Callum Crawford scored the game-winning goal as the Minnesota Swarm (3-2) stung the Rochester Knighthawks (2-3) with a 7-6 overtime win on Friday night for the team’s first home win of the year at Xcel Energy Center. The crowd of 9,645 did not leave disappointed with the riveting game decided in sudden death OT.
“To not only fight through it, but to go into overtime with the composure and resiliency that they’ve shown all year and bury that late shot,” said Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan. “It’s an invaluable win, it really is.”
The game was a defensive battle with both goalies standing strong. Zach Higgins had 35 saves on 41 shots for the Swarm and Matt Vinc saved 39 goals on 46 shots for the Knighthawks. The seven goals were the fewest scored in a Swarm win in the team’s history.
“In this league, you keep any team under ten (goals) and you’ve done your job. To keep a team like Rochester, with their scoring power and their experience to six goals,” Sullivan said. “It does a lot of things.”
“Tonight, they were incredible,” said Swarm forward Callum Crawford. “Goalies were great, defense was great – they were the ones who won us this game.”
“They’ve got a bunch of quick bodies that get out and press and make it very difficult to move the ball up the floor. We’re a little different – we pack it in a little more and try to create some bad shooting lanes,” said Rochester Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “Both goalies played well and made good saves when they had to tonight.”
The first half belonged largely to Minnesota, with Shayne Jackson (1+1) and Miles Thompson (1+2) scoring one each to Rochester forward Cody Jamieson’s (2+2) first quarter goal. Logan Schuss finished with four points (3+1) and hasn’t missed a beat since his award-winning rookie year. Schuss was the only player to score in the second quarter with his hat trick.
“We weren’t quite ready to play,” Hasen said. “Minnesota stepped up that first half and took it to us.”
The Swarm faced a challenge in the renewed spirit of the Rochester team, who trailed 5-1 before a five-goal scoring run and gave the team its first lead at 6-5. Jamieson led the way for the Knighthawks with four points (2+2) while Craig Point (1+3), Joe Walters (1+2) and Dan Dawson (2+1) added a spark in the losing effort.
“We gained our composure during the half time and made a few adjustments,” Hasen said. “I’d say the second half, we came back well.”
But Minnesota captain Andrew Suitor (1+1) evened the game at 6-6 late in the fourth quarter to wake the crowd into a frenzy and eventually force overtime. The Minnesota crowd, who was craving the first Swarm home win of the season, spent the rest of the game on their feet.
“Unbelievable turnout from the fans. They honestly make it feel like there’s 15-16 thousand people in there, it’s incredible,” Crawford said. “I think it shows everybody the quality that this sport and this team can provide.”
Crawford (1+0), who the fans call “Showtime”, ultimately delivered with a deep shot for the overtime win after a lengthy Swarm possession in the fifth quarter. Crawford’s game-winner, his only point of the night, was his 200th career goal.
“We were battling, we were moving the ball and there were five seconds left,” Callum said of his game-winning shot. “I just wanted to get it on net and good things happen when you shoot the ball. I think just getting a win against a three-time defending champ is huge.”
“How fitting is it for Callum Crawford to not only get his 200th, but to get that,” Sullivan said.
Even though he had the game winning goal, Crawford was quick to give credit to the defense and Higgins for the outcome of the game. A few of the contributors to the dynamic defense were Jordan MacIntosh (0+2) with 13 loose balls and 2 turnovers, Logan Schuss with 10 loose balls and 5 turnovers, and Alex Crepinsek (0+1) with 10 loose balls.
“That win comes from them, it comes from him,” Crawford said. “It wasn’t our offense tonight, it was definitely the back door and Higgins in the net.”
And Higgins didn’t hesitate in pointing out his teammates defensive play as the reason for his first win in overtime.
“The defense, they were there all night playing to the system we’ve been talking about all year,” Higgins said. “They made it easy for me tonight.”
Perhaps this focus on the team and what they’ve done as a group, rather than as individuals, is what contributed to the Swarm victory tonight, and will continue to benefit them as they continue their season.
“If you get people to work hard for you and they respect everything we’re trying to do, you’re gonna get good results,” Sullivan said. “These guys did it on the floor tonight.”
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Callum Crawford
2) Logan Schuss
3) Zach Higgins
Both teams will be back in action next weekend with back-to-back contests. The Swarm host the Toronto Rock on Friday, Feb. 13 at 8:30 p.m. ET and then head to Toronto for a Saturday game at 7 p.m. ET. Rochester will visit the Buffalo Bandits on Saturday, Feb. 14 at 7:30 p.m. ET and stay on the road as they head to New England for a Sunday game againt the Black Wolves at 6 p.m. ET. Find the complete broadcast schedule at NLLTV.com.
“The second half showed us what we’ve got to do right from the get go,” Hasen said. “We’ll go into next week like that.”
“You’ve got to wipe the slate again and you’ve got to get ready for one heck of a Toronto team,” Sullivan said. “You’ve got to get ready to beat them at home and in a real tough barn, it’s always tough to play in Toronto.”
Story by Maria Jollie (@SwarmBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Scott Pierson.