Minnesota stays undefeated with last-second heroics against Colorado
In National Lacrosse League preseason action, the Minnesota Swarm won in dramatic fashion on Saturday night, defeating the Colorado Mammoth 16-15 in an overtime shootout at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville, Ontario. With the victory, Minnesota finished its preseason schedule 3-0 after wins against Rochester, Calgary and Colorado.
Trailing 15-14 with only seconds remaining in regulation, Swarm transition player Kiel Matisz found the back of the net with .4 left to tie the score and force overtime. Prior to Matisz’s goal, Minnesota called a timeout to set up one final play at the 12-second mark. After the Swarm missed on a few shots in the possession, Matisz scooped up a rebound in front of the crease and quickly fired one past Mammoth goalie Alexis Buque to beat the buzzer.
“Coach McDade and coach Caines told us to go early in the clock so if we got the rebound, we would get the ball back,” Matisz said. “Kudos to the guys for getting the ball back and getting us second chances. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, and I’m glad we were able to finish in the shootout.”
In the overtime shootout (the NLL implemented shootouts for preseason games), both teams made their first two shots to add to the drama. Matisz and TJordan MacIntosh scored for Minnesota, while F John Grant Jr. and F Drew Westervelt notched tallies for the Mammoth. With the next score dictating the game’s outcome, a few Swarm players rose to the occasion. It first started on defense when Swarm goalie Zach Higgins stopped one of the NLL’s top scorers, F Adam Jones.
“I wanted to be patient, and I had a feeling on what he was trying to do,” Higgins said. “I ended up getting my shoulder on it to make the save.”
Next, rookie Shane MacDonald, the No. 5 overall pick in this year’s draft, was given an opportunity to win it for the Swarm. The rookie seized his moment and scored the decisive goal to give Minnesota a 3-2 advantage in overtime.
“I was happy that I could win it for the guys,” MacDonald said. “We fought hard in that game.”
Despite facing deficits several times Saturday evening, Minnesota clawed its way back all game long and made big plays when needed. Colorado jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first, and built leads of 11-9 and 13-11 in the fourth. In addition to his game-winner, MacDonald scored three goals in the fourth quarter and did so at critical times.
“We’re going to be a team that fights until the buzzer sounds this year,” MacDonald said. “We were only down by a few goals, and the veterans were telling me to pump it up, and go hard to the buzzer. That helps a lot.”
“I really liked how we never quit,” assistant coach Bobby Keast added. “We got behind early, and then we battled back. We then got behind again late, but never quit. That’s always encouraging.”
Reigning NLL Transition Player of the Year Jordan MacIntosh scored a hat trick Saturday evening to keep his hot stick going this preseason. The Oakville native also showed off his ability to score with only seconds remaining on the clock after a beautiful snipe at the 2.9-second mark in the second quarter. The goal sent both teams to the locker room tied at six.
Minnesota’s Scoring Summary: MacIntosh (3), S. MacDonald (3), Hill (2), Matisz (2) and one goal each for Thompson, C. Crawford, Jackson, Noble and Tao.
In the goalie battle, Brodie MacDonald faced Dillon Ward in the first half, and Zach Higgins squared off against Alexis Buque in the second half.
The Swarm returns to Oakville for one final training camp session Dec. 19-21, and has until Dec. 18 to name their final 20-man roster. Meanwhile, the Mammoth travel to Buffalo to take on the Bandits for a scrimmage on Sunday.