SAINT PAUL, Minn. – With time running out on their postseason hopes, the Minnesota Swarm (3-10) have a lot to play for when they meet the Rochester Knighthawks (9-4) for a home-and-home series this weekend. The East Division rivals meet Friday night at 7:30 p.m. CT at Xcel Energy Center before concluding the doubleheader Saturday at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y. at 6:30 p.m. CT.
Fans can experience Friday night’s matchup at The Hive by calling 1-888-667-9276 or by catching the game on UniversalSports.com and on tape delay on the Universal Sports Network. Saturday’s tilt in Rochester can be seen on Swarm Vision on MNSwarm.com via YouTube and The Lacrosse Network.
Entering the last month of the season, Minnesota needs to climb out of the East basement and into third place in order to prolong their season, and have five games remaining to do so. Entering Week 15 the Swarm sit 1.5 games back from Philadelphia and Toronto, who both sit at 5-9 and are tied for possession of the last playoff berth in the East.
“All we need to do is focus on our strengths,” said Swarm coach Joe Sullivan looking ahead to the road in front of his team. “I know what they are, our players believe in what they are, we just need to put it all together for 60 minutes.”
Minnesota failed to put a whole game together during their visit to Calgary last Saturday. Tied 9-9 heading into the fourth quarter at Scotiabank Saddledome, the Swarm got outscored 6-2 in the last 15 minutes resulting in a frustrating 15-11 defeat to the Roughnecks.
“At the end of the day we came to work for three quarters not four,” Sullivan continued. “If that was any other job or career it would not be acceptable–you need to come to work all day long and come prepared. When you put in a weak effort you get weak results, and right now we can accept nothing less than 110% from each and every guy so we can compete to win.”
A bright spot in an otherwise disappointing fourth quarter came when F Callum Crawford found the back of the net, a goal which marked his 500th career NLL point. Crawford tallied six points (1g, 5a) to lead all Swarm runners. Crawford sits only eight goals shy of becoming Minnesota’s all-time leading goal scorer. Rookie forward Logan Schuss (4a), T Jordan MacIntosh (2g, 2a) and F Shayne Jackson (3g, 1a) each added four points in the losing effort.
The Swarm cannot afford to let any more games slip from their grasp, as they get ready to conclude their season series with a Knighthawks team that assumed the top spot in the East two weeks ago. The two squads last met on opening night of the 2014 season, when Rochester grabbed an 8-6 victory after three late goals negated a fourth-quarter Minnesota lead. The two-time defending champion Knighthawks eliminated the Swarm from the playoffs in last year’s East Division Final.
Rochester comes into the series with Minnesota after seeing a four-game winning streak snapped during a 15-11 thumping at the hands of the undefeated Edmonton Rush, a game in which Edmonton enjoyed a 14-7 lead after three quarters. Regardless, the Knighthawks are still the only team in the East to already have their playoff ticket punched.
Pacing the Rochester offense are a pair of forwards nestled in the league’s top five in point scoring. Cody Jamieson sits in third place with 75 points (30g, 45a) and Dan Dawson follows close behind with 70 points (15g, 55a), which is good for fifth in the NLL. However any conversation about the Knighthawks ends with their stingy defense, led by 2013 goaltender of the year Matt Vinc. Vinc has compiled an 8-3 record, posting a 9.52 goals-against-average and a .794 save percentage, numbers that once again place him among the premier stoppers in the league.
Sullivan has no doubt that both his offense and defense can compete with Rochester’s; rather he is more concerned about his team’s urgency heading into a weekend that could decide the fate of their season. “It truly is desperation mode,” Sullivan said. “It’s playoff lacrosse, it’s all of the things that our fans love to see and it’s going to take a 110% commitment for us to even think about beating Rochester once let alone twice.”
The Hive is sure to be an energetic atmosphere on Friday, as early arriving fans will receive a free cowbell courtesy of CenterPoint Energy. Those unable to attend can also enjoy the action thanks to the recent partnership with the NLL and the Universal Sports Network. NLL games on UniversalSports.com are available exclusively to Universal Sports Network subscribers in the United States in addition to being open to all Canadian viewers. Friday’s game will also be aired on Universal Sports Network on April 10 at 4 p.m. CT. In the Twin Cities, Universal Sports Network can be found on DIRECTV Channel 625 and DISH Channel 402.
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.