The Minnesota Swarm head out to the left coast Friday night for the first of their four straight on the road. Every team takes road trips, but for the Swarm, this is a unique situation. First, the road has not been kind to the team, who sit at 0-2 away from The Hive. Losses to the Rochester Knighthawks and Colorado Mammoth early in the year were centered around defensive breakdowns.
That problem seems to have been fixed.
The second reason this lengthy road trip will be interesting is because the Swarm have a new head coach at the helm, and have had no time to make any adjustments the new coach may want them to make. Mike Lines is out after leading the Swarm to their current 3-3 mark, and Associate GM Joe Sullivan is in. There have been no reasons given for the move, but Swarm co-owner John Arlotta did mention there is no bitterness, and that it was a difficult decision to make.
It was a surprise move, to say the least, and the only signs that pointed to a move would have been the lack of offense in the past three games for the Swarm, a speciality of Lines'. What impact it will have on the team has yet to be seen, but players enjoyed playing for Lines, so it will certainly be something to watch for the next couple weeks.
As for the game itself, at the beginning of the season, the predictions would have had these two teams swapped in the standings. The Swarm have certainly outperformed expectations, while the Stealth have serious underperformed to theirs. The defending West Champion Stealth would never have been thought to be in last place at this point.
No one on that side of the field is going to be happy about this situation, and the Stealth have not taken their start lying down.
Chris Hall returns for the Stealth after missing the start of the season due to treatments for throat cancer, an inspiring story in itself. Anthan Iannucci plays his first home game since being traded to the Stealth as well. The addition of these two players makes an already good team even better. Boasting a roster with Rys Duch, Lewis Ratcliff, and Brent Bucktooth, the addition of extra help could be just what the Stealth need to turn things around.
For the Swarm, with the defensive problems seemingly solved, it will be a question if Sullivan can get the offense going again. Ryan Benesch, Callum Crawford, Andrew Watt, Jordan MacIntosh... there are so many weapons for the Swarm, and they need to step up to the level of play from their defense. If the Swarm can find their offense, without letting up on D or in goal, the Stealth have no chance.
With the game out west, the game is a late start. You can watch live at 10PM central time, on the NLL network. Check MNSwarm.com for that feed.
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