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LAX 101

04/26/2011, 4:34pm CDT
By mnswarm.com

The Toyota Professor takes a look at Round 1 of the NLL Playoffs

In my humble opinion, the Swarm’s 12-8 dismantling of the Colorado Mammoth at The Hive last Saturday was the most exhilarating game in the seven year history of the franchise. 

Matt Kelly Dives for the Crease

Playoffs… we’re talking playoffs! 

In my humble opinion, the Swarm’s 12-8 dismantling of the Colorado Mammoth at The Hive last Saturday was the most exhilarating game in the seven year history of the franchise.  Not only did the Swarm clinch a home playoff game for only the second time in team history, they did it with an unprecedented 10-0 run from the 11:39 mark of the 2nd quarter straight through to the 4th quarter.  Plus we saw the single best body check in the history of the team (and maybe the NLL) with many of the players’ parents, siblings, wives and girlfriends watching from Suite #8.  All in all it was an historic night at The Hive.  “In this league, we prepare so much,” says Swarm Assistant Coach Aime Caines.  “Any team can win on any given night and when everything comes together like it did, it’s awesome.  We were mean on D, we went on runs on offense and we finished the game out even though we didn’t score in the 4th quarter.  We didn’t win by just one goal; we won a must win game in style.  It was good to see us in control of that game until the end.”

This is the fifth time in team history the Swarm will play in the postseason and only once did the team host a playoff game.  In 2008, then East Division rival New York (with a future Bash Brother by the name of Rory Smith) came to the Xcel Energy Center (it wasn’t called The Hive then) and ended the Swarm’s season 11-8.  That team didn’t have nearly the talent of this one… the 2011 offense is far more balanced, the defense is far stingier, and Nick Patterson… well, Patty played that year too but this year Patty is like “Super Patty”.  “Look at the teams that have won the Champion’s Cup,” says Caines.  “They’ve all had solid goaltending.  Everything at this point in the season is momentum, and when you have a hot goalie, he can hold you in there and keep your momentum going.  Look at what he did against Colorado… it’s huge.  That’s what wins titles… defense and goaltending.  Right now, no one is hotter than Patty.”

Caines is quick to add that the Washington Stealth is no pushover.  The defending NLL champions led the league in goals scored with 203 and finished the regular season with an identical 8-8 record as the Swarm.  But the Swarm won the season series 2-1:

Game 1: Friday, January 14th: Swarm 16 Washington 8:
This is the lone lopsided affair between the two teams this season.  In the second game of the year at Washington, Minnesota jumped out to a 10-4 halftime lead due in large part to Ryan Benesch’s four goals on his way to a 7 goal, 4 assist outburst.  Nick Patterson made 50 saves in his first win of the season.

Game 2:  Saturday, January 29th: Swarm 11 Washington 10 (OT):
Just over two weeks later, the Swarm and Stealth met again, this time at The Hive.  Ryan Benesch once again earned game MVP honors beating Tyler Richards 2:13 into the extra session to boost the Swarm’s record to 3-1 on the young season.

Game 3:  Saturday, April 9th: Washington 15 Swarm 14 (OT):
The last time these teams met was also the last Swarm defeat of the year.  This one, another overtime thriller, ended just 0:30 seconds into overtime when Rhys Duch beat Patty.  It was Duch’s 5th goal of the game (has also had 5 assists) to go with Lewis Ratcliff’s 6 goals and 5 assists.

“I’ve watched all three games this week and here’s what it’s going to come down to… the little things.” says Caines.  “The team that does the little things will win this game.  We know we’ll score and they’ll score, we’ve got good D and so do they.  It’s going to come down to the little things like fighting for every loose ball, winning more draws, getting off the floor quickly in transition.  Every little thing counts in the playoffs. The little things add up to a big thing… winning the game and advancing in the playoffs.  Do that three times and you’re the champion.”

It will almost be one year to the day that the Swarm and Stealth last met in the playoffs.  Washington began their run to the 2010 Champion’s Cup by beating the Swarm 14-10 at home in the opening round of the playoffs last May 1st.  The Stealth jumped out to a 6-1 first quarter lead which the Swarm trimmed to 8-6 at the half.  The Swarm pulled to within one goal twice in the 2nd half (8-7 and 9-8) but the Stealth pulled away with four unanswered goals and the Swarm would never come back.  You know that’s not happening again.  “We’re heading into the playoffs on a roll… we’ve got a hot goalie and we’re a hot team right now.  And we’re playing at home.  When you get a crowd like ours was on Saturday… we didn’t score in the 4th quarter but they kept us in it.  That seventh man means so much to us.  This home playoff game is our way of saying thanks to them.  Offense wins games, defense wins championships, and home crowds make all the difference in the world.  They knocked us out of the playoffs last year so we owe them one.” 

I can’t leave this week’s class without mentioning two amazing things: Andrew Suitor’s big hit against Colorado and Ryan Benesch’s historic season:

Andrew Suitor’s Big Hit: At the team’s end of season banquet Friday night, Andrew Suitor was named the team’s Most Inspirational Player.  Saturday night, the Bash Brother showed why… drilling NLL legend John Grant Jr. with a hit that is easily the best hit in the league this season.  “It sounded like a car accident,” admires Caines.  “John Grant Jr. is a big man (6’2”, 224 lbs) and I’ve never seen him hit like that.  It really sent a message to their team and our team… no one was taking that game from us. Suits set the tone… the hit of the year for sure.”

Ryan Benesch’s Historic Season:  At that same banquet, Ryan Benesch was named the team’s Most Valuable Player.  And that was before he notched 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists) vs. Colorado to win both the league goals title (46 goals) as well as the scoring title (46 goals, 49 assists for 95 points).  Bottom line… we’ve just witnessed the single greatest offensive regular season in the 7 year history of the team.  “We knew he could score but to dominate like he did was just amazing,” says Caines.  “If you look at the guys who’ve won the scoring title, guys like John Grant Jr., John Tavares, Gary Gait… those are legends, Hall of Famers.  Now Benny is mentioned alongside them.  We are so happy for him but I’ll tell you one thing… he’d trade that scoring title for a Champion’s Cup right now.”

Saturday night at The Hive, the second season begins for Benny and his Jets.  Oh yeah!

Class dismissed

The Professor

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