There was little speculation coming into the game last night. The Minnesota Swarm and Colorado Mammoth already knew they would be facing each other next week in Colorado for the first round of the NLL playoffs. That did not stop either team from ratcheting up the intensity a week early, and making it clear that next week's rematch will be one for the history books.
The Swarm took control of this game early, and never looked back. Twice this season, the Swarm had the Mammoth on the ropes only to give up the game late. It would not happen tonight. Tyler Carlson shut the door on the Mammoth, the Swarm defense played well, the offense scored almost at will, chasing All-Star Chris Levis from the net twice in the game, and the offensive transition was superb. There were some soft spots in the Swarm's game, but the strong points carried the day, and brought home a win.
The "muckers," as they call themselves, stepped up again. Joel Henry had a hat trick and a big fight to stand up for his team. Jordan MacIntosh, who spoke to the media in a Swarm colored bow tie, had 14 looseballs, topping the Swarm team record in the process. Jay Card scored on an absolute blast of a shot and an assist. Nic Bilic also had a big fight late in the game. Henry seemed a bit surprised by the fact the media wanted to talk to him, but said the hat trick "felt good, especially since [he] had struggled to score all year."
Coach Joe Sullivan was understandably pleased with the play of his team, but did mention the defensive transition game as being a bit weak, and said the team would work on that this week. Sullivan said he is not leaving Minnesota this week, so he can be around to help with preparations for the opening round of the playoffs. The Swarm have never made it past the opening round, so having the coach around for the entire week will be a welcome bonus for many.
Along with MacIntosh's team record, John Grant, Jr of the Mammoth set the single season scoring record for the NLL with 116 points. His final point game on a nice snipe to the top corner, as MacIntosh called it "typical" for Grant. MacIntosh also noted that Grant was a player he looked up to his entire career, even taking the number 24 because of him. The crowd at the Hive gave Grant, Jr his just rewards with a round of applause.
While Grant, Jr's record is impressive, the game in which he set it was marred by a lack luster effort and a couple of seriously dirty plays. At one point, Tyler Hass of the Swarm blew past Grant, Jr like a sports car passing family sedan. Later in the game, as Joe Cinosky was about to make Grant, Jr look silly again, Grant, Jr reached out and clotheslined Cinosky. It was a move Hulk Hogan would have been proud of, yet the refs saw fit to give Grant, Jr just a two minute minor penalty.
The record is an impressive one, but this is not a game film Grant, Jr is going to want to share with his family in the years to come, which is unfortunate.
Overall, this was one of the most intense, hard fought games in recent memory for the Swarm. 11,292 fans filed in, the largest crowd since 2009, a group the players and coaches were glad to have on their side. Sullivan said the crowd gave the Swarm players a good taste for what Colorado will be like next week. The fans in Denver pack the Pepsi center for every game, and often out draw the NHL's Avalanche.
Next up for both teams is more of the same, as they both head to Denver for round one of the playoffs. The game can be seen at 6:30PM on CBS Sports Network. With the season series at 2-1 in favor of the Mammoth, and the intenisty level higher than it has been all year, you can imagine the next one will be even better. If you aren't on the bandwagon, there are still a few seats open.