The Minnesota Swarm will look to avenge their playoff exit in 2013 as they take on the two-time defending champion Rochester Knighthawks this Saturday at 6:30 p.m. CT. Fans can watch the game live on Swarm Vision on mnswarm.com and YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.
Last May the Swarm fell to the Knighthawks 12-10 at the Blue Cross Arena in the East Division Final; Rochester went on to beat the Washington Stealth for their second-straight NLL title. The playoff loss marked the second consecutive year Minnesota has ended up one win shy of playing for the Champion’s Cup while fielding the youngest team in the league.
In 2014 the Swarm is determined to take the next step, powered by another phenomenal draft, where they were able to secure four first-round draft picks for the second straight year, including No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks F Logan Schuss and D Jason Noble. Taking into account the four first-round selections from the 2012 draft, the Swarm is loaded with young talent, boasting 10 players with either rookie or second-year pro status.
Aside from the budding youth movement, the Swarm is returning much of their core that has propelled them to four straight playoff berths, including captain T Andrew Suitor, who is back in action after sustaining an ACL injury last season. Suitor is joined by 2013 leading scorer F Callum Crawford (32g, 63a), 2013 NLL Transition Player of the Year Jordan MacIntosh (27g, 28a) and veteran D Jeff Gilbert (3g, 12a), all who add experience and leadership to the team.
Coach Joe Sullivan is markedly pleased at the status of his team entering regular season play, coming off a three-week training camp that was the most intense and competitive in team history. “Camp went extremely well, I am very excited about some of our young guys and our veterans are getting into the groove,” Sullivan explained. “We are a lot closer to where we want to be and further into our systems than we have been in past years, which I think will lead to better execution in game one.”
The Swarm finished the preseason with a 2-1 record, highlighted by a 16-15 victory over Rochester at the Blue Cross Arena after a last-second goal by rookie F Scott Jones. Sullivan made it clear that one of his primary goals in training camp was to replicate the quality and intensity of regular-season play, which in his opinion meant playing in front of a hostile Knighthawks crowd. “Our intent in scheduling our preseason was to get used to playing in those environments,” Sullivan said. “If you are going to measure up to anyone it might as well be Rochester.”
The Knighthawks (8-8 in 2013) return most of their roster from their championship winning team a year prior, including six of their top seven scorers. Rochester is led by 2013 leading scorers forwards Cody Jamieson (28g, 61a) and Dan Dawson (23g, 52a), as well as their goaltender Matt Vinc, who led the NLL last year with a 10.17 goals-against average an .803 save percentage.
“They have a tough defense, a real gritty offense that can score, and an outstanding goalie,” Sullivan said. “They are well coached and have a great atmosphere at Blue Cross Arena. They have it all and that’s why they are two-time champions.
According to Sullivan, the Swarm must utilize their team speed in order to find success, especially against the older, more experienced Knighthawks. “We are an exciting and fast team. We have to push them, make them make mistakes, and see if they can keep up.”
Having come so close the past couple of years, Suitor speaks for the team’s expectations entering the 2014 season: “We want to win and we want to win now. We have the team to win this year and that is our goal.”
In 2014, the Swarm will be celebrating their 10th season of professional box lacrosse in the NLL and will make its home debut at The Hive Sunday, Jan. 19 during a 2 p.m. matchup against the Philadelphia Wings at Xcel Energy Center.
Swarm fans looking to lock up 2014 Season Tickets can take advantage of a Buy 2, Get 2 at 25% offer. By purchasing two season tickets at full price, fans can add an additional two tickets for 25% off. Call 1-888-667-9276 for purchasing information.