The Minnesota Swarm (1-2) earned their first victory of the season as they held on for a 15-14 home win over the Washington Stealth (3-2) in their home opener at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night.
Minnesota (1-2) jumped out to a 10-6 halftime lead, thanks in large part to a 7-1 second quarter run, which included two shorthanded goals by Ryan Benesch in a span of 39 seconds.
“Teams go on runs,” said Swarm assistant coach Bobby Keast, who was filling in for head coach Joe Sullivan. “You’ve got to make the most of them.”
Washington’s offense put the defense in some difficult situations according to Stealth head coach Chris Hall.
“I think our offense cost us five goals,” he said. “Five of them were a direct result of poor stuff going on in the offense allowing transition, bad passes and not cashing in on opportunities. Awful, awful first half.”
The Swarm’s offense relied heavily on contributions from their influx of youthful talent, as rookies Kiel Matisz and Shayne Jackson both scored for hat tricks, the second for each of them in their young careers.
“It’s awesome to contribute,” Matisz said. “All we’re trying to do as rookies is be part of the team and do what our coaches ask of us. Tonight, Shayne and I were on the receiving end, contributing for our team. But maybe next time, it’s [Andrew] Suitor or [Jeff] Gilbert.”
Minnesota, who lost fourth-quarter leads in both of their losses to start the season, had a 14-10 lead at the beginning of the final quarter. Washington cut that lead to 15-14 with 42 seconds to play after Stealth forward Athan Iannucci netted his third goal of the fourth quarter.
“It shows that we have heart,” Stealth captain Kyle Sorensen said. “We’re not ready to quit when we’re down. The thing is, we can’t keep doing this to ourselves.”
But the Swarm had no plans of surrendering a late lead for a third consecutive game. Minnesota’s captain Suitor, who played his first game of the season following a two-game suspension, supplied two goals, the second after a return from injury, and a lot of leadership.
“It was definitely a different feeling,” Matisz said. “We were more confident in front of the home crowd. Also, it helps having Suitor, our leader, in the lineup. He was positive the whole time. Even though we were letting it slip away a bit, it never really felt like that.”
Washington recorded 58 shots on goal, 44 of which were turned away by Swarm goaltender Evan Kirk.
“‘Kirky’ was amazing,” Keast said. “That’s a strong offense. They shoot the ball extremely well. Kirk was on his game and when he makes big stops, we get opportunities going the other way.”
Moving forward, the Stealth will look to avoid more slow starts in games.
“We played a really good half of lacrosse, but we played a really bad half of lacrosse too,” Hall said. “You can’t bury yourself in a hole that deep and expect to come back.”