After a quick stop in St. Paul to introduce themselves to the fans, the Minnesota Swarm are headed to Denver tonight to take on the Colorado Mammoth. There are some hard feelings to this one, as the Swarm knocked the Mammoth out of the playoffs last season, Rich Morgan defected from the Swarm to the Mammoth in the off season, and the two teams simply don't like each other very much.
John Grant, Jr, the most prolific scorer all time in the NLL, will once again lead the charge for the Mammoth. For hockey fans, think Wayne Gretzky. He's really that good. Grant, Jr. is tied for the Mammoth points lead with 19 (12G, 7A). He and Gavin Prout (4G, 15A) will combine for a deadly 1-2 punch that is nearly impossible to stop. The defense for the Mammoth is a little suspect, even with the addition of the aforementioned Morgan. In net it will either be Chris Levis, a goalie that has seen his share of victory, or Matt Roik, who played slightly more than Levis this season.
Back on the Swarm side of the coin, rookies have been a very large part of the Swarm's offense. Kiel Matisz was named NLL rookie of the week for last week, and shows no signs of slowing down. Shayne Jackson has also been red hot, Alex Crepinsek is playing well in transition, and Brock Sorenson has been solid on defense.
Still, the usual suspects are leading the Swarm, as Ryan Benesch leads in scoring (9G, 10A), followed by Callum Crawford (5G, 11A). Captain Andrew Suitor is back in full force, scoring the game winning goal against the Washington Stealth last week, and adding the heart and soul back to a team that desperately missed him. Watch for these three to take the lead right from the beginning of the game, and the rookies to fill in the supporting roles as needed.
Evan Kirk started against the Stealth, and logic would say that Tyler Carlson gets the start in Denver. Every time anyone ventured a guess about which goalie would start last year, coach Joe Sullivan proved them wrong. Plan for Carlson, don't be surprised if you see Kirk. How's that for commitment?
The Swarm will need to compete with the crowd at Pepsi Center, as well. Always a sellout crowd, the fans will be loud and involved. It's nothing new for the Swarm, but it is still going to be a factor. If they can get in a rhythm, quiet the fans, contain Grant, Jr and Prout, and get a few goals, the Swarm can win this game. Both teams have had slow starts, but neither team is the team their record reflects.
This should be a great game, ladies and gents.
You can watch on MNSwarm.com, and we will get you the direct link to YouTube as soon as it is available. If you are looking for a radio feed, you can find it online HERE, or if you live the Brainerd area, you can listen live on SAM 101.5.
Hope to see you tonight.