SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Swarm (2-7) look to make it two in-a-row this weekend when they take on the East Division leading Buffalo Bandits (6-2) in a road contest at First Niagara Center on Saturday at 6:30 CT. Fans can catch the game live on Swarm Vision and MNSwarm.com, powered by YouTube and The Lacrosse Network.
Before they were idle last weekend, the Swarm were able to salvage a split out of a doubleheader when they followed up a 14-12 defeat at Toronto on Feb. 22 with a thrilling come-from-behind 15-14 victory in Philadelphia the next day. After trailing 12-7 in the middle stages of the third quarter, Minnesota rattled off a 7-0 run that catapulted them to a 14-12 lead in the final frame. The comeback was completed when rookie F Logan Schuss netted a natural hat trick in a two-minute span to start the fourth quarter. Schuss finished the game with a season-high seven points (5g, 2a) and was named February’s Rookie of the Month on Thursday.
“If nothing else, the players started to believe in each other,” Swarm coach Joe Sullivan said of the victory. “When you go through a rough time and you come out on top, it creates a confidence and a sense of worth within the players and I think that’s exactly what happened in that Philadelphia game. It’s all about the chemistry and the chemistry is there, you got to find a way to make that happen from the opening faceoff to the final buzzer.”
Forward Callum Crawford added six points (1g, 5a) and T Jordan MacIntosh followed up a five-goal game in Toronto with five assists against the Wings to add to the Swarm’s offense. Entering this weekend’s play, Crawford has netted 130 career goals in a Minnesota uniform, only 12 shy of breaking the franchise’s all-time record. With his next goal, the nine-year pro will move into a tie for second place with Sean Pollock, who scored 131 goals from 2005 to 2011.
The man sitting at the top of the Swarm’s all-time career goal list will be wearing a different uniform this Saturday. Forward Ryan Benesch is prepared to take the floor against Minnesota for the first time after an illustrious four-year stint at The Hive from 2010-2013. Benesch’s 141 goals are the most in Swarm history, and his 334 points in a Minnesota uniform is second to only Crawford’s 385. In 2014 Benesch leads all Bandits with 40 points (13g, 27a) through eight games.
Rounding out Buffalo’s offense are T Dhane Smith (10g, 23a) and forwards Mark Steenhuis (16g, 16a) and John Tavares (14g, 14a). Bolstering the back end is netminder Anthony Cosmo, who sports a 6-1 record while posting a 10.21 goals-against-average and a .810 save percentage.
The Bandits are 6-1 in their last seven games, their only blemish in that stretch being a 9-6 defeat at Rochester on Feb. 8. Coming off of consecutive bye weeks, Buffalo has not seen game action since beating Philadelphia on Feb. 15.
The matchup with Buffalo is the third of five-straight games against divisional opponents for the Swarm, representing a big opportunity to make a move out of the East’s basement. After a pair of Toronto losses last weekend, Minnesota only sits 1.5 games back of the Rock for possession of third place and its accompanying playoff berth, while everyone is chasing the first-place Bandits. Sure enough, the Swarm’s next three games are against those same two teams, with Saturday’s road game preceding a two-game home stand against Toronto and Buffalo, starting when the Rock visit Saint Paul on March 16.
Sullivan explained that in order for his team to find success in this crucial stretch, the mindset in the locker room needs to be both relaxed and dialed-in to the task at hand.
“We have to create a sense of urgency, but in doing that we have to stay poised. We can’t have everyone in panic mode, but every shift is that important – every loose ball, every shot on net – we can’t accept second best from anybody, but the players are up to the task.”
A Minnesota Swarm game is something that has to be experienced live to be fully understood. Fans can get that experience in The Hive for as low as $22 for a lower-level seat. Fans looking to lock up pro-rated season packages can still take advantage of a special Buy 2, Get 2 25%-Off promotion for the remainder of the 2014 Season. Visit mnswarm.com or call 888-667-9276 for more information.