ROCHESTER, New York – The Swarm (8-10) fell 12-10 to the Rochester Knighthawks (10-8) at Blue Cross Arena in the East Division Finals Saturday. The neck-and-neck playoff game was seen by lacrosse fans nationwide on CBS Sports Network.
“Obviously we’ve felt better, but it was a battle,” NLL Transition Player of the Year Jordan MacIntosh said after the game. “This is an improvement from last year and we battled to the end.”
Minnesota was led by veterans Callum Crawford (2g, 6a) and Ryan Benesch (4g, 3a) in Saturday’s game. After trailing 3-0 early on, Crawford willed the Swarm back into the contest with four second-quarter points to put Minnesota tied with Rochester 5-5 at the half. Crawford set the Swarm franchise record for points and assists earlier this season.
The Swarm found itself in a hole once again down 7-5 midway through the third quarter when Benesch answered the call with a four-point streak of his own (two goals, two assists) to give Minnesota a 9-7 advantage. It would be the last Swarm lead of the game, however, as the defending champion Rochester attack caught fire down the stretch to win the game. After this season Benesch is now Minnesota’s all-time goals leader.
Despite the close loss, Minnesota grew collectively this season and feels that it can compete with anyone in the NLL even though it has the youngest roster in the league.
“We accomplished a lot and what can’t be measured on any stat sheet is the character that all of our guys built throughout the season,” Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan said. “We lost a lot early, came into the playoffs at 7-9, but learned so much from those losses. Most of those losses were by one or two goals and no team really owned us this season, which proves that we’re not too young or immature. We competed every time we set foot on the floor.”
Coming into the season with four first round picks, a lot of emphasis was placed on the Swarm’s potential, but as Sullivan pointed out the team’s youngsters quickly excelled. Both Shayne Jackson and Kiel Matisz broke the franchise rookie scoring record, Brock Sorensen scored 13 points despite playing a defensive role, and Alex Crepinsek demonstrated tireless work ethic that is necessary from premier NLL defenders.
While this group is already very dangerous and will only get better with time, Minnesota is looking to add another quartet of first-rounders to the roster in next fall’s draft. Through various trades, the franchise has acquired Buffalo’s first round pick (first overall), Edmonton’s (fifth overall) and Toronto’s (seventh overall). Minnesota also holds the second overall pick.
“To add four first round picks to the roster we already have and you’re going to see a championship team here,” Sullivan said.
It was a season full of broken milestones from veterans and rookies alike, come from behind victories, and learning experiences as a unit. With captain Andrew Suitor and potentially four new first round picks joining the already youthful Swarm, the Champion’s Cup is the limit.
“I think our fans should be very proud of the personalities they’re going to see on the floor next year,” Sullivan said. “From the top down this is an incredible organization that is only going to continue to get better. This will be a champions cup team. Look for us to hoist that cup.”