Photo Credit: Scott Pierson
SAINT PAUL, Minn. – In a game where it seemed the National Lacrosse League’s (NLL) Minnesota Swarm (3-11) offense was going to spur their team to a victory, the Rochester Knighthawks (10-4) stole the show as they staged a late comeback on their way to a 15-14 overtime win Friday night at Xcel Energy Center.
After Swarm F Logan Schuss scored his third goal of the game to put Minnesota up 14-11 with under four minutes in regulation, the loud contingent at The Hive felt like they were well on their way to seeing the Swarm win their second-straight home game. Instead, Rochester took over, scoring three goals in the final 3:48 to force overtime. The momentum carried into the extra session, as F Johnny Powless (3g, 1a) scored the game-winner as he found space in front of the Swarm cage and ripped one past G Zach Higgins 1:59 into overtime.
“Four minutes to go with a three goal lead, that’s tough,” said Swarm assistant coach Aime Caines. “We had some bad bounces down the stretch and earlier in the game we were getting those bounces... I definitely thought it slipped out of our hands.”
The Knighthawks rally started just 20 seconds after Schuss’ tally when Craig Point (2g, 2a) found the net. Forward Stephen Keogh (6g) did the rest, as he scored his fifth and sixth goals of the game to cap off a great performance. The Swarm had a golden opportunity to regain a two goal lead after Keogh’s first goal made it 14-13, as T Brock Sorensen sprung free on a breakaway. However Sorensen’s shot rocketed off the crossbar, and less than a minute later Keogh capitalized with the equalizer.
The loss spoiled an incredible game by the Minnesota forwards, who found a way to put 14 goals behind one of the NLL’s premiere defenses. Callum Crawford led the onslaught with a season-high nine points (3g, 6a). March Rookie of the Month Logan Schuss tallied six points (3g, 3a), while Shayne Jackson (2g, 3a) and T Jordan MacIntosh (2g, 2a) played strong as well, as the Swarm were able to make Rochester G Matt Vinc (38 saves) look pedestrian at times.
“Our offense is starting to get comfortable together. Our chemistry is getting better, and we’re believing in each other,” said Crawford. “Guys are just letting the ball do the work and good things are happening...hopefully it just keeps getting better from here.”
Heading into the fourth quarter tied 9-9, Minnesota exploded in the first 4:10 of the frame to grab their biggest lead of the night, thanks to goals from Jackson, Schuss and MacIntosh. The Knighthawks responded only seven seconds after MacIntosh’s marker, when Keogh took the ensuing faceoff the length of the floor and beat Higgins to make cut the lead to 12-10. Minnesota soon regained their three-goal edge with a Crawford power play marker, as he blasted a shot off the post which ricocheted off Vinc’s back and in.
Neither team gave each other an inch in the first 45 minutes of play, which saw the score tied at seven different junctures. The Swarm used five goals in the second quarter to grab a 6-5 lead heading into halftime, but Rochester answered by winning the third 4-3, a frame that was sparked by goal from F Cody Jamieson (2g, 8a) off the opening draw. Minnesota was able to build a 9-7 lead thanks to a pair of beautiful goals from T Kiel Matisz, the first of which was of the highlight-reel variety. Finding himself in the Rochester slot with the ball, Matisz uncorked a behind-the-back laser that beat Vinc just inside the top corner.
While the game ended in a scoring frenzy, it started conservatively as the Swarm and Knighthawks felt each other out during an opening frame that ended 1-1. Both Higgins and Vinc made several nice stops in a quarter whose only offense were matching power play goals from Keogh and Crawford. Higgins finished with 40 saves.
The Swarm, who played in their third-straight overtime game in Saint Paul, were a team inspired on Friday night, led by captain Andrew Suitor (3a). Suitor wore the name of Katy Miller on the back of his sweater, the daughter of a long time season ticket holding family who lost her battle with a heart condition this September. The entire Miller family was recognized during the ceremonial ball drop, which was met by an emotional ovation from the crowd at The Hive.
“I was definitely playing for their family,” Suitor said. “It was an honor to be out there, shake their hands and give them a hug before the game. Unfortunately we couldn’t get the win, but everyone battled and showed a lot of pride towards that. It was something that really hit home for our team and our organization.”
The Swarm–who dropped to 3-11 on the year and 1-5 on home turf– now travel early Saturday morning to Rochester where the two squads faceoff once more at 6:30 p.m. CT at Blue Cross Arena. Saturday’s rematch is a virtual must-win situation for Minnesota in order to keep any playoff hopes alive.
“We’ve got to completely forget about this and move forward,” Crawford said. “We’ve won out before, so why not do it again?”
Minnesota concludes their 2014 regular season schedule with a three-game homestand at Xcel Energy Center, starting on April 12 as they take on the Buffalo Bandits. A 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.