How great is this?! I’m writing this preview Sunday afternoon, just hours after the Swarm beat the Philadelphia Wings 11-9 and I CAN’T WAIT FOR NEXT SATURDAY NIGHT!
How great is this?! I’m writing this preview Sunday afternoon, just hours after the Swarm beat the Philadelphia Wings 11-9 and I CAN’T WAIT FOR NEXT SATURDAY NIGHT! Thanks in large part to the Rochester Knighthawks’ dismantling of the Washington Stealth late Saturday night 18-10, next Saturday’s game against the Colorado Mammoth means so much… a Swarm win and the team hosts a West Divisional Semifinal playoff game for only the second time in franchise history. “I found out the Rochester score as I was driving to Duluth with Defenseman Joe Cinosky last night for our University of Minnesota club lacrosse game against St. Cloud State,” says Swarm Assistant Coach Aime Caines. “My wife (Swarm Marketing Director) Brooke texted me on the road and Joe and I were so excited. The stars are aligning for us and now the last regular season game really means something. We control our own destiny.”
Controlling Your Own Destiny: The notion is chiseled deeply into the annals of sport. That’s what you play for… not having to depend on anyone else for your success. And after 15 regular season games, Saturday’s game against the Colorado Mammoth is where the Swarm’s destiny could be fulfilled. “Once Calgary secured the top spot in the West a few weeks ago, we focused on the #2 seed,” says Caines. “That was our goal and it’s a reachable goal now. We couldn’t be happier but now we have to realize our potential and earn that home playoff game.”
It didn’t look so good at halftime against the Wings on Saturday. Down 5-2, Head Coach Mike Lines and Assistant Coaches Caines and Joe Fitzgerald didn’t panic, especially after peppering Wings goalie Brandon Miller with 29 shots in the first half. They knew their chances would come… and truth be told, this team is used to fighting adversity. “Sure, we got off to a slow start, but we made adjustments in the 2nd half, started shooting high instead of low (finishing with a season-high 60 shots), scoring some goals and getting the fans into it,” says Caines admiringly. “Our fans have been so great, and Saturday was our biggest and best crowd of the year. We raised over $2,000 for the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund and we got the win. It was just a great night all around… and we’ve got momentum now too which is great.”
Momentum: Another element etched in stone in the annals of sport. Heading into the playoffs, there is little more important than “Big Mo”. Take last year for example when the Swarm entered the postseason on a six game losing streak. Not what you want heading into a one-and-done postseason. “We backed in last year with a 5-11 record,” remembers Caines. “We didn’t have as much confidence as we would have liked and I think it showed (the Swarm lost 14-10 at eventual Champion’s Cup winner Washington). This year, we want to go into the playoffs rolling with everything clicking. Our confidence is at an all time high and we’re ready to go against Colorado.”
Saturday’s matchup with the Mammoth should be a real treat. The Junior Performance Team is performing at halftime and expectations are high. “Colorado can’t go up or down… they’re locked into the #4 seed, but they want to go into the playoffs with momentum just like we do,” says Caines. “We’ve beaten them twice in their arena (12-10 on February 20th and 11-10 in OT on March 3rd) so we know what to expect. But they do as well… and they’re coming off an 11-7 win over top-seeded Calgary on April 15th, the team they’ll be facing in the first round of the playoffs. This will be a hard fought game for sure and we’re looking forward to it.”
Only once before in the seven year history of the Swarm has The Hive hosted a playoff game. In May of 2008, the season before the Arlottas purchased the team, the Swarm hosted the New York Titans. The pre-game hype was extraordinary; many radio stations interviewed players in the days leading up to the game, both papers wrote previews and all the TV stations had stories. The buzz (sorry Buzz… didn’t mean to usurp your name) was awesome, although the 11-8 Titans win was clearly anticlimactic. “A home playoff game would be a terrific reward for the awesome fans we have and for the entire organization” says Caines. “Plus traveling can be a bear and playing in front of a hostile crowd is never easy. At home, we have our routines and The Hive is just terrific… there is a definite advantage to playing at home!”
One final note: It’s my pleasure to officially congratulate #21 Ryan Benesch on winning the 2011 NLL Scoring Title, a first for anyone wearing the “Winged S”. Even with one game left, Benny has already secured the title. Washington’s Rhys Duch and Lewis Ratcliff each scored two goals in Saturday’s Stealth loss to Rochester. Duch finished with 42 goals on the season and Ratcliff finished with 41. Benny already has 43 after his hat trick against the Wings with more likely to come this Saturday against the Mammoth. “Benny is such a modest guy,” says Caines. “He gives so much credit to his linemates as well as to the defense and the goalies. But make no mistake, he deserves the accolades. It couldn’t happen to a better guy and teammate.”
Thankfully we have at least one more game to see Benny and his Jets at The Hive. And if momentum holds true and destiny is served, we’ll have another chance one week from Saturday in the first round of the playoffs. I won’t even begin to discuss the potential for hosting the West Divisional Final the weekend of May 6th - 8th. That would only make my head explode with joy!