SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The wait is almost over. The Minnesota Swarm (0-2) are set to take the field this Sunday at Xcel Energy Center for their home opener against the Philadelphia Wings, and will celebrate the team's 10th anniversary season of professional lacrosse in St. Paul. The 2 p.m. CT matinee game highlights a home-and-home series against the Wings (1-2), where the two teams face off at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday at 11 a.m. CT before their Sunday rematch in Minnesota. Fans can watch Saturday's road game in Philadelphia on Swarm Vision on MNSwarm.com and can purchase lower level tickets to Sunday's home opener by calling 1-888-667-9276.
The Swarm enter the weekend series coming off last Saturday’s 8-5 loss at Vancouver, another game where their defense dominated but their offense failed to materialize. Despite throwing 50 shots on the Vancouver cage, Stealth G Tyler Richards was equal to the task making 45 saves, including 19 in the fourth quarter, to keep Minnesota at bay.
A late goal by T Kiel Matisz broke a 3-0 Stealth run in the second half. Matisz scored two goals and an assist putting him atop the team in goals (3) and points (5). Other offensive highlights for Minnesota included T Jordan MacIntosh’s two assists and rookie F Scott Jones’ first career NLL goal. Swarm coach Joe Sullivan is confident that his offense’s slow start is due to youthful anxiety, and explains that the solution will come with time.
“We are now two games more experienced than we were when we started, our young guys are now accustomed to the noise, the crowds, the travel,” Sullivan said. “I don’t think you will see us come out with a game like that again this year. I think you will see our offense open up this weekend, and it is not because we changed our game plan but because our guys have a desire to be better.”
Despite the loss, Minnesota kept up its fantastic play in the defensive end to start the season. Goalie Tyler Carlson turned aside 25 shots and currently sits in second place in the NLL with an 8.00 goals-against average. The Swarm as a unit has only allowed 33.5 shots against per game, the fewest in the league.
Minnesota is hoping to get back on track against a Philadelphia squad who dropped a pair of tough contests last weekend, losing 13-9 at Rochester on Saturday and falling 12-11 in overtime to the Buffalo Bandits at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday. The Wings beat that same Buffalo squad in their first game of the 2014 season, after finishing 7-9 the year prior.
Offensively the Wings are led by second-year forward Kyle Buchanan, who sits in a tie for second in the NLL with 17 points (7g, 10a), and F Jordan Hall who has tallied 14 points (7g, 7a). Philadelphia’s roster is also bolstered by one of the game’s best transition players in Brodie Merrill, who finds himself with a pair of assists and 40 loose balls so far, good for second in the league.
A familiar face awaits the Swarm and their fans in the Philadelphia net. Goalie Evan Kirk prepares to face his former team for the first time since being traded to the Wings in the offseason; the 26-year-old spent his first two seasons in Minnesota, where he put up a 7-7 record, highlighted by a 9.81 GAA and .807 SV% performance in 2012.
Sullivan noted that playing two games in a weekend always brings with it a host of unique challenges, with travel and both the physical and mental preparation that is required. However one thing that will certainly make playing two games in under 30 hours easier for the Swarm will be finally taking the floor in front of their hometown crowd at The Hive on Sunday, after starting the 2014 season with three-straight road games. The Swarm tend to play their best lacrosse in St. Paul, especially in the first game of the year, winning five of the last six home openers.
“In my experience, Minnesota truly has the best fans, the best arena, and our ownership takes care of us incredibly,” Sullivan explains. “Everyone is excited to come back home.”
Sunday at The Hive is additionally the Swarm’s fifth-annual Native American Heritage Day celebration, which will pay tribute to the roots of lacrosse and local native communities. Festivities include a pregame drum performance and a traditional lacrosse game at halftime between members of the Oneida and Menominee Tribes. 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