Your local professional indoor lacrosse heroes have new life this season. After a regular season that saw them match the worst record in franchise history (5-11 also in 2005) and finish on a six game losing streak, the Swarm get a reprieve. They actually clinched a postseason spot with the most losses for a playoff team in history and the worst record since the league went to 16 games in 2002. That resume earned them a trip to visit Everett to play the West Division leading Washington Stealth (11-5) on Saturday, May 1 at 9:30 pm CST.
The teams split their two game regular season series with the home team winning both times. Washington won at home on February 5 by a 12-9 score and the Swarm handed the Stealth their first loss of the season, dropping them to 6-1 with a 16-12 win at The Hive. Kevin Croswell started his only game of the season in the home victory over the Stealth making 28 saves on 40 shots. The win also was marked by the bench clearing brawl started by Stealth goaltender Tyler Richards who blatantly attacked Sean Pollock from behind.
The post season history for the Swarm is not too spectacular. They are 0-3 with two losses in Buffalo in 2006 and 2007 and a 2008 home loss to New York. They return to the playoffs this year after missing last year with a better record.
Only nine active roster players have played for the Swarm in a playoff game.
* Nick Patterson
* Dan Marohl
* Noah Talbot
* Sean Pollock
* Jon Sullivan
* Eric Pacey
* Ryan Sharp
* Colin Achenbach
* Nick Inch
Swarm captain Aaron Wilson is the only player to have won a NLL Championship. Scott Self, Richard Morgan and Noah Talbot have made it to the championship game. Tim Campeau, Ryan Benesch, Jay Thorimbert and Callum Crawford have played in at least one playoff game. That leaves the following players with no playoff experience: Josh Funk, Joe Cinosky, Kevin Ross, Zack Greer, Andrew Watt, Sean Thomson and Croswell, who dressed but did not play in the Swarm 2008 playoff game.
The Swarm line up for this weekend is pretty set based on what Head Coach Mike Lines has drawn up over the past month. The player in question is Ryan Sharp, who may or may not be available due to his duties as a police officer. If he makes it to Everett, expect him to play. Patterson will get the start in net this Saturday even though we already mentioned that Croswell started in the win over the Stealth in February.
The league's highest scoring team (211 goals), the Stealth, will get to play against the Swarm who tied Colorado with the most goals given up this season with 201. Lewis Ratcliff scored a league leading 46 goals this season. Rhys Duch and Jeff Zywicki will work together scoring on the right side. Tyler Richards and Matt Rock have alternated starts this season in net. My guess is Roik will get the start in net as he is the more veteran net minder. The Stealth are also a relatively young team in the league but they did advance to the West Division Finals last year.
Some say the Swarm are due to win one with the way the games have been finishing of late, but they have been due in each of the last six games. They do get away from playing East Division teams who they went 0-6 against this season and 0-4 in the last four games to finish the season. After the Titans game last weekend, the team was the most frustrated I have ever seen especially with the way the game finished. One may wonder how they can top last weekend and pull out another loss right at the end. It would have to be quite extraordinary for sure. Even with the frustration, players after the game were already looking ahead to the Stealth and they like their chances against them. They know they can play with the Stealth and they know they can beat them. Getting away from The Hive may be the best thing for the team, right now. This gives them the chance to loosen up a bit and bond together in a game few are expecting much of anything from them.
As we all know, the Swarm are the best three quarter team in the NLL this season and if only they could add the other quarter, they would be unstoppable. Even with the loss last weekend, I thought they played pretty well against a very strong Titans team. Patterson has played pretty well this season and the big three in Wilson, Crawford and Benesch continue to rip up opposing net minders. It may be just a matter of someone else stepping up enough to get them over the hump. A big game from Pollock, Thorimbert building on a strong April in the face off circle, a goal or two on transition from somebody like Watt and maybe Greer getting zeroed back in on the corners of the net could be enough to get the Swarm past the Stealth.
This Swarm team has the potential to be very good next year but I think they need to win Saturday night at least to have that chance to prove it. A loss may make the Arlottas rethink who they want to run the team next year. One more win helps keep a lot of players in blue and gold next year and keep the potential on track. Compared to the last Swarm teams that made the playoffs, this one has the most playoff experience especially with Wilson, who has done a lot of winning in his career. I think his playoff experience is something that can help this team out in a leadership role that was possibly missing with Ryan Cousins in the three previous playoff games. I see the Swarm getting behind early in the game as the Stealth crowd gives the enemy some early juice. The Swarm come back strong in the middle with some timely power play opportunities. Then the game is on in the fourth, where the Swarm finally learn from past mistakes by not letting up, cutting to the net more and staying more focused. It will be dramatic as Patterson staves off a late Stealth flurry of shots but the Swarm should be going to Alberta next weekend.
Prediction: Minnesota Swarm 14 Washington Stealth 13
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