“WHO’S THAT GOALTENDER?!” By now, the question posed by Bruce Cusick is always answered with a resounding… “PATTERSON!” Swarm goaltender Nick Patterson is having a career year, and even though we’re only three games into the 2011 NLL season, it’s clear Patty is focused and locked in like never before. “He’s playing with such confidence now,” says Swarm Assistant Coach Aime Caines. “And that confidence gives the entire team confidence. He’s our last line of defense and if our D gets beat or if we’re a man down, Patty bails us out. And that snowballs helping our offense too. He’s the key, no doubt about it.”
A check of the NLL’s stats confirms what we’ve seen thus far this season. Patty leads the league in goals against average as the only goalie in the NLL giving up fewer than 9 goals per game. And in Saturday’s win over Edmonton, Patty was unreal, making 47 saves on the Rush’s 55 shots. And during the second quarter when the Rush had four power plays, #93 was immense. “During that second quarter,” says Caines, “we only had a handful of shots because we were a man down for most of the quarter. They had twice the shots we had at halftime and we were only down one goal (5-4). We knew we had climbed a steep hill and thanks to Patty, we were still in it.”
The second half was among the best 30 minutes of lacrosse in the history of the Hive. The teams went back and forth but with the Rush leading 7-5 just 14 seconds into the 4th quarter, many in the Hive, even the most ardent Swarm fans, had to think… ‘Oh no, not again.’ But this one would be different… the Swarm ripped off three unanswered goals by Callum Crawford, Ryan Benesch and Tyler Haas (his first NLL goal) to take the lead 8-7. But the Rush tied it up with 3:28 to play… and again, it looked like déjà vu all over again. But not this time: Enter the triumvirate of Crawford and co-captains Aaron Wilson and Mat Giles in a play Aime Caines simply calls “Linesy’s Play” (after Head Coach Mike Lines who drew up the play): “We sent Giles cutting through the middle where he set a pick… Callum passed it to Wilson who’s quick stick went off the inside of the post to beat a sliding Matt Disher. Willy’s such a leader who’s had big goals for us in the past… that was the highlight of the night for sure.” Another highlight was watching how high Wilson jumped into the arms of Crawford. You could tell the team needed a win and that goal made it possible.
But there was still time for one more Nick Patterson moment… and after 45 saves, his 46th was quite possibly the best of all. Former Swarm forward Dean Hill was parked in his customary spot off the left post… former Swarm forward Ryan Ward found him open… but Patty made the save of the night off Hill’s quick stick. “My heart stopped on that play,” deadpans Caines. “Patty slid over and stopped a sure goal with his body. Just amazing!”
And that was that… after almost a full calendar year (the last home win was February 20, 2010 over Colorado), the Swarm finally notched a win at the Hive. Caines: “I can’t tell you the relief I felt when the final horn went off. I know we’re a good team but it’s been such a long time since we won on our home turf. We won a close game at home, proving to ourselves and our fans that when we get in that situation, we know how to close games out. We won the 4th quarter (4-2) and now we’re on our way.”
Something else that bears mentioning… the Swarm not only lead the West Division with ½ game leads over Washington and Calgary, they have the league’s top goalie as well as the league’s top power play, scoring on 60% of their chances (9 goals in 15 power play attempts). “That is a great and important stat,” says Caines. “Again, it starts with Patty. Because he’s playing so well, our guys don’t get anxious, even a man up. When you get uptight, you make poor decisions and shoot too quickly. Our guys seem much calmer this year… and again, that starts with Patty.”
Saturday night back at the Hive, it’s a rematch against a Washington team that is still smarting from the Swarm’s 16-8 drubbing in Everett earlier this month. The Stealth is playing better having just beaten Calgary 19-14 last weekend. “They’ll remember how we beat them at home,” says Caines. “They’ll be looking for revenge… no one likes to get beat that bad at home. But we’ll be ready.”
One final note… while Patty, the defense and the offense all played very well against Edmonton, it might be the sartorial choices of Swarm management that played the biggest part in the win. For the first time in recent memory, Swarm General Manager Marty O’Neill wore a taupe colored suit. I’ve known him since 1995 and I’ve never seen him in any suit other than a dark one. And if that doesn’t clinch it… there’s this story: Swarm Owner John Arlotta is always impeccably dressed. But two weeks ago in Washington, he forgot his dress socks. With no other choice, John wore a pair of ankle high white Swarm logo socks with his suit. The Swarm won that night and, true to form, John wore the socks again on Saturday for another win. In a season that’s shaping up to be an incredible ride, we’ll leave nothing to chance. You can be sure Marty will have his light colored suit on Saturday and John will have his white socks paired with his dress shoes. When things are going well, you don’t mess with success.
“Who’s that goaltender?!” More like… “Who’s that tailor?!”