Editor’s Note: Maria Jollie is a guest writer to TC Huddle. She previously worked for the Minnesota Swarm writing articles, press releases and live blogging on game day for the organization. TCH is excited to have her break down the Swarm’s prospects in this 2013 season.
Last year the Minnesota Swarm shocked the lacrosse world by advancing to the National Lacrosse League (NLL) West Division Finals with an unlikely team of rookies. The Swarm, who comprised the league’s youngest roster with an average age of 25.2, beat the odds by defeating Colorado 14-10 in the first round of playoffs. A loss at home against Edmonton kept them from the Champions Cup, but the team has not forgotten and is back and ready to take it all this year.
Leading the Swarm is the league’s youngest captain, Andrew Suitor. Suitor is in his third year in the NLL and his second as team captain. In addition to his vigor, dexterity and crowd-pleasing antics, Suitor is the 2012 Transition Player of the Year – an award recognizing his ability to transition from defense to offense up and down the field.
The first two games of 2013 will be played sans Suitor due to a game misconduct penalty drawn from a riveting fight in last year’s postseason – yet Suitor remains the vigorous captain.
“We have one goal and that’s the Champions Cup,” Suitor said. “While that is obviously everyone’s goal, we came up short last year when we felt like we already had what it takes to win. We’ve added to last year’s team quite a bit this off season and we accept nothing less than to win it all this year.”
The additions to the team are a result of a league-high four first round picks in the 2012 NLL Entry Draft. The new rookies expected to impact the Swarm are: T Brock Sorensen (No. 2, Ohio State), T Kiel Matisz (No. 3, Robert Morris), F Shayne Jackson (No. 4, Limestone) and D Alex Crepinsek (No. 10, Rochester Institute of Technology). Jackson has already made an impact after one game with 4 points (3g, 1a) in his NLL debut. The game was a tough loss for the Swarm, who lost 12-13 against the Buffalo Bandits and the rookie did not let his personal success deter from the team goal.
“It was good to start off the season (with three goals), but that doesn’t really matter because the win was ultimately what we wanted” Jackson said.
Last season’s notable players have been close enough to smell the champions cup, and are ready to push as hard as they can for victory. In the goal, expect to see second year goalies Evan Kirk and Tyler Carlson. Kirk had a fantastic rookie season in 2012, leading the league with save percentage (.807) and goals-against average (9.81).
Jeff Gilbert is the sturdy defenseman who was named to the 2012 NLL All-Pro Second Team and was second in the NLL with 26 forced turnovers. Ryan Benesch and Callum Crawford are all-star offensive leaders, entering their fourth season with the Swarm. Crawford led the team in scoring last year with 83 points and 58 assists.
The 2013 Swarm roster is a young, fresh team that includes five rookies and ten second year players that have been added to a group of dynamic veterans. Despite their first loss, the drive for the Champions Cup remains strong for the fearless, young team. The Swarm aim to win and are well equipped to go all the way this year.
2013 Swarm 23-man Roster:
Forwards (8): Ryan Benesch, Jay Card, Callum Crawford, Matt Gibson*, Joel Henry, Shayne Jackson*, Pat Smith, Corbyn Tao
Defensemen (7): Dan Ball, Mitch Belisle, Nik Bilic, Alex Crepinsek*, Greg Downing, Jeff Gilbert, Michael O’Brien*
Transition (6): David Earl, Tyler Hass, Jordan MacIntosh, Kiel Matisz*, Andrew Suitor ‘C’, Andrew Watt
Goalies (2): Evan Kirk, Tyler Carlson
Practice Roster (3): G Zach Higgins*, G Ryan Masters*, T Tyler Tanguay*
The Swarm will continue the season January 25th at Toronto and look forward to taking on the Washington Stealth in the home opener on January 26th at 7 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center. For tickets, visit www.mnswarm.com.
Maria Jollie is an avid sports enthusiast and freelance communications writer. In addition to playing a variety of sports, she coaches a competitive gymnastics team and serves on the Young Professionals Associate Board for Athletes Committed to Educating Students (A.C.E.S.).