PHILADELPHIA – The Minnesota Swarm used a pair of timely fourth quarter goals to withstand a late rally by the Philadelphia Wings en route to earning a thrilling 11-10 victory on Saturday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center.
After a pair of Philadelphia goals erased a 9-7 Swarm advantage in the fourth quarter, the Swarm captain T Andrew Suitor put his team back on top when he benefitted from a turnover behind the Wings’ net caused by F Shayne Jackson. Jackson stripped the ball from Philadelphia netminder Evan Kirk and set up Suitor for the finish and the lead at 9:43. Transition player Kiel Matisz gave Minnesota some breathing room when he tallied his second of the day on the man-advantage two minutes later.
Matisz’s goal became the game-winner after Philadelphia F Jordan Hall cut the deficit to one, beating Minnesota G Zach Higgins with just over a minute remaining, setting up a last-second defensive stand that clinched the win for Minnesota. Coach Joe Sullivan lauded his squad’s effort and determination in the victory, while adding that he was not in any way surprised to see it.
“We knew this [performance] would come it was just a matter of time,” Sullivan explained. “The guys persevered and showed the kind of character we knew they had. Where they fell short in games past they didn’t tonight.”
The 11-goal performance was an awakening of sorts for a Swarm offense that struggled to produce through their first two games. Transition player Jordan MacIntosh (2g, 3a) and F Callum Crawford (1g, 4a) led the way with five points apiece, while F Josh Gillam had a four-point night tacking on a couple of assists to a pair of power play goals. Suitor and MacIntosh each posted a game-high nine loose balls on the defensive side of the scoresheet.
Matisz added another goal and an assist to his game-deciding goal, and rookie F Logan Schuss scored his second and third goals of the season after pouring a game-high 10 shots-on-net.
The Minnesota defense, although giving up a season-high 10 goals and 47 shots, played solid when it needed to be, led by the stellar play of Higgins in net, making his NLL debut. Higgins entered the game after starting netminder Tyler Carlson was pulled 3:03 into the game, after Philadelphia roared to a 3-0 lead on 11 shots. Higgins backstopped the Swarm the rest of the way, turning aside 29 shots including several key stops on Wings’ odd-man rushes and power plays.
“It’s pretty exciting, the nerves are still going, the adrenaline is still pumping but it feels good to get the win for my team,” Higgins said after the game. “I’m going to give the credit to the defense, they helped me out. Once I made the first save the nerves settled down but my defense made things easy for me.”
While it was hardly the start that the Swarm wanted, they responded in a big way, piecing together a 7-1 run to give them a 7-4 lead at halftime, a rally that started when Jackson got the Swarm on the board 3:43 into the game.
A facet of the game where Minnesota dominated was on special teams, as their power play went 3-for-5 and their penalty kill held the Wings to one goal on five attempts. The Swarm even added a shorthanded marker when Crawford beat Kirk in the second quarter to give Minnesota a two-goal lead, and squashed any momentum that Philadelphia was trying to build.
The Wings benefitted from big performances from Hall (4g, 2a) and F Ryan Ward (1g, 6a) to stay within striking distance. Kirk, who faced his former team for the first time since being traded to Philadelphia in the offseason, made 43 stops while picking up the loss (1-3).
The same two teams are set to tangle again tomorrow afternoon in Minnesota at Xcel Energy Center for the Swarm’s home opener at 2 p.m. CT. Sullivan said his team couldn’t be more ready for their homecoming, while offering a sneak peek of what might be in store for Swarm fans tomorrow at The Hive.
“We’ve been waiting for our home opener and it couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s going to give us the opportunity to get back to .500 and get closer to our goal,” Sullivan said. “Look for an outstanding team. We’re young, we’re exciting, we’re productive. Once the ball begins to fall for our offense they are going to gel real quick. It’s going to be an exciting team to watch.”
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.