SAINT PAUL, Minn. – At least one Minnesota team is headed to the postseason this year. And before the excitement and drama of the 2011 NLL Playoffs begins, Swarm fans will be treated to a playoff-like atmosphere during the team’s regular season finale this weekend at Treasure Island Field.
After defeating the Philadelphia Wings 11-9 last week, the Minnesota Swarm (7-8) now has an opportunity to secure a home playoff game with a win against the Colorado Mammoth (5-10). The Swarm plays the Mammoth on Saturday, April 23 at Treasure Island Field at Xcel Energy Center. Face-off is set for 7:30 p.m. CT.
“Saturday’s win against the Wings was promising and rewarding at the same time,” general manager Marty O’Neill said. “It was a big night for us.”
In order to keep its chances alive to host a home playoff game, the Swarm needed to win last week as well as have Washington lose to Rochester. Fortunately for Minnesota, it got both results as Rochester handily defeated Washington 18-10. The loss dropped the Stealth to 8-8 and opened the door for Minnesota to move into second place in the West Division. The Swarm holds the tiebreaker advantage against the Stealth after winning the season series 2-1.
“We’re not looking ahead of this week’s matchup, but everyone has known for a couple of weeks now that we would be playing Washington in the playoffs,” O’Neill said. “There’s all sorts of dynamics in play right now that are interesting. All we can do is just focus in for 60 minutes on Saturday night, take care of that job and move on.”
The Swarm will be making its fifth trip to the postseason in its seven-year history this year. If Minnesota wins this Saturday against Colorado, it will host its first home playoff game since 2008. If Minnesota loses, it will head to Comcast Arena at Everett and start the playoffs against Washington on the road for the second straight season. The Swarm has defeated Colorado twice this season, winning both contests on the road at Pepsi Center.
“We’ve beaten them late in both games,” O’Neill said. “We were fortunate to get out of there with wins. I think we need to clean up our game a little bit and go to town in our game planning for them. We really need to try and shore up any weaknesses we may have because we’ve already played them twice.”
A large part of Minnesota’s success in 2011 has been due to the development of forward Ryan Benesch. Benesch, who leads the league with 43 goals, is having a career season, totaling 87 points (43g, 44a). In fact, the Kitchener, Ontario native is on pace to become the first player in team history to lead the league in goals. Among players who still have games to play, Mammoth F John Grant sits the closest behind Benesch with 35 goals.
Benesch added another accomplishment to his 2011 campaign last week, setting a new Swarm single season goal mark (43) after recording three goals. Benesch surpassed teammate F Aaron Wilson, who previously set the record in 2010 with 40 goals. Earlier this season, the five-year veteran also eclipsed team records in single game points (11) and goals (7). His seven goals in a Week 2 victory against Washington still stands as the highest goal total by any player in the NLL this season.
“Ryan is a pure goal scorer,” O’Neill said. “Unlike some players who are points guys and can do it all – we need him putting the ball in the net and that’s going to dictate success for us.
“The reason why Ryan is leading the Swarm and the league in goals is because he is the best finisher in the game right now.”
Minnesota set its highest attendance mark of the season last week, drawing 9,635 fans against the Wings. The Swarm is once again looking to pack the Hive, and is offering season ticket holders the opportunity to Bring a Buddy to this Saturday’s game.
“I encourage fans to come out this Saturday to Xcel Energy Center and see what lacrosse is all about,” O’Neill said. “And what it’s all about is a bunch of guys working hard to accomplish a seasonal goal of making the postseason to host a home playoff game, and ultimately working towards winning a championship.
“Everybody can be part of this playoff team and help build it into something more if we go deep into the playoffs.”
Lower level single game tickets can be purchased for as low as $24 for the Swarm’s final home game. Tickets are available online at mnswarm.com or by calling 888-MN-SWARM. If the Swarm wins this weekend, playoff packages will be available at mnswarm.com and single game playoff tickets will be available Monday morning (4/25) on mnswarm.com.