Minnesota Swarm (1-4) host Calgary Roughnecks (2-3) at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. (Photo: Chris Fischbeck)
The Minnesota Swarm (1-4) host the Calgary Roughnecks (2-3) at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. Watch the game live on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network as both teams look to get back on track.
The Roughnecks are back in action after sitting out last weekend. The break came at a good time for the ‘Necks after a tough 14-13 overtime loss to Colorado in Week 5. Calgary looks to regain a .500 record with a fresh team heading into Minnesota.
“I think it’s good for our guys to have that little bit of a break,” said Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky. “We are who we are, and at this point we’re a 2-and-3 team, and quite frankly, played like it.”
Being a Roughneck on January 25 was not easy. The team watched Colorado forward John Grant, Jr. score a slick, behind-the-back goal in overtime. But the team now needs to move forward and forget about their most recent loss.
“We need to get a lot better,” continued Malawsky, when comparing his team’s effort to other games this past weekend. “It’s just a matter of getting back to work and doing the honest things that make our team successful. By no means do we feel sorry for ourselves, because we deserve to be in the exact spot that we’re in.”
Last season, Calgary averaged 13.9 goals per game, totaling 222 for the entire season which was good enough for the league lead. In the five games played this season, they’ve averaged only 11.9 goals per game. Needless to say, the drop in overall scoring could likely be the cause for the slow start.
“Without ‘sugar-coating’ it, we’ve been completely selfish up front,” added Malawsky. “Offensively, we need to move the ball. We need to stick to the things that made us successful over the last four or five years. It wasn’t a fluke that we had the best offense in the league because we have very creative players up front. But for whatever reason, our guys are getting selfish. If we continue to do what we do, we’ll get the same results and be 2-4, so our guys need to step up.”
Despite the time off, and a record well below team expectations, Calgary is still second in the West Division with a .400 win percentage. Through the first six weeks of the NLL season, the ‘Necks have had two bye weeks, setting up for a busy stretch of games both at home and on the road for the remainder of the season.
The new playoff format has three teams from each division secure a spot in the postseason, adding stress to the importance of each game.
“Every game is competitive with only nine teams in this league,” said Roughnecks rookie Karsen Leung, who has seven points so far this year. “You have to be mentally prepared for every single game. Coming into this one, fresh off a buy week, I think everyone’s ready to go and excited to play the Swarm.”
Meanwhile, Minnesota is embracing the opportunity of having the home turf even against a well-rested Calgary team.
The Swarm look to amend their losing record and initiate a comeback after an unsatisfying home opener loss two weeks ago and a loss in Colorado last weekend. Getting their second win of the season this Saturday would be the first step to getting back on track.
“Two home games is really exactly what we need,” said Aime Caines, Swarm assistant coach. “We’ve been on the road four out of our five games so we’re looking forward to being at home the next few games.”
The Swarm anticipate an excitable crowd and an energetic game as they return to Xcel Energy Center for their second home game of the season and first one at night.
“It was tough having the first home game as a back-to-back,” said Swarm rookie forward Scott Jones. “Looking forward to getting back in 'The Hive.'”
Aside from the home opener loss of 15-8, all of Minnesota’s games have been decided by two goals or less, demonstrating the teams ability to play the game but the inability to finish it.
“We’re missing passes and missing opportunities so we need guys to step up and put the ball in the net and make plays for us,” said Caines. “We need to be more consistent about putting a full game in.”
In the competitive East division, playing a full game of quality lacrosse is entirely necessary to come away with the victory in each game. A tighter playoff schedule means an increased intensity to the regular season. With only three teams from each division advancing to the playoffs, every game counts.
“Everyone’s getting wins in the East so we need to keep pace and really get on track here,” said Caines.
A young Swarm team will need to harmonize their play in order to triumph this Saturday. Even the slightest hiccup could result in a single goal that makes the difference between winning and losing.
“You can’t slip up, they’re gonna take advantage of you if you slip up so we’re looking to compete and have our best game of the year here,” said Jones.