SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Swarm (3-1) will head to the East Coast to take on the Buffalo Bandits (2-2) this Friday, Feb. 4 at HSBC Arena. Game time is set for 6:30 p.m. CST.
Minnesota will look to add another win to its strong start in 2011 and extend its first place lead in the Western Division. The Swarm has won three straight games since losing its season opener to Rochester on Jan. 8 and will be looking for its first four-game winning streak since 2007.
Minnesota has benefited from a balanced scoring attack on offense led by F Ryan Benesch, who has a team-high 26 points (13g, 13a). Benesch recorded the game-winning goal in overtime last weekend to give the Swarm an 11-10 victory against the Washington Stealth.
Forwards Callum Crawford (2g, 3a) and Aaron Wilson (2g, 3a) both posted five points in the win and continue to be productive after career-best seasons in 2010. Crawford ranks second on the team with 18 points (8g, 10a) and Wilson sits third with 15 points (6g, 9a).
“I told the guys before overtime started that it was our time to win an overtime game,” Wilson said. “I was so confident we were going to pull it out. We were outworking them.”
Prior to last Saturday’s win, Minnesota had lost five consecutive overtime games dating back to 2008.
On defense, G Nick Patterson and Co. continues to frustrate opponents. Patterson recorded his third straight victory last weekend and has not missed a minute of action this season. The eight-year veteran is posting career-bests in GAA (9.05) and SV% (.816). He has also been named the NLL Defensive Player of the Week twice in 2011.
“We can depend on them,” Wilson said. “They came up with some huge stops against Washington.”
Minnesota has allowed a league low 37 goals this season and its penalty kill percentage at 68.4% ranks third.
“We are playing well as a unit,” D Noah Talbot said. “We’ve been riding the strong play of Nick Patterson the last few weeks. He’s playing great and making us all better.”
A trio of big names leads the Bandits in 2011 in F John Tavares (5g, 8a), F Tracey Kelusky (4g, 9a) and T Mark Steenhuis (4g, 8a). The Bandits currently rank last in goals scored this season (38), but rank second behind only the Swarm in goals allowed (38).
Buffalo leads the all-time series against Minnesota 11-2. The Swarm’s last victory against the Bandits came in 2008, where it stunned a sold-out crowd at HSBC Arena with a 16-15 victory on Feb. 28.
Buffalo currently sits atop the league in attendance this season after drawing over 16,000 fans during its home opener on Jan. 22.
“It’s a hostile environment,” F Kevin Ross said. “They are going to pack that arena to capacity. They are a big, strong and tough team. Traditionally they are one of the best teams in the league.”
Ross, a native of London, Ontario, said this week’s game will be special for many players on the team.
“A lot of the guys on the team are from Ontario and Eastern Canada,” Ross said. “There’s a lot of family and friends that will be in attendance on Friday so it will be an exciting game for us.”
2011 Swarm road games are streamed LIVE on mnswarm.com and nll.com at no cost.