The Minnesota Swarm have won three of their last four games to get back in mix of the playoff race. (Photo: Scott Pierson)
Last year, the Minnesota Swarm were on the playoff bubble with a 5-7 record before winning their final four games of the season to make the playoffs and advance to the West Division Finals. This season, the Swarm hope they are in the midst of a similar run.
At one point last in the league with a 3-7 record, Minnesota (6-8) has now won three of their last four games to get back into the mix of the playoff race.
“I think we’re just starting to settle in now,” said Swarm goaltender Tyler Carlson. “We’re really just starting to become a family. We weren’t really meshing at the beginning of the year.”
Despite losing their captain Andrew Suitor to a season-ending knee injury earlier in the year, players such as forward Callum Crawford, transition player Jordan MacIntosh and rookie Kiel Matisz have stepped up as the recent winning stretch has really brought the team together.
“[The chemistry’s] the best,” said MacIntosh, who has been on a tear of late. “When you win, there’s no better feeling as a team. You go into the room and everyone’s smiling and you’re playing music and you’re happy and fist-pumping in the locker room.”
Minnesota has experienced an offensive explosion over their past five games, averaging over 16 goals per game over that span and scoring 20-plus goals in back-to-back games for the first time in franchise history and the first time an NLL team had done it since 2005. In their Week #14 win over the Buffalo Bandits, the Swarm scored 21 goals, the most by an NLL team this season.
“Now we’re actually putting the ball in the net, which definitely helps,” Carlson said.
With respect to the 2012 season and playoffs, the players see similarities to last year’s run.
“This season seems so much like last year,” MacIntosh said. “Struggle and then now we’re kind of hitting that streak right into playoffs. It’s very similar.”
However, the playoffs are no guarantee for Minnesota just yet. The Swarm are currently tied for sixth and hold just a one-game lead over Buffalo for the final playoff spot. Minnesota finishes the season with two battles against the Mammoth in consecutive weekends. They could clinch a postseason spot this weekend with a win along with some help from other teams.
“We’ve put ourselves in a situation now where it’s still each game at a time obviously, but we need to win right out in order to solidify our playoff spot,” said Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan.