For the past few weeks MNSwarm.com has hit the rewind button and taken an in-depth look at the 10th Season of Minnesota Swarm Lacrosse on a month-by-month basis. We finish off our 2014 season recap with a breakdown of the month of April, and end things with a brief look toward the future.
Season in review- April
Shootout in The Hive:
Fans of high-scoring offensive play sure got their money’s worth as the Swarm and the Rochester Knighthawks ignited for 29 total goals on April 4, in what was the third-straight game at Xcel Energy Center to require extra time to find a victor. Unfortunately, Minnesota was unable to recreate the overtime magic they found against Buffalo a couple weeks prior, as Rochester was able to cap off a late comeback to win the game one of a home-and-home doubleheader 15-14.
After the resilient Knighthawks strung together three late goals to erase a late 14-11 Swarm lead and force overtime, F Johnny Powless beat G Zach Higgins two minutes into extra time to take the game for Rochester. Knighthawk F Stephen Keogh was instrumental in the rally, scoring his fifth and sixth goals of the game to tie the game, the latter coming with less than 30 seconds remaining in regulation.
The disappointing loss did not erase what was an illustrious performance by the Minnesota offense, who found a way to light up one of the NLL’s best defensive units, led by star G Matt Vinc, for 14 goals. Forwards Callum Crawford (3g, 6a), Logan Schuss (3g, 3a), Shayne Jackson (2g, 3a) and transition player Jordan MacIntosh (2g, 2a) all had successful nights.
The game was a particularly emotional one for the home team, as the Swarm honored fan Katy Miller, the daughter of long-time season ticket holders who passed away over the Summer with a heart disease, prior to the game. Captain Andrew Suitor dedicated his game to Miller, wearing “K. Miller” on the back of his sweater in place of his own.
K-Hawks Complete the Sweep:
There was no rest to be had by either squad as the series shifted to Blue Cross Arena on April 6 for game two of the doubleheader. The Swarm hit the road just hours after dropping the opener in overtime, and may have been dealing with some residual fatigue in the early going, as Rochester was able to jump out to a 5-1 lead after the first quarter.
Minnesota was able to claw their way back into contention with three straight tallies to cut the Knighthawks’ lead to 7-5 heading into halftime, but Rochester was quick to respond again, scoring the first four goals in the third quarter on their way to a 12-9 victory, giving them a three-game season sweep of the Swarm.
As had become routine for the Swarm, leading the charge offensively was Crawford (3g, 1a) and Schuss (2g, 1a). Transition player Tyler Hass chipped in with two goals.
Schuss leads Swarm on Record-Breaking Night:
The Swarm were able to put together a complete team performance from their goaltender to their forwards in a thrilling 10-9 victory over the Buffalo Bandits on April 12 at The Hive. However, the night was even more memorable thanks to a couple of remarkable individual achievements.
By scoring the go-ahead goal late in the fourth quarter, Logan Schuss (4g, 2a) set a new Swarm franchise record for goals by a rookie in a single season with his 30th. The 2013 No. 1 overall pick surpassed T Kiel Matisz’s mark of 29 set in 2013. Also making Swarm history was fellow forward Callum Crawford (1g, 2a), who tied the all-time franchise record with his 141th career goal in a Minnesota uniform, a record set by Ryan Benesch, who suited up in the game for the Bandits.
While the game featured plenty of offensive milestones, down the stretch it came down to defense as the Swarm had to withstand a furious Buffalo surge to maintain their lead, but G Tyler Carlson was equal to the task. Carlson made 41 saves on 50 shots (.820 Sv%), including a pair of highlight reel stops in the final minute of play with the game on the line.
Even though the win gave the Swarm a season series victory over their East Division rivals, the excitement was dampened when they learned after the game that they had been eliminated from playoff contention due to a victory by the Toronto Rock.
Crawford Breaks the Record against Colorado:
While Crawford was unable to surpass Benesch’s franchise goal mark while playing against him, he didn’t waste much time before breaking the record the following weekend when the Colorado Mammoth visited The Hive on April 19 for the second leg of a three-game homestand to end the 2014 season. Showtime’s goal 4:54 into the game marked the 142nd of his Swarm career, becoming Minnesota’s most decorated goal scorer in only his fifth season in Saint Paul.
More records were broken, as rookie defensemen Jason Noble set a new NLL record for forced turnovers in a season by a rookie with his 22nd of the season. The No. 2 overall pick of the 2013 NLL Entry Draft broke Tyler Garrison’s previous high of 21 set in 2013 with the Washington Stealth.
Schuss continued to dominate on offense, tallying seven points (4g, 3a) and breaking the Swarm record for points by a rookie in the process.
However, the Swarm as a team could not replicate these individual successes, as they were overwhelmed by a potent Colorado offense during an 18-12 defeat. Despite holding a 5-4 lead after the first quarter, Minnesota could not contain the Mammoth attack. Trailing 9-6 at the break, the Swarm scored two quick goals to pull within one, but Colorado quickly regained control, tallying six of the game’s next seven to take a 15-9 lead.
Comeback Falls Short in Season Finale:
In their final game of the 2014 season on April 26 against the Toronto Rock, the Swarm found themselves in a position that had become maddeningly familiar to them – in a sizable fourth quarter hole in front of their home crowd. But like they always seemed to do, Minnesota found a way to muster a spirited comeback in the game’s final stretch. Unfortunately, the last stand of the 2014 Swarm turned out to be too little, too late as Toronto was able to hold on for an 8-6 victory.
The Rock were able to hold Minnesota to only two goals in the first half, and without a goal at all in the third quarter, allowing them to take an 8-2 advantage early in the final frame. Backed into a corner, the previously dormant Swarm attack sprung back to life, scoring two goals 20 seconds apart from Hass and Schuss (2g, 3a), followed by back-to-back goals by Jackson, which cut into the Toronto lead.
A bright spot in the defeat was the stellar play of Zach Higgins in the Swarm cage. The second-year pro capped off his season with a career-high and 2014 NLL-record 53 saves, many of them of the difficult variety, coming on odd-man rushes and special teams.
Player Profiles: A closer look at the Month’s most Prolific performers
#45 Jason Noble
Defense, 5’10’’, 165 lbs., Orangeville, Ontario
2014 Stats: 17 GP, 1 A, 10 PIM, 71 LB, 24 FT
Never one to take the spotlight, rookie defensemen Jason Noble quietly put together a record-breaking first season in the Swarm back end. The No. 2 Overall Pick in last year’s draft put up his best numbers in April, tallying 19 loose balls and nine forced turnovers in five games, helping him break the NLL record for forced turnovers by a rookie (24). The Cornell alum may be one of the smaller players on the Swarm roster, but he made up for it with unparalleled speed and positional awareness. Noble will be representing Team Canada in the upcoming FIL World Lacrosse Championships this July.
#18 Logan Schuss
Forward, 6’0’’, 210 lbs., Ladner, British Columbia
2014 Stats: 18 GP, 36 G, 37 A, 73 PTS, 9 PPG, 203 S, 158 SOG, 77 LB
What can be said that hasn’t been said before the rookie campaign of Logan Schuss? The 2013 No. 1 overall selection was one of the most consistent contributors within the Swarm offense all season, but he took his game into another gear down the home stretch. Schuss tallied 27 points (15g, 12a) in five games in April, capturing franchise single season records in goals and points by a rookie.
He finished sixth in the entire league in goals (36), and sat atop all NLL first-years in goals, assists (37), points (72), power play goals (9) and shots on goal (158). The Ohio State graduate’s incredible play earned him NLL Rookie of the Month honors in February, March and April, and Schuss has to be considered the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year when the candidates are announced in the coming weeks.
It is no secret that the 2014 Minnesota Swarm’s 4-14 record and fifth-place finish in the East Division both came as major disappointments to their players, staff and fans after a season that had started with expectations of winning the franchise’s first Champion’s Cup. However, those expectations are not changing whatsoever heading into the 2015, as the young Minnesota club will be a year more mature and experienced when they reconvene in December for training camp.
One of the main reasons given for the struggles of the 2014 Minnesota squad was their youth. The Swarm featured a roster with eight first-round picks from the 2012 and 2013 NLL drafts, and will figure in to add more top-tier young talent in the 2014 Draft this fall. 75 percent of Minnesota’s 20-man roster had two or fewer years of NLL experience under their belt prior to the season, which goes to show that the ceiling is incredibly high for this group of players in the upcoming years as they grow and become more accustomed to the league.
Despite their place in the final standings, the Swarm received record-breaking rookie seasons from Logan Schuss and Jason Noble. Rookie forward Scott Jones showed a knack for scoring big-time goals in big-time situations. Kiel Matisz and Shayne Jackson – while their 2014 production took a dip from their rookie outputs – still showed that they have the skill sets to take a game over by themselves. Brock Sorensen, David Earl and Tyler Hass proved to be a dangerous transition core, while Jeff Gilbert, Greg Downing and Alex Crepinsek showed early in the year and at times down the stretch that the Minnesota defense can dominate a game just as well as their offense can.
Then there is Callum Crawford and Jordan MacIntosh, a pair who have cemented themselves in the NLL’s elite. Add in the captain and the heart and soul of the team in Andrew Suitor and there is no reason to believe that the Swarm cannot be among the league’s best teams over the next several years.
While it is true that the past season of Swarm lacrosse was not one of the best as far as wins and losses go, it is also true that Minnesota wields a group of players that are as skilled as in any point of the franchise’s history. Factor in the best home-turf advantage in the NLL with The Hive and the future is certainly bright for the Minnesota Swarm.