Ryan Benesch helped the Swarm accomplish a big goal in bringing a playoff game to Saint Paul.
At the beginning of the season, Swarm ownership set a goal. According to co-owner Andy Arlotta, that goal "was to bring a playoff game home to our fans." After finishing 8-8, and beating the Colorado Mammoth in the final game of the season, the Swarm accomplished that goal. Arlotta said , "In only our third year [as owners], having a home playoff game means the world to us. It makes our fans happy. As far as the importance of a home playoff game, it is very important."
The NLL puts fan experience at the top of its priority list, and the Swarm take that to heart. The Swarm also understand that a winning team is the best way to bring in fans. You can have all the giveaways, promotions, and advertising you want, but what puts fans in the stands is a winning program. With new ownership, the Swarm have put a winning program on the field, and the 2011 season was their best yet.
Make the jump to read more on the 2011 Minnesota Swarm.
Looking at the results over the course of the season, the Minnesota Swarm were never too high, never too low. Win one, lose one, win two, lose a couple. GM Marty O'Neill called the April 9th game against the Washington Stealth "the most exciting game I've ever seen." The battle, the tenacity of this Minnesota Swarm team was unending. They abttled some consistency issues, which Coach Mike Lines pointed out after the season, but with All-Star goalie Nick Patterson, and league scoring champion Ryan Benesch, the Swarm were certainly never out of any of the games.
Benesch lit up the NLL this season for 95 points (46G, 49A), but the Swarm also got plenty of scoring from other sources. Callum Crawford had the second best season of his career with 70 points (27G, 43A), and players such as Aaron Wilson, Mat Giles, and Jamie Shewchuk chipped in when needed.
The Swarm also received an outstanding rookie season from defenseman Andrew Suitor, the Swarm's first round pick in 2010, who also added some needed grit to the team, grabbing 108 loose balls, and placing second on the team in PIMs, behind "bash brother" Rory Smith. Suitor, whose bright yellow shoes make him stand out on the field, had a career night, potting four goals against the Calgary Roughnecks, and finishing the month of April with seven of his ten points.
Another rookie, transition Tyler Haas showed he has what it takes to be a very good player in the NLL as well. While Hass did not have a break out game, he was consistent throughout the season, putting up ten points (8G, 2A), he added 44 loose balls and 18 PIMs. None of what he did made him stand out, or receive any rookie of the year consideration, but at 6'6", 205lbs, Haas will be around awhile if he continues to be a presence on the field.
Washington head coach Chris Hall said the 2011 Minnesota Swarm were "the best Minnesota team there's ever been and they're really deep throughout. They improved their offense, and their offense is a lot deeper. Made some really good moves at the back end, and of course their goaltending can be spectacular at times."
Hall could not have summarized the 2011 Swarm team better. Outstanding goaltending, offensive prowess, grit, toughness, and solid defense. The Swarm of 2011 were different from any other Swarm team up until this point. They have a growing fan base in Minnesota, are putting together a winning program, and with the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft, will only add to the talent of the team.
With the team that was on the field in 2011, any improvement next season will make the Swarm a very dangerous team. Expect more playoff games, and perhaps even that elusive playoff victory, in 2012.