Denver – Before Saturday night’s game, the Swarm (7-8) coaching staff made it clear that they wanted to grab their second road win of the season to solidify their playoff chances.
“In order to control our own destiny and get into the playoffs we need to take matters into our own hands and get a win this weekend,” head coach Joe Sullivan said.
That’s exactly what Minnesota did at Denver’s Pepsi Center, beating the Colorado Mammoth (6-9) 17-12 to break a West Division deadlock and clinch a spot in the playoffs. The Swarm has now advanced to the postseason for four-straight years, and for the seventh time in nine seasons.
Saturday night it all began with great team defense behind the stellar play of Tyler Carlson. The second-year goaltender made 35 saves in the game to grab his fourth win of the season. Carlson made a spectacular save in the middle of the fourth quarter, blocking a breakaway shot and then deftly diving into the net to stop the ball from ricocheting in. Heading into the game, Carlson’s goals allowed average was 10.39 – second-best in the NLL.
One of the best ways to measure defensive effort is through loose ball totals. As a team, Minnesota recorded 67 on the night to Colorado’s 36.
“Everybody says we’re young and athletic and we are,” Sullivan said. “That shows in us being able to track balls down, get hungry, and do the dirty work in a very important game.”
One of those hard-working players was David Earl, who scooped up seven loose balls, forced a turnover and did a lot of other things that don’t get recorded on the stat sheet.
“Dave’s ability to track the ball down, transition the ball up the floor and find the offensive player is one of those unsung things that doesn’t get rewarded on the stat sheet,” Sullivan said. “It’s something that is definitely noticed by our club.”
After starting the year with a 3-7 record, the Swarm set a goal of finishing the season at .500. At the time the objective seemed daunting, but the team has come together and is now just one win away from the accomplishment.
“It seemed like a heck of a mountain to climb back when we were 3-7,” Sullivan said. “Our players have put themselves in the position to do that at home against a really tough Colorado team. It’s going to be a battle, but it’s very important for our guys to get to that goal.”
After winning in Colorado Saturday night, the Swarm look to best the Mammoth in consecutive weeks as the franchises will meet Saturday April 20 on Treasure Island Field at Xcel Energy Center. The matchup will be the final regular season game for both teams.
Jordan MacIntosh has been on an absolute tear as of late. MacIntosh recorded six points (5g, 1a) and has now scored five goals in two out of the last three games. The RIT product scooped up a game-high 12 loose balls and won 70% of his face-offs. Behind MacIntosh, Minnesota had a commanding advantage in face-offs winning 23 out of 32. The Swarm transition player has amassed a league-high four Transition Player of the Week awards this season.
Minnesota has won four of its last five games and much of that success can be attributed to the efforts of Callum Crawford. The Swarm captain has recorded at least eight points in six-straight contests and is now third in the NLL in scoring with 89 points after posting a hat trick to go along with six assists Saturday night. Crawford also managed to become Minnesota's all-time points leader on Saturday, passing Sean Pollock's record of 331. Crawford currently has 338 points four seasons with the Swarm.
“It’s good to be in the playoffs, that’s the goal at the start of every year,” Crawford said. “We’re not done, we want to win next week, prove that we’re not a 7-9 team. We want to make a statement and win one more to keep it going into the playoffs.”
Rookie Kiel Matisz chipped in with five points (2g, 3a) Saturday night to set the franchise record for most goals scored in a rookie season at 28. The mark was previously held by Craig Point, who found the back of the net 27 times in 2008. Point also holds the Swarm rookie record for points in a season with 61. Both Matisz and Shayne Jackson have 60 points heading into the final game of the regular season.
Another rookie made noise on the night as well, Brock Sorensen. The transition player scored multiple goals in a single game for the first time in his NLL career. Sorensen, Matisz and Jackson were selected consecutively in the first round of the 2012 NLL Entry Draft.
“For the last three games I’ve noticed Brock continuously get better and better,” Sullivan said. “That’s why he was drafted as high as he was and I look for him to do those kinds of things on a consistent basis.”
Ryan Benesch was a steady contributor with six points (1g, 5a).
Mitch Belisle scored his first goal of the season in the fourth quarter to ice the game.
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