SAINT PAUL, Minn. – This Saturday, the Minnesota Swarm (3-12) will have the chance to win the season series against a divisional opponent, as they take on the Buffalo Bandits (8-6) in the first of three games at Xcel Energy Center to close out the 2014 regular season. The 7 p.m. CT matchup is the NLL’s game of the week on the Universal Sports Network, and will be streamed live on UniversalSports.com and shown on tape delay both nationally on Universal Sports Network on Thursday, April 17 at 4 p.m. CT and locally on 45-TV, airing April 27 at 4 p.m. CT. Fans can experience the game live by calling 1-888-667-9276 or by visiting MNSwarm.com.
The Swarm come home licking the wounds of a two-game sweep at the hands of the East-leading Rochester Knighthawks last weekend. Minnesota squandered a late fourth quarter lead before falling 15-14 in overtime on Friday at The Hive, and fell into an early hole less than a day later as they were defeated 12-9 at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester. Friday’s contest marked the third straight game in St. Paul to into extra time. The Swarm are still alive in the hunt for the last available playoff berth in the East, they must win and hope for third-place Toronto to lose over the remaining weeks. However, all three of their remaining games will be on home turf.
“Fortunately we have fewer obstacles to overcome this weekend, the travel is not there,” coach Joe Sullivan said. “We’re at home, we’ve played well at home as of late, so we have to go back to the well and execute even finer to make sure we get that win… There’s a true sense of desperation, more so now than ever, and every win is going to be massive. We can’t lose any more."
Minnesota has continued to receive great play from leading scorer F Callum Crawford, whose nine-point (3g, 6a) game on Friday highlighted a dominant 13-point weekend, which has placed him on the doorstep of making history. Already the Swarm’s all-time leader in points and assists, Crawford needs only two goals to reach 142 with Minnesota, which would break Ryan Benesch’s record for the most goals in Swarm history (141). The ninth-year pro from Ottawa, Ontario has a chance to set the record in front of his old teammate, who will be in a Buffalo uniform on Saturday.
Crawford isn’t alone in his success among the Swarm forwards. Last Thursday Logan Schuss was named the NLL’s top rookie for the second consecutive month, an award that he responded to by producing nine points (5g, 4a) over the two-game series.
This Saturday represents the rubber match between the Swarm and Bandits, two teams that have played each other neck-and-neck in their two previous meetings this season. Each team has held serve on home turf, with Buffalo winning 12-9 on March 8 at First Niagara Center before Minnesota pulled off a thrilling 10-9 overtime victory on March 23 at The Hive.
Buffalo comes to Saint Paul in the midst of a four-game losing streak, which was extended after suffering a tough 16-13 loss at home to the Calgary Roughnecks last weekend. The Bandits blew a fourth quarter lead as they were outscored 7-1 over the last 15 minutes.
It has been a season chock-full of milestones for Buffalo’s forward and living lacrosse legend John Tavares. The 45-year old notched his 800th career goal in Calgary, and surpassed both the 900-assist and 1700-point marks earlier this year. However in his last visit to Xcel Energy Center Tavares was held without a point, snapping a 185-game point streak that spanned over 12-years.
Offensively for the Bandits, Benesch leads the way with 58 points (18g, 40a), seven (1g, 6a) of which have come against the Swarm. Rookie T Dhane Smith and F Mark Steenhuis follow close behind, scoring 51 and 50 points respectively.
Buffalo has their ticket punched for the postseason, but could clinch a home playoff game with a win against the Swarm. However Sullivan is not concerned with any other team’s playoff scenario than his own.
“What we have to do is take care of ourselves,” Sullivan explained. “We can only control what we can control.”
Saturday will be a special one at The Hive as it marks the fourth-annual “Hive Cares Night” benefitting the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund. Festivities begin with the “Swarm Half-K” presented by Coors Light and continue with the auctioning of special edition uniforms the Swarm will wear during the game. Proceeds will go to the RSCRCF and will help fund research, prevention, treatment and other programs to the cancer community.
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. Saturday’s game will also be aired on Universal Sports Network on April 17 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.