The Minnesota Swarm (4-8) snapped a six-game losing streak and stayed alive in the East Division playoff race with a 13-9 road win over the New England Black Wolves (3-7) at Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday afternoon.
“I think that our offense clicked,” said Minnesota Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan. “When you get on those two or three-goal runs like we did in the first quarter, that makes it tough and takes a little bit of the momentum away from them. That was key; for us to own the momentum in the game and I think we did that.”
The Swarm’s rookie sensation Miles Thompson started the offense off hot and finished with three goals on the day. Shayne Jackson added two goals and four assists and Jordan MacIntosh added three goals and one assist of his own. Goaltender Zach Higgins handled the Black Wolves shots on goal tremendously, handling 59 shots and allowing only nine goals with 50 saves.
“I honestly thought we had the better looks offensively,” said Black Wolves head coach Blane Harrison. “I think their goalie played very well.”
“I’ve played Zach Higgins all the way back since juniors, so to me it’s nothing new,” noted Black Wolves forward Pat Saunders. “Yeah he’s a good goalie, but on any night you can score on him, it’s one of those things. I think we made him look a lot better than he is. He played well, I don’t think he stole the game by any means. I think we just didn’t shoot to our strengths.”
For the Black Wolves, Saunders tied a career high with four goals and one assist. Kevin Crowley added one goal and five assists, while Brett Bucktooth added two goals and three assists. The pack’s defense showed strength throughout the game, but could not keep up with the hungry Swarm who finally ended a six-game slide.
“Coming off a season like this, to get one win to get us started, you can definitely feel the mood in the locker room,” Thompson said. “It’s definitely something we needed.”
“We’ve always said we’d rather have six guys score two goals each than one guy score twelve,” Harrison said.
“I just felt I had a little jam in my step right off the start,” added Saunders. “I had to take advantage of that.”
Minnesota led 4-2 after the first quarter before New England fought back for a 6-5 deficit at half. Five goals by the Swarm in the third quarter increased the team’s lead to 11-8 heading into the fourth quarter. The Swarm defense clamped down in the final frame, holding the Black Wolves scoreless until an extra attacker goal with two minutes left that was too little, too late.
“That’s the way the games go, right?” said Saunders. “Some games you don’t get looks because the defense plays a certain way, some teams play defense differently.”
“I think it was back and forth,” Sullivan said. “They played a real good game. They’re a strong young team that I think is just continuously getting better. We came up on the good end of it tonight, but we’ve got them again on Friday so we’ve got more to get ready for.”
“Nobody wants to finish last, and everybody still an eye on playoffs if everything goes well. That’s what we’re focusing our team on, and I’ve got to think they’re doing the very same. They’ve beat us, they’ve beat other good teams. There’s no quitting on that team and there’s no quitting on us, so it’s going to be a real good game on Friday night,” added Sullivan.
The Black Wolves head on the road again this weekend to take on the Minnesota Swarm on Friday night before visiting the Buffalo Bandits on Saturday night. The Swarm will visit the Rochester Knighthawks on Saturday after hosting New England.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Zach Higgins
2) Miles Thompson
3) Pat Saunders
Story by Alyssa McLaughlin (@BlackWolvesBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Khoi Ton.