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Calm before the Swarm: Minnesota in Calgary to face Roughnecks

03/24/2014, 8:40pm EDT
By Roughnecks beat writer Kassidy Collins & Swarm beat writer Maria Jollie for NLL.com

Calgary trying to clinch playoff spot while Minnesota looks to stay in race


Calgary Roughnecks (7-5) host Minnesota Swarm (3-9) at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday at 9pm ET. (Photo: Scott Pierson)

After a huge overtime win at home last weekend, the Minnesota Swarm (3-9) now head to Calgary to face the Roughnecks (7-5) at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET. Watch the game live on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.

Last week’s overtime win over the Buffalo Bandits carried a crescendo of energy that has brought new life to the Minnesota team.

“Emotionally, for the team, it was a huge lift for us,” said Swarm assistant coach Aime Caines. “The fans have been supporting us - to get that win for them was big.”

It was Minnesota’s fifth attempt at a win in front of their home crowd and came just one week after a heartbreaking overtime loss at “The Hive.”

“We’ve had a lot of close games and a lot of those close games have unfortunately gone the wrong way,” said Swarm transition player David Earl. “This Buffalo game was a big boost for us.”

Minnesota is anticipating that boost to push them in the direction of an increasing win column and a chance at the playoffs, starting with the game this Saturday against the Roughnecks.

“It’s no secret we’ve struggled this year at home and away,” said Caines. “We’re looking for that last playoff spot so we’re going to try to put together some wins at the end of the season here and just start rolling.”

One big reason for Minnesota’s losing record can be attributed to the typically-slow starts the team has been having. They have been outscored 41-22 in first quarter play this season and have been held scoreless in the first quarter of each of their last two games.

“We’ve struggled with starts this year,” said Caines. “So, especially on the road, we want to have that good start.”

The two teams last met on Minnesota turf in February and Calgary took the game 15-13, despite a lively comeback attempt and natural hat trick by Swarm rookie Shayne Jackson in the fourth quarter.

“We always play tough against Calgary and they always play us tough, it’s usually a shootout there,” Caines said. “We’re gonna make some adjustments with our defense and try to get our 'O' rolling and set goals for them.”

As we saw last week in Minnesota, a solid defense can have a ripple effect on the offense - something the team will seek to activate a bit sooner this weekend. Last Saturday’s game was scoreless until over three minutes into the second quarter - producing the first scoreless quarter in the National Lacrosse League’s 28-year history. The defensive start provided on offensive confidence that eventually won the game for the Swarm in overtime.

“I think we’ve always a been a team that starts with our defense, gets some energy from our defense and then the offense pulls from there,” said Earl.

The Swarm will try to play off that energy in full force right from the beginning as they face a Roughneck team that won’t let up for a second.

“It’s going to be a tough one,” said Caines. “We just gotta ride our momentum right now and come out with a lot of energy.”

The Roughnecks have the chance to clinch a playoff spot if they win and the Stealth lose this weekend, but the Swarm are hoping to do their part to deny Calgary in the same way they denied the Bandits a clinch last week.

“We’re just gonna try to take this momentum and keep it going,” Earl said. “We’re in a hole right now but we've just got to take it one win at a time, one game at a time.”

Meanwhile, the Necks’ got back in the win column last weekend with a convincing road victory over the Vancouver Stealth, 13-8. Turning the page to this weekend, The Riggers return home, where the last time they played in the Saddledome, the undefeated Edmonton Rush were in town and embarrassed them in front of their home crowd.

“Last time we played there, we let the crowd down. We came out with no compete,” said Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky. “We take great pride playing there; our home record the last couple years hasn’t been very strong. It’s a big weekend and more than anything we want to have a home playoff game, that’s what we’re really pushing for.”

The Riggers have an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth this weekend if Vancouver loses to Buffalo on Saturday and the Necks come out victorious over Minnesota. However, the Swarm are coming off a huge overtime victory last weekend and plan on keeping that momentum going.

Minnesota may a team in the league's basement this year, but according to Roughnecks transition player Geoff Snider, records aren’t everything.

“I don’t think their season tells the story about what type of team they are. They’re young, athletic, competitive and hungry, they’re working hard,” he said. “They’re going to make it very difficult on us. If we're not ready to play, we're going to find out the hard way.”

Geoff Snider became the all-time leader in most career faceoff wins last weekend and coach Malawsky praised his faceoff man.

“Stats show he is the best. He battles in that circle and it’s not an easy job,” said Malawsky. “You get pounded night after night and it’s a war in there and he rises to the challenge every time. The value of a guy like Geoff Snider is second to none and I’m really happy he’s in the organization. He’s a top-notch individual and I’m really happy for him.”

Despite Minnesota’s 3-9 record, 10 out of their 12 games played this year have been decided by three goals or fewer.

“It’s been a tough season so far, a lot of close games that have gone the wrong way for us,” said Swarm transition David Earl.

This will mark the final meeting between the two teams with the Neck’s winning the first bout 15-13 earlier in the season. Since then, the Swarm has done some tweaking to their game before the matchup Saturday.

“We’re going to make some adjustments to our defense and stick to our game plan. It’s going to be a tough one and we just gotta ride our momentum right now and come out with a lot of energy,” said Caines. “We’re looking for that last playoff spot and we’ve struggled with starts this year, especially on the road. So we want to have that good start and keep rolling.”

With Calgary looking to secure their spot in the postseason, and the Swarm’s playoff hopes still alive, this game in one you’re going to want to keep an eye on.

“They’re (Minnesota) a very good outside shooting team and everyone knows they’re a very good transition team,” said Malawsky. “They are playing a diverse style of lacrosse right now and they’re going to come in on a high. We’re going to have to match that intensity and compete level if we want to be successful against them."

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