The Minnesota Swarm will try to advance past the first round of the playoffs for the first time Saturday night when they meet the Colorado Mammoth in a West Divisional Semifinal at the Pepsi Center in Denver. (Photo Credit: Adam Borgstahl)
Watch the matchup between the Mammoth and the Swarm live at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday from the Pepsi Center only on CBS Sports Network.
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The Minnesota Swarm won four straight games to close the regular season. A fifth consecutive victory would give them a berth in the West Divisional Finals.
That is what they will try to accomplish Saturday night as they take on the Colorado Mammoth at the Pepsi Center in Denver in a game televised on CBS Sports Network.
The Swarm have never advanced past the first round in any of their five previous playoff appearances, a dubious streak they’re eager to end.
“It’s no secret, there hasn’t been a playoff win. There’s no hiding it, there’s no sugarcoating it. It’s unacceptable. We plan on being the team to change that,” said veteran team captain Andrew Suitor. “I think we have a little different swagger going in this year.”
Minnesota has relied on production from their rookies throughout the season, featuring four first-year players with more than 20 points and two rookie goaltenders. Swarm head coach and associate general manager Joe Sullivan expects no drop-off in their play as the intensity rises in the playoffs.
“These guys are coming prepared every game,” he said. “They are professionals and are mature beyond their years. I can’t think that they would do anything different.”
The rookie core is lead by All-Star Jordan MacIntosh. On Wednesday, the fourth overall pick in the 2011 NLL Entry Draft was named Transition Player of the Week for the second time in three weeks after recording two goals, four assists and a team high-tying 13 loose balls in a 16-13 win over Colorado last Saturday in St. Paul.
MacIntosh led all Minnesota rookies in scoring with 51 points (23 goals, 28 assists).
Sullivan has been rotating Evan Kirk (league-leading 9.81 goals-against average) and Tyler Carlson in net since early in the season, but may be leaning toward Carlson to start the playoff opener.
“I thought Tyler played real well (last weekend), so right now I would be tipping my hat to Tyler,” said Sullivan. “He played exactly how we asked him to play. He played big, he saw the ball well, and, until our defense broke down a bit, he was solid. I would expect that we would have to give him that opportunity coming off of that win.”
Carlson, who finished fourth in the NLL with a 12.04 GAA, did a nice job containing a potent Mammoth offense in the Swarm’s victory last Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center. He stopped 42 of 55 shots and helped the defense with his physical play.
The Mammoth will have to get things turned around quickly if they hope to make a deep run into the playoffs. Following an 11-3 start, Colorado lost its last two and dropped to the second seed in the West.
“It’s a new season. We’re very proud of our 11-5 record, but that doesn’t mean a lot right now,” said Mammoth coach Bob Hamley. “(We) can’t wait until Saturday.”
While Colorado boasts John Grant Jr., who had 116 points (league-best 50 goals, 66 assists) to break all-time single-season scoring record, the club will receive a huge boost with captain Gavin Prout returning to the lineup.
Prout, who missed the final two games with an undisclosed injury, had 22 goals and 61 assists this season.
“First and foremost he’s our captain, and he’s our leader,” said Hamley. “We’ll be able to do what we’ve done all season with him in the lineup as far as the offense goes. His leadership and his offensive ability are going to be huge for us on Saturday.”
Prout had five goals and 10 assists in two games against Minnesota this season with Colorado winning both times.