Swarm vs Edmonton Preview
“I’ve seen really good players have really good nights, but never anything like that!” is how Swarm Assistant Coach Aime Caines, a lifelong lacrosse player and twelve year veteran of professional lacrosse (in Canada’s Major Series Lacrosse, Western Lacrosse Association as well as the NLL as player and coach) summed up Ryan Benesch’s 7 goal, 3 assist game last Friday against Washington. “The great thing is, he scored every way possible,” adds Caines. “Outside, inside, cutting across the middle, on the power play… even on a penalty shot. That’s a once-in-a-career night. I’ve seen guys score 4 or 5 goals in a game, but 7… that’s almost unheard of.”
Since last season, when Benesch tallied 28 goals, good enough for third on the Swarm behind Aaron Wilson’s 40 and Callum Crawford’s 32, everyone involved in the Swarm has known about his offensive prowess, but 7 goals puts Benesch in rarified air. Thanks to his outburst, Benesch now leads the NLL with 9 goals and is tied for the points lead with 15 alongside perennial all stars Lewis Ratcliff and Rhys Duch of the Stealth, both of whom saw Benesch heat up live. “I know Ryan, he’ll take it in stride and not get too cocky,” says Caines. “But the great thing is, both Ratcliff and Duch have played three games and we’ve only played two. That makes his place on top of the league scoring that much more amazing.” What’s also amazing is that, even with 7 goals, he didn’t get the game ball, given each game by the coaches to the player who had the most impact on the game. That honor went to goaltender Nick Patterson who stopped 50 Stealth shots. Talk about depth… this Swarm team’s got it on O and D!
Beyond Benesch’s and Patterson’s performances, something else notable happened in Friday’s game. For the first time in the history of the league, there were back to back penalty shots by the same team, courtesy of a new rule just implemented this year. “If a team is two men down,” says Caines, “and they get a penalty, rather than put three men in the box, the refs this year give a penalty shot. Since the Stealth were two men down (Chris McElroy and Mike Grimes were in the box for holding and slashing respectively) and then received two more minor penalties on the same play (Matt Beers for roughing and Matt Roik for slashing), the Swarm were awarded not one but two penalty shots. “Ryan scored on his and we could have had him take both,” says Caines. “It was well within the rules. But Zack Greer had two goals already and we wanted him to get his first NLL hat trick. Unfortunately, he missed.”
The win, the team’s first this season, was big for another reason… it was against a division opponent. With no team expected to dominate the West this season, every division win counts even more since head to head and division wins are two of the playoff tie breakers. Not to mention it was revenge for last May when the Stealth knocked the Swarm out of the playoffs… and then went on to win it all. Says Caines… ” It was payback time for sure.”
Next up for the Swarm, Saturday’s game against old friend (and new father – congratulations!) Ryan Ward and the 0-2 Edmonton Rush with more payback in order. Who can forget the last time the Rush were in the Hive? It was April 3rd last year… the Swarm were up 12-7 in the 4th quarter when the Rush mounted a comeback. Still up 12-11 with only 14 seconds left in the game, Edmonton scored the equalizer… and then the game winner by Brodie Miller in OT. A crushing defeat that silenced the Hive. “They beat us twice last year… and that OT loss at home still hurts. It was a nightmare game… there is no love lost between us, that’s for sure,” claims Caines. “And with the Bash Brothers (Ryan Suitor and Rory Smith) in the Hive, teams like Edmonton have to prepare differently for us. Whether or not they fight (only Suitor did vs. Washington), other team’s heads are on a swivel when they’re on the turf. They’re intimidating!”
After nearly beating Rochester in the home opener, and handily taking care of the Champion’s Cup winning Stealth last Friday, this Swarm team is clearly different than last year’s. A simple question… “Could this year’s team beat last year’s team”, is quickly answered with the affirmative. And there’s one thing this team can do to make everyone forget about last year’s 3-5 record at the Hive. Get a win… “Our fans really deserve to see us win,” says Caines. “It’s been a while and I’m confident it’s coming soon. Very soon!”