The Minnesota Swarm (0-1) fell victim to a fourth quarter rally which gave the Rochester Knighthawks (1-0) a 8-6 victory in the 2014 season opener Saturday night at the Blue Cross Arena.
Four goals in the final stanza, including two in 38 seconds from T Joel McCready turned a 5-4 Swarm lead on its head in favor of the two-time NLL champion Knighthawks.
Minnesota had plenty of offensive chances throughout the night, but was stymied by the 2013 NLL Goalie of the Year Matt Vinc. Vinc’s 45-save outing helped nullify the 51-34 Swarm advantage in shots-on-goal and a 78-60 edge in loose balls. Swarm coach Joe Sullivan said that the issue wasn’t with the quantity of scoring chances his team found, it was the quality.
“We took lots of shots, but they were the shots that Vinc wanted,” Sullivan explained. “We didn’t play to our strengths in shooting down the middle. Instead we shot down the sides and wings, which played right into his angles. He is a big guy who plays well and their defense runs on that.”
T Tyler Hass led the Minnesota scoring with a pair of timely goals in transition while F Callum Crawford paced the Swarm attack with three points (1G, 2A). T Kiel Matisz and rookie F Logan Schuss also had strong games, each notching a goal and an assist on the evening.
Crawford and T David Earl grabbed 10 loose balls apiece, while captain Andrew Suitor grabbed nine.
A strong third quarter helped the Swarm turn a 4-2 halftime deficit into a 5-4 lead, starting with Crawford’s goal at 3:14 to bring Minnesota within one, after sustaining great pressure to start the frame. Suitor appeared to tie the game at four, but a Knighthawks challenge overturned the goal after it was found that Swarm F Shayne Jackson was in the crease.
Jackson was quick to erase his error as he tied things up himself soon afterward. Hass connected on his first of the day at 12:23 of the third to give the Swarm their first lead of the day.
The tightly-fought defensive affair with all the feel of a playoff game started as a goaltenders’ duel, with both Vinc and Minnesota’s Tyler Carlson making several key stops in the early going. It took over eight minutes for Rochester’s Johnny Powless to open the game’s scoring, when he beat Carlson at the net mouth on a broken play. Powless also scored the last goal of the game, adding an insurance marker to push the Knighthawks lead to a pair.
While Rochester received strong offensive performances from McCready and Powless, none were greater than Dan Dawson’s six points (2G, 4A). The 13th year forward assisted on each of the Knighthawks’ first three goals, while scoring the next two himself.
Coming off of an injury shortened 2013 season, Suitor was pleased at the state of his body after his first game back from an ACL injury in February, while keeping the loss in perspective.
“The legs felt perfect, you can’t duplicate the training that you do in lacrosse but all-in-all tonight was a tough outcome and we need to move forward,” Suitor said. “We’re going to use this as a measuring stick. That’s the same lineup that won the championship last season, and we have five or six new faces in our room. We just need to keep growing as a team and family and move on.”
Minnesota will look to bounce back in two weeks when they visit the Vancouver Stealth on Jan. 11. The Swarm will return to kick off their 10th season at The Hive when they take on Philadelphia on Jan. 19 at 2 p.m. CT. 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.