Rochester Knighthawks (10-4) & Minnesota Swarm (3-11) will finish Week 15 doubleheader in Rochester. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
Down by three goals late in regulation, the Rochester Knighthawks (10-4) used a fourth-quarter comeback to sting the Minnesota Swarm (3-11) with a 15-14 overtime win at Xcel Energy Center on Friday night.
The two teams will get right back it on Saturday night at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester at 7:30 p.m. ET. Watch the rematch live on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.
This weekend will be critical for Minnesota as they sit 1.5 games back from both Philadelphia and Toronto, who are tied for the last playoff spot with records of 5-9. With only five games left in the Swarm regular season, a win is vital with each contest.
“We’re approaching these as playoff games,” said Swarm assistant coach Aime Caines. “We’re going to be prepared.”
In Calgary last week, the Swarm showed an aggressive start to their game and were tied 9-9 at the end of the third quarter. However, a problematic fourth quarter forced Minnesota to take home a disappointing 15-11 loss.
“You obviously don’t win by only playing three quarters,” said Caines. “We’ve got to take the positives out of the game and for a couple quarters, we really shut down Calgary.”
As they head into a big weekend, the Swarm will need to turn those three solid quarters into eight consecutive quarters in two successive games - it will be a an opportunity for the Swarm to start their climb out of the hole. The aggressive Swarm team that has shown up sporadically this season will need to be present though two entire games to see success against the leaders of the East.
“As coaches, we have to keep them motivated, it’s part of what we have to do to be successful and make a push here,” said Caines. “We want to push guys down the lanes and play very aggressive - we’ve just got to put that together for a whole game.”
Despite being at the bottom of the standings this season, it’s no secret that the Swarm are a talented, capable team that is worth more than their record shows and the Knighthawks are aware of that. Rochester will be anticipating the desperation of a bottom ranked team and will be raring and ready for the games this weekend.
“Rochester’s a great squad,” said Swarm defenseman Alex Crepinsek. “They have a solid defense and a lot of experience on offense. We have to be ready for everything this weekend.”
The last time the two teams met was in Rochester for the season opener and as the teams face each other for the second and third times, they sit in two very different positions. The Knighthawks came out on top in that first game, 8-6, and they now sit on top of the East division with a playoff spot locked up. The Swarm sit on the opposite end of the division and are playing with a sense of urgency so their post season chance doesn’t slip away.
“The guys just have to bring that 'A' game every game and have to really push themselves because they’re playing at such a high level,” said Caines. “The biggest thing is just staying together.”
As the regular season starts to wrap up, Minnesota will rely on the youth of their team to be resilient until the end. The Swam have proven again and again that they are an enduring group who refuses to quit.
“I think we have a lot of energy and we work really hard in practice,” said Caines. “We push our guys and they’re always up for the test.”
This weekend, the test is Rochester and the grade will be pass or fail.
“These are must-wins for us,” said Caines. “We’re gonna throw everything we’ve got.”
The Knighthawks are coming off their first home loss of the season to the undefeated Edmonton Rush, 15-11. At one point, Rochester trailed in the second half by seven goals but battled back in the fourth quarter to make a game of it.
“Edmonton was real good,” Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen said. “They made us do a lot of things that we haven't done in the past and exposed a few things that we need to make sure that we clean up on both sides of the ball. They were good and we weren't all that great.”
Rochester is trying to learn the lessons that can be gleaned from a loss to the best team in the league but at the same time not dwell on the mistakes and move forward.
“We faced a real good Edmonton team,” Knighthawks forward Dan Dawson said. “But as soon as we left the dressing room there, that game was over and done with. If you bring that game into this weekend, then you're bringing a lot of baggage with you. We're not focusing on what happened last Saturday. We've learned from it and moved on.”
“Edmonton did a lot of good things there to spread us out,” coach Hasen said. “We've just got to go back and refocus and do what we do... This is another good group and another good test. We've just got to worry about doing what we do and getting out and pressuring and funnellingdown where we want them to go.”
These two teams played at the beginning of the season at the Blue Cross Arena with the Knighthawks successfully defending their home turf in an 8-6 win. Rochester comes into this home-and-home aware that win means nothing at this late point in the season.
“This weekend, we're just looking to get better and we need to be better,” coach Hasen said. “It's all about now. That was so long ago, they've changed, we've changed. We just got to focus on what we do and make sure that we're good because we know they're going to come. Their backs are against that wall and they're going to come out full force and we've just got to make sure we can match that and find a way to get a 'W' out of this weekend.”
“Our total focus is Minnesota,” Dawson said. “What a great opportunity. We have no excuses with back-to-back games facing the same team. It's a very different Minnesota team than we faced them at the beginning of the season. We're looking forward to the opportunity and we know we're going to be in tough.”