The Minnesota Swarm’s late-season winning streak has extended into the playoffs. It also ended a season for the ages by Colorado’s John Grant Jr.
The Swarm overcame four-second half goals by the 2012 NLL Most Valuable Player and defeated the Colorado Mammoth 14-10 on Saturday night in a West Divisional Semifinal at the Pepsi Center.
The Swarm had never advanced past the first round in any of their five previous playoff appearances. Now, they’re a win away from a berth in the Champion’s Cup.
“Ecstatic about getting the monkey off our backs as far as playoffs go,” said Swarm associate general manager and head coach Joe Sullivan. “[The guys] played with a lot of resiliency and a lot of focus and we got the win so we couldn’t be happier.”
Minnesota will face Edmonton in the West Division Final next Saturday night at 9:30 p.m. ET in a game to be aired live on CBS Sports Network. The Rush stunned the top-seeded Roughnecks 19-11 later on Saturday.
Colorado was playing its first home playoff game since 2008 and following a regular season in which it went 11-5 – two more wins than in their previous two years combined.
“We’re really disappointed,” Mammoth head coach Bob Hamley said. “It’s been such a great year, we just got to sit down and evaluate where we are.
“We made a lot of strides this year, nobody gave us a chance at the beginning of the year to be where we are today, but it doesn’t make us feel any better.”
Ryan Benesch highlighted the Swarm’s milestone win with three goals and four assists.
“We came ready to play, we had a game plan and we stuck to it,” Benecsh said. “Hats off to Colorado they are a great team, they gave us everything they had and they didn’t quit.”
Grant lived up to his MVP status. He finished with five goals with the last one reducing Colorado’s deficit to 10-9 with 11:24 to play. He also had two assists for a seven-point night. He also moved into third place all time in playoff goals and fifth in postseason points.
Grant, who led the NLL with 50 goals and scored a single-season record 116 points, said the hurt from this loss won’t leave anytime soon.
“We played well in flashes, other times undisciplined,” he said. “This is going to sting for a while, but it’s lacrosse you got to try and get past it. I thought we had a chance late in the game, and then just a couple bounces here and there and some calls and all of a sudden it’s a one-goal game to a five-goal game.”
With its lead in jeopardy, Minnesota responded with three straight goals to end any hopes of a Colorado comeback. That run was started by power-play tallies from Jordan MacIntosh and Jay Card. Callum Crawford made it 13-9 with 2:49 to play. Crawford had four assists to go with his lone goal.
Rookie Evan Kirk was came up big in his playoff debut for Minnesota (10-7) by stopping 35 of 45 shots.
Colorado’s Chris Levis allowed 13 goals on 44 shots before being replaced by Tye Belanger late in the game.
“We were not our best,” says Gavin Prout, who had a goal and three assists in his return to Colorado’s lineup after missing the final two regular-season games. “[Minnesota] came in and took it from us. I’m sure we had the opportunities that we didn’t bury at times.”
The Swarm took advantage on special teams throughout the matchup scoring four power-play goals on seven chances and netting two more when short-handed.
“Special teams is huge in any game,” Benesch said. “Our power play has been clicking as of late and our offense had been playing great as of late too.”
Adam Jones, who was named the NLL’s Rookie of the Year on Friday, had a hat trick for Colorado.