Over the next few weeks MNSwarm.com will be hitting the rewind button and taking a look back at the 10th Season of Minnesota Swarm Lacrosse on a month-by-month basis. Make sure to check back each week to relive all the highs, lows, great individual efforts and memorable team performances that made 2014 an exciting year in The Hive.
2014 IN REVIEW: DECEMBER/JANUARY
A New Breed of Training Camp:
As the snow begins to fall and the calendar turns from November to December, teams in the NLL begin to converge in training camps across North America, marking the official beginning of the quest for the Champion’s Cup. During three consecutive weekends at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville, Ontario, the Swarm came together to bond as a team and to begin the physical preparations for the season at hand.
After the dust settled in Oakville, the Swarm completed what many called the fastest and most competitive camp in franchise history. Only 26 players made the trip to compete for the 20 positions on Minnesota’s game roster, which resulted in levels of excitement and intensity never seen before in the first few weeks of organized team activities.
One reason the 2014 camp was unprecedented in terms of speed and intensity was the wealth of fresh young talent joining the Swarm roster. Minnesota owned four of the first seven overall picks in the 2013 NLL Entry Draft, giving them eight first-round picks over the last two seasons. Touted rookies F Logan Schuss (No. 1 Overall - Ohio State), D Jason Noble (No. 2 Overall - Cornell), T Cam Flint (No. 4 Overall – Denver) and F Scott Jones (No. 7 Overall – UMBC) all came ready to prove their worth in the NLL.
Besides going through the paces against their fellow teammates, the Swarm also got to tangle with the rest of the league, as they played a three game preseason schedule during the second and third weeks of camp. Minnesota looked strong in exhibition play, finishing with wins over the Colorado Mammoth and Rochester Knighthawks, the latter coming in dramatic fashion. Scott Jones scored the game-winning goal with 1.3 seconds left to clinch a stunning 16-15 victory over the two-time defending champion Knighthawks in front of over 10,000 fans at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester.
Let the Season Begin:
When opening night finally arrived, the Swarm put themselves in a great position to spoil the Knighthawks’ banner-raising ceremony. However, in the end Rochester displayed why they entered the game as the two-time defending NLL Champs, escaping with a 8-6 victory at Blue Cross Arena (Dec. 28).
Rochester tallied four goals in the final quarter to erase a late Swarm lead in a game where Minnesota led in shots-on-goal (55-34), and in loose balls (78-60). Transition player Tyler Hass led the Swarm with a pair of goals, while Schuss tallied his first career NLL goal and assist in his professional debut.
Power Outage in Vancouver:
For the second-straight game goaltender Tyler Carlson and the Minnesota defense put on a show, holding their opponent to only eight goals. But for the second-straight game the Swarm offense could not solve the defensive unit in the other end, leading to an 8-5 defeat at the hands of the Vancouver Stealth in the inaugural game at Langley Events Center (Jan. 11).
The Swarm were able to hold a commanding 50-33 edge in shots-on-goal, but 45 saves by Stealth goaltender Tyler Richards prevented the visiting team from winning their first game of 2014.
Transition player Kiel Matisz paced the Swarm scorers with three points (2g, 1a) and captain Andrew Suitor looked strong in only his second game back from an ACL injury that cut his 2013 campaign short, picking up an assist, six shots and eight loose balls.
Philadelphia Series: The Curse of Home Turf:
Minnesota looked forward to the weekend of Jan. 18-19 as a chance to get in the win column with home-and-home series against the Philadelphia Wings, beginning in Philadelphia and culminating in their long-awaited home opener at Xcel Energy Center. What came to be was a hard-fought series split, with both victories going to the team playing away from their familiar domain.
In the teams’ first meeting at Wells Fargo Center, the Wings struck fast, building an early 3-0 lead. But the Swarm attack finally broke through as they were able to account for seven of the game’s next eight goals en route to an eventual 11-10 road victory.
A pair of timely fourth-quarter goals by Suitor and Matisz helped hold off a second-half rally from Philadelphia. Forward Callum Crawford and T Jordan MacIntosh each exploded for five points while Matisz recorded his second-straight three-point game.
The Wings were able to avenge the loss the next day in Saint Paul as they put a damper on an exciting home opener at The Hive with a 15-8 victory. Five power play goals by the visitors helped bury the Swarm before a boisterous crowd of 8,213.
Turning some heads during his first appearance at The Hive was Swarm goaltender Zach Higgins, who looked strong making 27 saves in relief after picking up the win in his NLL debut the previous day.
PLAYER PROFILES: A CLOSER LOOK AT THE MONTH'S MOST PROLIFIC PERFORMERS
#46 Kiel Matisz
Transition, 6’5’’, 215 lbs., Stoney Creek, Ontario
2014 Stats: 18 GP, 22 G, 14 A, 36 PTS, 5 PPG, 46 LB
The bulky transition player better known around The Hive as “Moose” started his 2014 season on the same high note that he left the year before. A member of the 2013 NLL All-Rookie Team, Matisz tallied nine points (6g, 3a) in the first four games of the season, including the game-winning goal at Philadelphia (1/18). The graduate of Robert Morris University also notched a season-high six loose balls in Vancouver (1/11) as Matisz proved to be one of the strongest performers in the opening month of the Swarm season.
#89 Scott Jones
Forward, 6’4’’. 225 lbs., Port Coquitlam, British Columbia
2014 Stats: 16 GP, 6 G, 15 A, 21 PTS, 23 LB
Considered by many to be one of the top steals of the 2013 NLL Draft, rookie forward Scott Jones brought yet another skilled offensive player in a huge frame to the Swarm roster. Jones wasted no time endearing himself to Minnesota fans as he scored the game-winning goal in the dying seconds of the fourth quarter during a thrilling preseason win at Rochester. Fresh out of UMBC, Jones put up four points (1g, 3a) in his first four games in the NLL, tallying his first career point with an assist on opening night in Rochester (12/28), and scoring his first goal the next game in Vancouver (1/11).