SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Swarm (2-9), yearning for a win in front of their home crowd, will have another chance to get one when the East Division-leading Buffalo Bandits (8-2) visit Xcel Energy Center Sunday at 1 p.m. CT. Fans can secure their lower-level seats for as low as $22 by visiting MNSwarm.com or calling 888-667-9276 for more information.
Minnesota was agonizingly close to getting their first victory in Saint Paul this season last Sunday against the Toronto Rock, as their fourth quarter rally closed an 8-4 gap and sent the game into overtime. However Toronto F Colin Doyle squashed the comeback attempt when he found the back of the net just over a minute into the extra frame, clinching the season series for the Rock with a 9-8 win and leaving the passionate crowd at The Hive waiting to celebrate their first home victory of 2014.
“I think it was no different than when we were in Toronto, we were able to play better defense against them so we kept it tighter.” Swarm coach Joe Sullivan said of the game. “The guys just didn’t execute what they needed to get to [Toronto G Nick Rose]. We didn’t do that so subsequently we didn’t get the success we needed.”
Swarm F Logan Schuss continued to show why he was named February’s NLL Rookie of the Month, leading his team with four points (1g, 3a). The No. 1 overall pick has netted 23 points (11g, 12a) over his last five outings. On the defensive side of the ball, G Tyler Carlson turned in his strongest performance of the season, denying 32 of 38 Toronto shots after entering the game in relief. Even after making the choice to start Zach Higgins against the Rock, Sullivan knew he could rely on Carlson if need be.
“We told Tyler to be ready, and being the professional that he is, he was ready to go,” Sullivan explained. “I thought he answered the bell for us and made some key stops to keep us in the game.”
Transition player Kiel Matisz added two tallies to extend his goal-scoring streak to six games. The second-year pro now has 15 markers on the season and has scored a pair in three of his last four games.
Minnesota now looks to shake off the overtime loss against a team they played tough two weeks prior in Buffalo. The Bandits won 12-9 on March 8 at First Niagara Center, but did not hold a lead until T Dhane Smith scored the game-winner with under five minutes left in the contest. In a game that the Swarm played well from the get-go, it was a pair of 4-0 runs by Buffalo– one to erase a 6-2 deficit in the second quarter and another to take control late in the fourth– that made the difference in the first meeting of three between the East rivals.
Bandits leading scorer F Ryan Benesch (15g, 30a) will be making his first trip back to The Hive after being traded to Buffalo in the offseason. Benesch was held to a season-low two points (2a) in the teams’ first meeting. Minnesota did not have as much success shutting down Buffalo’s goal leader F Mark Steenhuis, who tallied four times in game one with the Swarm and has 23 markers on the season.
The Bandits have only dropped one game in their last eight, a streak that has a lot to do with the play of their defense. Buffalo has surrendered the second-fewest goals against (101) in the NLL and G Anthony Cosmo sits in third place among starters in both save percentage (.815) and goals-against-average (9.96).
Saint Paul will be the second stop of a busy weekend for Buffalo, as they travel to Edmonton on Friday night to take on the 10-0 Rush in a matchup of two of the hottest teams in the league.
“It’s going to be a real tough match there’s no denying that,” Sullivan said of facing the Bandits. “We just have to come out stronger and execute better; it’s the small things that make the big difference. I still believe in our players and they still believe in our system, it’s just we need to get this monkey off of our backs while we still have an opportunity to climb through the rankings and make some noise in the East.” Sullivan’s sense of confidence and optimism is echoed by his goaltender.
“Every game we’ve had spurts of brilliance, but we haven’t had a consistent run with it,” Carlson said. “We’re definitely on the right page and we’re definitely going to right this ship.”
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.