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LAX 101: Toyota Professor's Green Night Preview

02/15/2011, 2:49pm CST
By mnswarm.com

The Toyota Professor takes a look at this weekend's game against the Blazers

Swarm vs. Boston Preview - While we welcome the Swarm back to the Hive this weekend, we do so knowing the three weeks since their thrilling 11-10 overtime win over the Washington Stealth on January 29th haven’t been good ones. After losing to the despised Buffalo Bandits 15-12 on February 4th, the Swarm ventured into another of the Eastern Division’s lion’s dens on Saturday, losing to the Rochester Knighthawks 12-10. “We fought hard and just came up short,” says Swarm Assistant Coach Aime Caines about his team’s effort. “We had a two goal lead late in the game and had a number of chances to put them away, but their goalie (Matt Vinc) came up big, their veteran forwards beat our D and Patty (Nick Patterson) and that was that.”

What was especially surprising was the line score… particularly the goalless fourth quarter in light of the fact that the Swarm peppered Vinc with 9 shots. Caines: “I thought we had them on the ropes… we were up 10-8 with 3:44 left in the 3rd quarter but they scored all the goals from there. We also had a penalty shot when we were down 12-10 with 3:34 left in the game that Benny (Ryan Benesch) made a nice play on, but Vinc made the save. That would have pulled us to within 1 but it wasn’t meant to be.”

Even though Benesch missed the penalty shot, the team’s early season MVP had another stellar game… hitting the twine four more times for a team-leading 20 goals this season in just 6 games. Do the math… Ryan Benesch is averaging better than a hat trick a game. “He’s clearly been our big gun on O this year,” says Caines, “but he was a top ten scorer last season too. We expected him to play well but this has been amazing. He was named to the All Star Team and our opponents are all having trouble keeping up with him. It’s fun to watch.” If you’re a stat junkie like I am, delve a little deeper into the statistics and you’ll see that Benny’s third place standing in the NLL’s top scorers is even more incredible when you consider he’s done it in far fewer games than the competition. Of the top 8, only Benesch has played in 6 games. The others have played in 7 or 8. It really is remarkable what the humble #21 has been able to do this season.

The game in Rochester also marked the beginning of Jamie Shewchuk’s Swarm career. The 5’10”, 170 lb. lefty forward has always been a thorn in the side of the Swarm, and according to “Trader” Marty O’Neill, the best way to remove the thorn is to trade for him. “It was great to see Jamie already have an impact on our offense (2 goals) against Rochester”, says Caines, “He’s so quick and great off the ball… he’s got a knack for cutting through the middle and getting open. He balances out our left side and he’ll help our power play… he’s another guy for the opposing team’s defense to worry about, and that’s a good thing.”

Next weekend also marks the first of two back-to-back games this season, (three if you count the March 25-March 27 Friday-Sunday twin bill). The Swarm welcomes the rough and ready Boston Blazers into the Hive on Saturday night and then the boys hop on a plane Sunday morning for Sunday night’s game in Denver against the Colorado Mammoth. “Both games are important,” conveys Caines in his usual understated way. “We need to show we can beat one of the Eastern Division teams after losing all three of our games so far (0-2 vs. Rochester and 0-1 vs, Buffalo), and Colorado is a tough Western Division team whose 1-5 record doesn’t indicate how good they are. Plus we’re playing them in the Pepsi Center which is always a tough place to play.”

Logistically, after the Swarm plays Saturday night, they’ll eat and get hydrated, get postgame treatment from the medical staff, go to bed as soon as they can and then get to Minneapolis/St Paul airport for a 9:45 am flight to Denver. But the guys are professional athletes so they’ll be OK. “These two games are huge… this is probably our biggest weekend of the year and the guys know it. They’re veterans… they know how to take care of their bodies. Plus after Saturday’s game, we’ll be able to instantly employ what we learned for Sunday’s game. So there is that upside too.”

With two games this weekend, here’s Amie Caines’ quick take on each team:

Boston Blazers (5-3, 4th place in the Eastern Division):
“They’re a powerhouse. They’ve got four legitimate scoring options we need to be aware of at all times… they’ll get their goals but we need to minimize their impact”:
• Casey Powell (24G/25A = 49 pts)
• Dan Dawson (13G/35A) = 48 pts
• Josh Sanderson (11G/22A = 33 pts)
• Former Swarm Forward Kevin Buchanan (12G/17A = 29 pts)

Then Sunday, the Swarm dons their road blue unis in Denver against the Western Division’s Colorado Mammoth (1-5, 5th place in the Western Division):
“Even though they’re 1-5, they’re much better than that. We’re not sleeping on their record, that’s for sure. They have one of the greatest indoor lacrosse players ever in John Grant Jr. who leads the team with 14 goals and 19 assists, they have huge crowds and it’s always a tough place to play. Plus it’s a homecoming for Shewchuk so we’re looking for him to light it up against his former team.”

One final note: Can we finally put to bed the “Toughest Guy in the League” question? For the second time this season, Swarm defenseman Rory Smith dropped the gloves with the Knighthawks’ Terry Bonterre…a 6’3”, 259 lb. barn door of a man whose sole purpose on the planet is to tear people’s heads off. But Smith went toe to toe with him again, even absorbing a punch that would have knocked out a mere mortal. Smith took it and followed that up with some punches of his own. “He took a huge punch and didn’t go down,” says an amazed Caines. “It’s too bad we didn’t get the win for him. He deserved it.”

Class Dismissed

The Professor


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