) for Minnesota. The 6’4” defenseman also chipped in one assist, 12 loose balls and three forced turnovers in the first round of the playoffs during the Swarm’s 14-10 victory in Colorado. Gilbert hopes to help extend Minnesota’s winning streak, taking the team where he has found himself twice before—the coveted Champion’s Cup.
Jessica Baltes from the Minnesota Swarm recently caught up with Gilbert.
Baltes: This is your fourth season in the NLL. You came to Minnesota after spending the first three years of your career with Toronto. What were your thoughts entering the season here with a team full of 12 young rookies?
Gilbert: At first, I was a little bit disappointed leaving Toronto, because I had a good thing going there. At the same time, I looked at it as being a new chapter. I was able to come to this team and hopefully just do what I do and some of the young guys would pick up on the things that I do. So, I could more or less take on more of a leadership role. In that kind of sense, it was exciting. It was a new opportunity for me to take my game to the next level.
Baltes: You had a very successful season here, you tallied 11 points (2g, 9a), collected 66 loose balls and 26 forced turnovers. With 26 forced turnovers, you ranked 2nd in the league. What would you say is the key to your success in this area?
Gilbert: I guess just going out there and giving it my all every shift. I was kind of leaned upon to be one of the guys to be a leader. I got lots of floor time, so I was put in a position to succeed from the coaching staff. More or less, just taking the opportunity and running with it.
Baltes: Coming into the Swarm organization, you had experience working with head coach Joe Sullivan. You were a member of the Peterborough Lakers, a team Joe coaches, and Joe was also the assistant coach of the Toronto Rock in 2009. Did that make the transition into the Swarm organization easier for you?
Gilbert: Yeah, definitely. Knowing Joe before, I knew what kind of coach he is and more importantly what kind of a person he is. He is a great person. He is definitely a guy who you want to go out there and play for. Having him here definitely made it a lot easier. Just knowing somebody on the coaching staff gives you a little bit of confidence and knowing that he wanted me here.
Baltes: This season, the Swarm has had rotating assistant captains. You served as assistant captain three times during the regular season. Do you think that it encouraged more of the team to step up and be leaders?
Gilbert: Absolutely, especially with a team where you had so many different faces coming in at the beginning of the year. It would have been kind of hard not knowing who does what. It definitely made everybody accountable and gave everybody the chance to wear one, so that they could step up and be recognized for their play in the previous games. It gave people something to work for and also proved that we have not just one or two or three different leaders on the team, but 23. Every one of us could have worn one any given night.
Baltes: This season, the Swarm had its best season (9-7) since 2008 and made it to the West Division Championship for the first time in team history. Do you think that the four game winning-streak at the end of the regular season helped give you guys the confidence to make that happen?
Gilbert: Yeah, for sure. Just from my experience of playing the past few years, you get to see the different ups and downs a season can take. We started out a little bit better than expected even though we lost our first game. We were good and then we had a little down time, but usually you start coming back up. We went as expected, and as I kind of thought it would happen. You have to go through those rough times to be able to learn what it is to lose, but you also have to learn how to win. We are able to do that, especially with those four wins. Right now, we are definitely peaking. That helps going into these one and done playoffs. If you are coming in with a boat load of confidence, it’s definitely going to help you much more. It’s a very, very good thing.
Baltes: You will be taking on the Edmonton Rush this Saturday at 8:30 p.m. During the regular season, the Swarm went 1-1 against the Rush. Minnesota won 10-9 in OT at Xcel in February and lost 9-8 in OT in March. Clearly, this is a team that you guys match up very well against. What are going to be the keys to coming away with the win and advancing to the Champion’s Cup?
Gilbert: There are going to be a lot of keys. What strikes me about them right out of the gate is that they have a very good goaltender and a very good defense. They are going to put a lot of pressure on our offense, so they are going to need to find different ways to score. Having said that, we are really going to have to show up with our transition game. We are definitely going to have to chip in and help out the offense. From a defensive stand point, they obviously had an offensive coming out party last week putting up 19 goals. We are definitely going to have to slow them down. They are going to be coming in with a lot of confidence, so we’re going to have to keep them to a happy number. I’d like to keep them under eight goals. I think that if we get that, we’ll be looking good.
Baltes: You have been the Champion’s Cup twice with the Toronto Rock and won the Cup last season. You also won the Mann Cup in 2010 with the Peterborough Lakers. It seems like you are quite the lucky charm and win wherever you go. Do you think that you’re going to keep it going?
Gilbert: I certainly hope so. With that experience, hopefully guys can kind of look at me and just see how I am. I’m not going to try and do too much. Hopefully it keeps going for me, because I don’t like to lose.