It just was not to be tonight for the Minnesota Swarm. With the largest crowd of the season on hand, the Swarm stayed tight with the undefeated Mammoth, but just as happened in January, fell apart late in the game.
Predictions for this game were all over the place. With the top two offenses in the league meeting two of the top goaltenders in the league, it was either going to be high scoring or low scoring. It wound up being the latter. The Swarm threw a total of 47 shots at Chris Levis, but could not solve the all star. Most of the shots for the Swarm were kept outside, and they focused the shots they did get low on Levis.
Swarm coach Mike Lines and all star forward Callum Crawford were not overly willing to give the credit to Levis. Both said that the Swarm shot too many directly into Levis, not taking advantage of the open spaces Levis was giving them. Crawford did admit to it being frustrating for the Swarm when they feel they are taking shots and not getting the results they want, but took full blame for the lack of production.
Crawford said the offensive unit felt they let down the defense and Tyler Carlson by not taking advantage. Asked how he thought the Swarm could regain the offensive flair they enjoyed earlier in the season, Crawford said they need to "stop being lazy and move [their] feet." He added that he was confident they could get the offense rolling again.
The good news for the Swarm is that six different players scored goals for the team tonight. The bad news is that only one of those players, Andrew Watt, scored more than once. Night in and night out in the NLL, you can count on seven goals not being enough to win. If the look on Lines' face was any measure, the offense will find a way to jump start their game, post haste.
The game itself was as entertaining as they come, with both goaltenders coming up big when they needed to, and the defense for both sides playing solid ball. Between the two, the Swarm defense played a much more complete game as they held the Mammoth to single digit shots in two quarters of the game.
Rich Morgan was once again quietly dominant, and it still boggles the mind why the opposition continues to attempt to check him off the ball. At one point, Morgan destroyed John Grant, Jr, forcing the ball loose, which was then passed up field for a tying goal for the Swarm. The things that don't show up on the score sheet for the Swarm, the things you need to experience live to fully grasp the value of, are many. Morgan continually plays a game that few notice, unless you are on the receiving end of a hit from the freight train.
The Mammoth were not overly impressive tonight. Sure, John Grant, Jr. scored his points and was difficult to shut down. To be honest, the behind the head passing and shooting became immensely predictable and rather routine. It was effective on his last goal, but other than that, led to a large number of errant passes and wide desperation shots. It is difficult to knock one of the best players in the league, and league leader in scoring, yet he cost his team more chances tonight than he created.
The story of the 2012 season for the Swarm is still being written, and if the offense can find their game, and the defense remain as strong as they have been for the past three games, they will become one of the most dangerous teams in the league. Lines noted that they are "a young team, with things still to learn. We can't come into games think we are never going to lose again." How long it takes to learn those lessons will determine the course of the rest of the year.
After losing their first at home tonight, the Swarm now head out on the road to avoid the always busy March schedule at the Xcel Energy Center. The next time they see St. Paul will be on March 30th. Between then and now, they have two games in Washington, one in Calgary, one in Buffalo, and the All Star Game to deal with.
Sometimes getting on the road and away from distraction can help a team find their game. The Swarm will have ample time to do so if that is the case.