NLL Week 9 Team Reports: ‘It’s on us … to get the guys to play through the ups and downs.” – Swarm coach Joe Sullivan

Can coach Blane Harrison and the Wings snap their 3-game slide? They'll find out on Sunday. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
Can coach Blane Harrison and the Wings snap their 3-game slide? They'll find out on Sunday. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)

There’s a collision course set up for Week 9 of the National Lacrosse League. Both the Calgary Roughnecks and Rochester Knighthawks have seen their offensive units come to life as of late, and they’ll butt heads Saturday night in Calgary. Which unit will give way? We’ll know more around 11:30 on Saturday night once that game concludes, which features some former Knighthawks going up against their former team in Calgary coach Curt Malawsky and forward Shawn Evans. In the meantime, we’ve got some other teams eager to break out of the L column as Toronto hosts Minnesota on Saturday and Philadelphia hosts Minnesota on Sunday. All 3 of those teams are coming off of losses, so someone’s heading into next week as a happy camper, while someone else is left wondering what they need to get back on track. Let’s see what everyone’s thinking as we head into Week 9, which has just 3 games on tap.

saturday

Minnesota Swarm at Toronto Rock
Saturday, Feb. 22 - Air Canada Centre - 7 p.m. (EST)

Records: Minnesota, 1-6; Toronto 3-4.
Broadcast: Altitude, YouTube.com/TLN.
Last week: Minnesota lost to Edmonton, 14-9; Toronto lost to Rochester, 17-9.
History: Minnesota leads all-time series, 6-5 (3-3 in Toronto).
Goals for: Minnesota 64 (9th); Toronto 90 (6th).
Goals against: Minnesota 84 (4th); Toronto 86 (5th).

Swarm notes

There aren’t many secrets in Minnesota. The Swarm are struggling and are calling Saturday’s game against Toronto a must-win. “Things haven’t gone as planned, obviously,” said T Jordan MacIntosh. “We’re just not putting together 4 quarters.” … Coach Joe Sullivan said the confidence and faith in the team remain at 10%, especially since the team has shown spots of capability on both ends of the floor, but the ability to put it all together has eluded it. “In the first couple of weeks, we had the best defense going,” he said. “Then as we put the focus on offense and the offense caught fire for a bit, the defense kind of fell apart. We had some key guys out … but now the defense is as healthy as it’s been. Now it’s on us as a coaching staff to get the guys to play through the ups and downs.” …. Rookie F Logan Schuss leads all NLL rookies with 4 power-play goals … The biggest damage last week was a third quarter in which the Swarm allowed 6 goals to allow Edmonton to pull away in a game that was within reach for Minnesota. “We dug ourselves into a hole. We battled hard … but we didn’t put ourselves in a good situation. We did answer in the fourth quarter, but just not enough,” Sullivan said of the goals the Swarm scored to turn a 12-4 deficit into the final score.

Rock notes

Toronto coach John Lovell said Saturday’s strong start against Rochester was encouraging, but the poor play in the middle quarters, where the Rock allowed 15 goals, was rather disappointing. “I’m pretty disgusted with the result and the final effort,” he said. “It’s tough enough to beat Rochester … and allowing 8 goals in the second quarter and 7 in the third. Our offense played well, but we made too many mistakes defensively.” …. Toronto is 1-4 against East Division opponents … F Colin Doyle leads the NLL with 7 power-play goals … The Rock have scored 62 goals at home, most in the NLL … The Rock expect some lineup changes this week with the return of D Chris White … D Bill Greer remains day-to-day and will be a game-time decision … F Stephan Leblanc said the Rock perhaps got a little too confident after taking an early 4-2 lead against Rochester. “We took shifts off,” he said. “We had mental lapses … and they capitalized. Going into the second quarter, we thought we had the game in our favor and they proved to be resilient. When we gave them a sniff, they took it.” … Lovell is chalking it up to a lesson learned and says he liked what he saw in practice Tuesday night. “We’re moving on,” he said, calling this game a must-win because it’s the first of a 3-game season series with Minnesota, and the final 2 games against the Swarm are both in Minnesota … Leblanc expects an intense game because the Swarm are coming in eager to snap their skid, while the Rock believe they’re much better than their own 3-4 record. “They’re a young and athletic team,” he said. “And they’re similar to us in that they’ve taken some on the chin … we’re going to see a lot of desperation out there.”


Rochester Knighthawks at Calgary Roughnecks
Saturday, Feb. 22 - Saddledome- 9 p.m. (EST)

Records: Rochester 5-2; Calgary 4-3.
Broadcast: YouTube.com/TLN.
Last week: Rochester defeated Toronto, 17-9; Calgary defeated Vancouver, 20-9.
History: Rochester leads all-time series, 4-3 (1-2 in Calgary).
Goals for: Rochester 76 (8th); Calgary 95 (tied 4th).
Goals against: Rochester 57 (2nd); Calgary 90 (6th).

Knighthawks notes

The 17 goals scored against Toronto is 1 more than the previous 2 games combined, but coach Mike Hasen maintains he wasn’t surprised because the execution has been there all season on offense. “They were dropping, finally,” he said. “It’s good, we just have to keep that same focus.” … G Matt Vinc leads the league with a save percentage of .823 … The Knighthawks have just 13 power-play goals, fewest in the NLL, but the percentage (52%), ranks No. 3 … The Knighthawks are 4-0 when they score the first goal of the game … Up next is an athletic Calgary unit, and the Knighthawks will need to continue the building they’ve been working on all season, said Hasen. “The boys played well (against Toronto) but we’re looking forward to the next challenge. It’ll be a tough test,” he said. “We’re building and looking to get better each week but it’s about what’s happening next, and next is Calgary.” … F Stephen Keogh had 2 goals and 2 assists against Toronto and said he can’t see why the offense can’t continue to play like it did last weekend. “We were clicking and moving the ball well,” he said. “We were staying spread and shooting with confidence.”

Roughnecks notes

Asked yet again about discipline and the way his team maintained its composure in a lopsided win over Vancouver, coach Curt Malawsky was succinct. “They were told to keep their cool,” he said. “The discipline issue is a non-issue. The leadership group on this team said it’s been fixed and we don’t need to talk about our discipline anymore.” … Rookie T Garrett McIntosh is tied for the top spot among NLL rookies in forced turnovers, with 7 … Calgary’s penalty killers are tops in the NLL at 65% but that percentage drops to 34% at home … The Roughnecks are 1-2 when they score the first goal of the game … So how close is this Calgary team to being where it needs to be after scoring 35 goals in its last 2 games? “We did some real good things but there’s still a lot of room for improvement,” said Malawsky. “We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.” … Speaking of offense, Malawsky obviously is pleased with the last 2 weeks, but facing a Rochester defense is new story. “There are no holes in that group,” he said. “They’re big and they attack the middle.” …. Malawsky said it was more about doing what Calgary wanted to do rather than letting Rochester dictate the flow of the game. “We’re going to try to do some things that give us good looks,” he said. “Because even if you do get your shots, you still have to deal with Matt Vinc.”

sunday

Minnesota Swarm at Philadelphia Wings
Sunday, Feb. 23 - First Niagara Center - 4 p.m. (EST)

Records: Minnesota 1-6; Philadelphia 3-6.
Broadcast: YouTube.com/TLN.
Last week: Minnesota lost to Edmonton, 14-9; Philadelphia lost to Buffalo, 13-7.
History: Minnesota leads all-time series, 12-9 (5-5 in Philadelphia).
Goals for: Minnesota 64 (9th); Philadelphia 100 (3rd).
Goals against: Minnesota 84 (4th); Philadelphia 107 (7th).

Swarm notes

The Swarm are averaging 48 shots per game, fifth-best in the NLL while allowing just 43 shots per game, second-fewest in the league … After this weekend’s road trip, the Swarm play 6 of their final 9 games at home, but coach Joe Sullivan isn’t looking that far ahead. “At 1-6, we can’t worry about what the back end of our schedule looks like,” he said. “I know it’s been said 1,000 times, but it’s 1 game at a time right now. It really is.” … T Jordan MacIntosh maintains his faith in teammates despite the struggles. “We are young, but every guy in the room has played at a fairly high level of lacrosse,” he said. “People have dealt with tough times so it’s nothing new.” … After last week’s loss, veteran F Callum Crawford said the answer to the Swarm’s struggles is in the locker room, and MacIntosh said he’s right. “Guys have to take more of a leadership role,” he said, including himself in the talk. “We haven’t been performing to the best of our abilities … and we know we have guys in our locker room who are capable of playing at a higher level.” … Sullivan said the Wings have established themselves as a force in the East Division and are not to be taken lightly, even if their game against them is the back-end of a weekend doubleheader. “More than anything, make sure you’re mentally stable,” MacIntosh said of dealing with the travel and distractions of a back-to-back weekend. “We can’t be too high or too low. We just have to prepare ourselves like it’s any other night.”

Wings notes

After a 3-3 start, the Wings have lost 3 straight and have a skid of their own to worry about after losing to Buffalo last weekend. “We felt we were prepared,” said assistant coach Jim Milligan. “But we came up against a hot goalie. Hopefully we can get things straightened out and get a win this weekend.” … The Wings have scored a league-high 23 power play goals but the percentage (46%) ranks fourth-highest … The Wings have scored just 2 short-handed goals this season, and both of those have been scored on the road … T CJ Costabile said the Wings aren’t taking the Swarm lightly, no matter what their record says. “This is a very important game,” he said. “It could have playoff implications … there will be no letdowns. This league is so competitive, everyone is so good. You never know who you’re going to get … but we know they’re going to come with their best so we’re going to come with our best.” … Evan Kirk remains the starter in goal even with the return of Brandon Miller, who is working his way back to NLL speed, said Milligan … Sunday’s 4 p.m. start is odd by NLL standards, but it’s the third time this season for the Wings and they’ve got 1 more after this weekend. “We’re getting used to it,” said Milligan, adding that the team will forsake its usual shootaround before games.

Chavez is an avid lacrosse player in Rochester and a journalist for the Democrat and Chronicle as well as a longtime Inside Lacrosse contributor. Email him at bob.chavez@nllinsider.com or go to RochesterSports.com.

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