One may assume the offseason for a professional athlete represents a chance to take a step away from the game they play – perhaps to take a vacation and spend some time with their families and friends. For most of the Swarm, this scenario could not be further from reality, as Minnesota players and coaches can be found scattered among numerous summer leagues and teams, often on more than one team at the same time.
With the hectic nature of summer lacrosse, it can be hard to keep up with what players are up to, so MNSwarm.com decided to shed some light on exactly what the Swarm is doing during their time away from The Hive.
Swarm on top of the world:
While the majority of the Swarm roster spent their summer with a lacrosse stick in hand, only four can say they earned the distinction of World Champion in doing so. Forward Jordan MacIntosh, transition players David Earl and Cam Flint, and defenseman Jason Noble left the 2014 FIL World Championships in Denver with gold medals as members of Team Canada, which took home its third world title this July.
After falling to the United States in the tournament’s opening game, the Canadians ran the table the rest of the way, capping things off with an 8-5 victory over the Americans in the championship game. The World Championship was their first since 2006 in London, Ontario. The Canadians and Americans have now met in the finals of five-consecutive FIL World Championships, dating back to 1998.
On the field, MacIntosh chipped in with six points (3g, 3a) and 15 ground balls over seven games in the tournament, including five ground balls in the title-clinching win. Flint also proved to be an offensive spark for the Canadians, adding seven points (3g, 4a). Earl and Noble each provided solid defense in front of goaltender and tournament MVP Dillon Ward (Colorado Mammoth), posting eight and seven ground balls respectively.
Zach Higgins: goaltender, offensive juggernaut:
If the Summer of 2014 is any indication, a potential answer to the Swarm’s offensive struggles last season could be in the last place they would ever expect: in their own net. Goaltender Zach Higgins has turned some heads recently in his time with the Brooklin Redmen of the MSL (Major Series Lacrosse), and it is not necessarily because of his ability to block shots.
Through 15 appearances with the Redmen, Higgins has tallied nine points, including a goal coming in a June 25 contest against the Oakville Rock. The win against the Rock, highlighted by his empty-net marker, sparked an impressive six-game point streak (1g, 7a) for the Courtice, Ontario native. With his nine points, Higgins sits ahead of nine players not wearing goalie equipment on the Brooklin scoring list, including Swarm defenseman Jordan Houtby (1g, 3a).
Higgins’ performance in between the pipes has not been too shabby either. The 23-year-old leads the MSL in wins with six, and sits in third with a .797 save percentage.
Pacing the scoring:
A few players have zeroed in on their scoring touch on their summer-league teams, and have some impressive offensive numbers to show for it. Forward Shayne Jackson, playing alongside Higgins, Houtby and Kiel Matisz with the Redmen, sits in second place in points in the entire MSL with 57 (22g, 35a). Jackson has been held without a goal only twice in 15 games, and has notched five or more points on six different occasions.
Over in the WLA (Western Lacrosse Association), a pair of Swarm forwards find themselves in the top five in point scoring. Newly-acquired Alex Turner is in third place with 62 points (34g, 36a) in 18 games with the Langley Thunder, while Dane Stevens sits close behind in fifth place with 58 points (24g, 34a) in 18 games played with the Burnaby Lakers.
Turner comes to Minnesota via a trade from Edmonton made on July 30, while Stevens scored five points (1g, 4a) in limited action during his first season in Minnesota last year.
A busy summer for David Earl:
David Earl has logged some serious mileage on his frequent flyer account since the Swarm season came to an end this May. Like several of his teammates, Earl spends his weekends playing field lacrosse in the MLL (Major League Lacrosse), where he currently serves as a forward with the Florida Launch, playing alongside Swarm prospect Reid Acton.
However, Florida is the third stop Earl has made this summer in what has been a whirlwind tour of the MLL. Prior to arriving with the Launch, Earl spent time with the Chesapeake Bayhawks and the New York Lizards, in addition to his participation in the World Championships with Team Canada. Despite the constant upheaval, Earl has found a way to consistently produce, tallying 15 points (12g, 3a) and 16 ground balls in 12 MLL games.
As if his duties as a player weren’t enough to keep him satisfied, Earl has also assumed a full slate of responsibility as the founder of 2Way Lacrosse, a company that runs youth lacrosse camps and tournaments throughout the summer based in his hometown of Simsbury, Conn.
It all adds up to a stocked summer of lacrosse for the Notre Dame graduate, who enjoys giving back to the game as much as he does playing it.
Giving back locally:
Rather than joining different teams all across North America, a few members of the Swarm organization chose to spend their offseason closer to Minnesota. Swarm forward Corbyn Tao and assistant coach Aime Caines have spent their offseason behind the bench of the Minnesota Jr. Swarm, the team’s elite youth box lacrosse team.
Aside from leading weekly practices, Tao and Caines led the Jr. Swarm to major youth tournaments in Winnipeg, Toronto and Calgary, where they played real box lacrosse against some of the best youth players in the U.S. and Canada.
In addition to his role with the Jr. Swarm, Caines also helped spearhead a pair of lacrosse camps for the youth in Native American communities. Along with captain Andrew Suitor, Caines offered top-notch instruction at the Lax-4-Life camp at the Fond du Lac Reservation. The next week Caines was at it again, joining up with veteran forward Callum Crawford to lead a four-day camp for 150 kids from the White Earth Nation in Mahnomen, Minn.
The youth camps and the Jr. Swarm are just a couple of examples of the Swarm organization’s commitment to growing lacrosse in Minnesota, and it is evident that their players and coaches are fully on board in this effort.