#22 Andrew Watt
The Minnesota Swarm will kick off their ninth season of play in the NLL this Saturday on the road at 6:30 p.m. CT against the Buffalo Bandits. After a monumental draft (in which the franchise collected a league-high four first-round picks), and completing a successful three weeks of training camp in December, the Swarm is now ready to begin their quest towards the Champions Cup. Coach Sullivan has consistently preached that the hardest working team in the NLL usually comes out on top and this year’s Swarm squad believes that they have the wherewithal to do just that come May.
“I think that the guys started to come together quite a bit toward the end of training camp,” Sullivan said. “It was pretty evident in the game against Rochester... for the first 59 minutes of the game I thought we outplayed them. We played stronger, tougher and faster. Our guys worked hard enough to get the win.”
Looking up and down the Swarm roster, something that catches the eye is the number of youngsters. Five rookies are present on this year’s 23-man roster, while there are 10 second-year players. Moreover, team captain Andrew Suitor is entering just his third year in the league, and is once again the league’s youngest captain. Sullivan claims that the Swarm’s youth offers the chance to improve significantly as the season progresses.
“The rookies are going to get better,” Sullivan said. “We’re not trying to put pressure on them, but we want to allow them to feel confident in our system and comfortable with their teammates. I’m certain with time that we are going to see big results from them.”
While the Swarm coaching staff plans on easing their rookies’ transitions into the NLL, the beginning of the season presents challenges that may require several players to step up. As aforementioned, the opener against Buffalo is on the road and is followed by a contest at Toronto on Jan. 25. Beginning the regular season in hostile environments is not something that Sullivan particularly worries about. However, Minnesota will be playing both games without captain Andrew Suitor, who will miss the first two-games in 2013 due to a game misconduct penalty from last year’s postseason.
“I don’t want to go into any game without Andrew Suitor,” Sullivan said. “He is our leader and the maturity he has for being such a young captain is second to none. At the start of the season as the door closes on Andrew, the door opens up for someone else in that defensive role to excel and I know one of our guys will step up.”
In the season opener against the Bandits this Saturday, Sullivan noted that the key to the game is attacking Buffalo first and not being tentative despite their crowd and the excitement that comes with the start of the year.
“We need to go out and get our heads in the game and take those 17,000 Buffalo fans out of it,” Sullivan said. “We don’t have time to have anyone take a shift off and as I’ve said all year, if we aren’t the hardest working team in the league we’re going to struggle.”
Suitor – the 2012 NLL Transition Player of the Year -- reiterated Sullivan’s comments and explained that the coaching staff’s desire to have a hard-working team has been evident throughout the offseason.
“Training camp has been really intense,” Suitor said. “We are here to work and we aren’t going to stop working all year. Coach Sullivan says we need to be the hardest working team in the league and that’s what we plan on doing.”
Last season the Swarm finished 9-7 in the regular season and advanced to the West Division Finals after beating Colorado 14-10 in the first round of the playoffs. Minnesota fell short at home to Edmonton, a loss that Suitor claims the team has not forgotten about heading into 2013. The Swarm's captain thinks that this year will yield a different result, however.
“We have one goal and that’s the Champions Cup,” Suitor said. “While that is obviously everyone’s goal, we came up short last year when we felt like we already had what it takes to win. We’ve added to last year’s team quite a bit this offseason and we expect nothing less than to win it all this year.”
Fans can watch Saturday's season opener live on Swarm Vision at mnswarm.com. The Swarm will also be hosting a Fan Viewing Party at Sweetwater Grill & Bar at the Best Western Kelly Inn in St. Paul from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
Swarm fans looking to lock up 2013 Season Tickets can take advantage of a Buy 2, Get 2 at 50% offer. By purchasing two season tickets at full price, fans can add an additional two tickets for half the cost. Single Game Tickets start as low as $21 for all eight home games in 2013. For purchasing information on both Season and Single Game Tickets, fans can call 1-888-MN-SWARM or visit mnswarm.com
Date: Saturday, Jan. 12
Faceoff: 6:30 p.m. Central
Location: First Niagara Center -- Buffalo, NY
Live Game Stream: MNSwarm.com, Youtube.com
Fan Viewing Party: Sweetwater Grill & Bar (Best Western Kelly Inn) -- St. Paul
2013 Road Uniforms