They say pressure creates diamonds. What they don't tell you is that pressure only creates diamonds if handled properly. The Toronto Rock will get no diamonds this year, as they cracked under the pressure while the Minnesota Swarm took them behind the woodshed and put a beating to them.
The Swarm downed the top seed in the NLL by a score of 20-11, and the game wasn't even that close. Five different Swarm players had hat tricks, including Josh Gillam, who wasn't even with the team to start the season. Twenty goals scored, and Callum Crawford had... zero. He did tally six assists, but the fact the acting captain scored no goals and the team still put up twenty goals is a testament to just how deep this Swarm team is on offense.
Shut down Crawford? Fine, but you better keep an eye on Ryan Benesch, Shayne Jackson, Jordan MacIntosh, and Keil Matisz, because if you don't, you're going to be embarrassed very quickly. Please note, you would need five eyes to do this, and you would be a freak of nature, but more power to you.
The Rock simply had no answer anywhere on the turf for the Swarm. The Swarm offense ran roughshod over the Rock defense, chased one of the best goalies in the league in Nick Rose, and then put the pedal to the floor, forcing the Rock to put him back in. The Rock offense was held to mostly outside shots, rarely getting anywhere near Tyler Carlson, let alone past him.
The Swarm transition game, led by MacIntosh (who the color guy on TSN says is not a transition player) was nearly perfect. The only mistakes were early as they were called for too many men on the field three times. After they found their legs, the transition game was just another area where the Rock simply could not keep up.
As the embarrassment of the Rock progressed, the team billed as cool, calm, collected, and stacked with veterans began to melt down. Scott Evans took exception to a hard hit to Patrick Merrill and went after Mitch Belisle. Evans cross checked Belisle across the back, ran up and tried to rip Belisle's helmet off by the face mask, then grabbed the back of the helmet and began trying to twist and rip Belisle's head off.
If Evans escapes suspension for his actions, the NLL owes Andrew Suitor an apology, and the Swarm a chance at the first two games of the 2013 season over again. Suitor was suspended for much less in last year's playoff game that was out of reach for the Swarm.
Evans was handed nine minutes of penalty time and a game misconduct. With Belisle not being able to fight back, the Swarm were served up a full two minutes of 5 on 3 time, plus a total of nine minutes of power play time. That one stupid decision by Evans cost his team any small hope they may have had of a comeback, and likely his services for a couple games to start next season.
The hot tempers continued throughout the closing minutes, but to the credit of the Rock, when the final horn sounded, the hand shake line was handled respectfully and calmly. After taking a beating like few others, the Rock thanked their fans and went on their way.
The Swarm now look forward to the Rochester Knighthawks, and the best goalie in the league in Matt Vinc, on Saturday at 3PM for the East Finals. That game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network, as well as on MNSwarm.com.
In the West, the Washington Stealth dispatched the Edmonton Rush, and the Calgary Roughnecks beat the Colorado Mammoth, making the Swarm the only road team to win in this year's opening round.
This Swarm team is for real. Keep your eyes open.