Photo Credit: Scott Pierson
SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Prior to Sunday’s matchup between the Minnesota Swarm and the Buffalo Bandits, Swarm coach Joe Sullivan spoke of the need for his team to get the monkey off of their backs in front of their home crowd. Forward Callum Crawford (2g, 2a) personally sent the monkey packing after scoring the overtime game-winner that gave Minnesota (3-9) a 10-9 victory over the Bandits (8-4), their first of the season at Xcel Energy Center.
“It felt like it all came together today,” Sullivan said after the win. “We’ve done a lot of things to help the guys prepare and they’ve done a lot on their own to be accountable and be better. We’ve put together a string of good games and it does feel like we are getting there.”
While the overtime session in last week’s loss to Toronto lasted hardly over a minute, the Swarm and Bandits played deep into the extra session, with each team getting quality looks at the net. Minnesota was finally able to break through when a pass from F Shayne Jackson (2g, 2a) bounced off of Crawford’s stick, which caused a Buffalo defender to take a lunge for the ball. After gaining control with a slick spin move, Crawford came in all alone on Bandits G Anthony Cosmo, beating him low to bring the exuberant crowd at The Hive to a frenzy.
“We’ve been battling so hard every game to get a win,” Crawford said. “It’s a feeling of accomplishment because you know you’re beating a good team and they gave you everything they had and we gave it right back. Luckily we were better tonight.”
Crawford, Jackson and F Logan Schuss sat atop the score sheet for the Swarm, each netting four points (2g, 2a), breaking a couple of milestones in the process. Crawford eclipsed the 50-point mark for the season and Schuss reached the 20-goal mark with his first tally.
Like so many games before this season, Minnesota relied on a fourth quarter rally to force overtime. After Buffalo rattled off two goals in 33 seconds to grab a 9-7 lead, it took the Swarm only nine seconds to answer back with a goal by D Greg Downing. The tying goal came nearly two minutes later when a massive breakaway save by Minnesota G Tyler Carlson set the stage for F Scott Jones to score on the ensuing possession. Carlson made 34 saves to pick up his first victory of the season, and was at his best in overtime where he made five stops, including a few at point-blank range. Cosmo stopped 49 shots in defeat, as the Swarm outshot Buffalo 59-43.
Even though the Swarm and Bandits sit on opposite ends of the East Division standings, the two teams could not have been more evenly matched on Sunday. Each quarter ended with the score tied in a game where the lead changed hands four different times.
The goaltenders combined to make NLL history in the first 15 minutes. The scoreless first quarter was the first in the NLL’s 28-year history, and set the tone for an airtight defensive game from start-to-finish. Minnesota forced a remarkable 31 forced turnovers to Buffalo’s 12, including five from T David Earl and four from D Jason Noble.
After 18:21 of scoreless play, Buffalo F Joe Resetarits (3g) finally lit the lamp when he beat Carlson through a screen. Crawford answered soon after when he tallied his league-leading fourth shorthanded goal of the season. A two-goal burst from the Bandits was met by two goals in 25 seconds from Schuss and T Jordan MacIntosh and the first half came to a close at a 3-3 deadlock.
Buffalo used another two quick goals from Resetarits and F Ryan Benesch (1g, 4a), who made his first appearance at The Hive in a Bandits uniform, to jump out to an early 5-3 lead in the third. Never fazed, the Swarm showed their resilience once again as a goal from D Alex Crepinsek and consecutive tallies from Jackson– the second on a power play– gave them their first lead of the night.
The lead wouldn’t last long as the Bandits tacked on their own power play goal by F Aaron Wilson, just over a minute after Jackson’s. Each team scored another in the last two minutes of the quarter, heading into the final frame knotted at seven.
Over the course of their win, Minnesota was able to do something that hasn’t been done in over 12 years: silence Buffalo captain F John Tavares. Held without a point for the first time since Jan. 25, 2002, Tavares’ 185-game point streak came to an end.
The Swarm hope that taking down the team sitting at the top of their division can foster some needed confidence, which can spur one last push through the remainder of their schedule.
“We are still in this playoff run,” Crawford explained. “[This win] gives us life and shows that it is attainable. The season is not lost and if we keep working hard good things will come.”
With Toronto losing on Saturday, Minnesota only sits two games back from the Rock for possession of the third playoff spot. The Swarm head West next weekend to take on the Calgary Roughnecks (7-5) Saturday night at Scotiabank Saddledome. Minnesota returns to The Hive on Friday, April 4 for the first half of a home-and-home series with the Rochester Knighthawks (9-3).
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.