SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Swarm (3-3) will play back-to-back games this weekend for the first time in 2011.
The Swarm first take on the Boston Blazers (5-3) on Treasure Island Field at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday, Feb. 19 at 7:30 p.m. Minnesota then hits the road for a divisional road game the following night against the Colorado Mammoth (1-5) at the Pepsi Center on Sunday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m.
“The back-to-back gives us a chance to use the players we have been grooming,” coach Mike Lines said. “We are going to use our whole lineup this weekend and that should give us some fresh legs heading into Colorado. We are looking forward to the challenge and seeing how the team responds to a back-to-back.”
Minnesota returns home after completing a two-game road trip on the East Coast. The Swarm is 2-1 at home this season and currently sits a half-game behind the Calgary Roughnecks (4-3) for first place in the West Division.
The Blazers will enter Xcel Energy Center with plenty of elite talent on its roster. Boston’s “Big 3”, in forwards Casey Powell (24g, 25a), Dan Dawson (13g, 35a) and Josh Sanderson (11g, 22a) have combined to score more points than any other trio in the NLL this season. Powell, who won the 2010 NLL MVP award with Orlando, currently leads the league in points and goals.
“They have three or four of the best players in the game,” Lines said. “We have to pay closer attention to them than we normally would. Coming from the Eastern Division, they are a rough and physical team. To beat them, we have to be very physical with them.”
Former Swarm F Kevin Buchanan will make his first trip to Minnesota since being traded this past offseason for F Mat Giles. Buchanan was named to the All-Rookie Team as a member of the Swarm in 2008. He ranks fourth on Blazers with 29 points (12g, 17a).
Forward Ryan Benesch continues to head the Swarm’s attack after another strong performance in Week 6. Benesch recorded a game-high four goals in the Swarm’s 12-10 loss to Rochester and is averaging more than a hat trick a game through six games. The soon to be starter for the West All-Star team ranks fifth in the NLL in scoring with 38 points (20g, 18a).
Saturday’s matchup features two of the league’s premier goaltenders. Swarm G Nick Patterson, who will also start in this year’s All-Star game, is off to a 3-2 start and ranks fourth in the NLL with a .796 SV%. On the other side, G Anthony Cosmo will suit up for Boston after winning Week 6 Defensive Player of the Week honors for his performance in the Blazers 11-6 win against Colorado.
Minnesota will look to use to utilize its power-play chances both on offense and defense at home. The Swarm has both the league’s second ranked home power play record (53.8%) and power-play kill home record (71.4%).
The Swarm is 0-2 all-time against Boston and is 0-3 against Eastern opponents in 2011.
On Sunday, Minnesota travels to the Pepsi Center to battle the Mammoth for the first time this season. Colorado is also scheduled for two games this weekend, but plays its first game Friday night in Washington.
“We’d like to see ourselves at 5-3 after this weekend,” Lines said. “That’s our goal. It’s a close division and only a couple of games separate everybody. You can’t take anything for granted and every game is a big game, especially in the division.”
Colorado is led by one the league’s all-time greats, F John Grant (14g, 19a). Grant is in his first season with the Mammoth after spending 10 years with Rochester.
Minnesota won the season series last year 2-1, and defeated the Mammoth on the road 13-12 behind a dramatic last second goal from F Tim Campeau. Campeau was traded to the Mammoth last week for F Jamie Shewchuk. In his Swarm debut against the Knighthawks, Shewchuk tallied three points (2g, 1a).
Colorado holds the all-time series advantage at 5-2 and is 0-3 at home this year.
The Swarm will celebrate Go Green Night at the Hive on Feb. 19 and has partnered with Xcel Energy’s Windsource® program by purchasing enough renewable energy to completely offset the electricity needed to power its game that evening.
Tickets for the 2011 Minnesota Swarm season, presented by Treasure Island Resort & Casino, are available by visiting mnswarm.com or calling 888-MN-SWARM.