After picking up three-consecutive wins against Vancouver, Georgia and Calgary, Colorado dropped a 12-9 decision to the Halifax Thunderbirds at Scotiabank Centre Jan. 11.
The Mammoth hit the road for a double-header this weekend with two chances to secure victories against West Division opponents, starting Friday, Jan. 17 with a matchup against the Vancouver Warriors at 8:30 p.m. MT before traveling to Saskatchewan to duel the Rush at 6:30 p.m. MT Saturday, Jan. 18. The back-to-back series holds great importance with the Mammoth and this weekend’s opponents alike, as Saskatchewan (3-1) leads the West Division by half of a game, while Vancouver (1-4) remains tied with San Diego (1-4) for last place (2.5 games back). Colorado (3-2) currently sits in second place and will look to improve on its division-best 51 goals-for against Vancouver, who remains tied with San Diego for most goals allowed in the division (64) through Week 7. Fans can stream the matchups against Vancouver and Saskatchewan, as well as all Mammoth games, via Bleacher Report Live.
On the Road Again
Following this weekend’s double-header on the road, the Mammoth will have played five of its first seven games away from the Pepsi Center. After hosting the Saskatchewan Rush Nov. 29 as the league’s season-opening game, Colorado spent five weeks away from Pepsi Center, logging its next game Dec. 21 in Calgary and traveling to Georgia Dec. 28 before returning home for a Jan. 4 victory over Vancouver at the Loud House.
After dropping its recent contest in Halifax, the Mammoth will remain on the road this weekend for two games before returning to Pepsi Center as Colorado hosts the Buffalo Bandits Jan. 25 for its Beach Party at the Loud House. Following the sandy soiree, the Mammoth will visit Orleans Arena in Las Vegas during a Feb. 1 date with the San Diego Seals during the first professional lacrosse game to take place in Sin City before heading north to face Saskatchewan again Feb. 8.
Colorado will close out the season hosting six-of-eight remaining games, providing several opportunities for Mammoth fans to get the Loud House rocking during the stretch run as the team makes a push for playoffs.
Down on the Farm
Colorado’s second-round selection (31st overall) in the 2019 NLL Entry Draft, Jake McNabb, has been turning heads in the Arena Lacrosse League after posting 27 points in his first three contests with the Oshawa Outlaws. The 5-11, 160-pound 23-year-old has exerted his dominance on the competition thus far and has rapidly climbed the league’s ranks despite only logging three games.
The forward’s 27 points (13g, 14a) rank tied for second overall, while his 13 goals rank first. McNabb’s 14 assists are also good for fourth place while his eight power-play goals rank first in the league. The Owen Sound, Ontario native posted an 11-point (6g, 5a) outing Dec. 28 against the Peterborough Timbermen and continues to provide elite scoring, ranking second in points and assists and first in goals for the Outlaws.
If Colorado’s prospect can continue to average nine points per game while producing well-rounded performances, look for McNabb to earn a promotion from the practice roster and log some NLL experience before the season comes to an end.
Vancouver: Highs and Lows
Despite rostering some of the league’s most frequent shooters and explosive offensive stars, the Warriors have struggled to find the win column during the start of the 2019-20 campaign. Sporting a 1-4 record and sitting tied for the bottom of the NLL’s West Division, Vancouver has been challenged early this season but continues to lead the league in several team and individual categories.
While the Mammoth limited forward Mitch Jones to four points (1g, 3a) during Colorado’s 13-9 victory Jan. 4, Jones has had a monstrous start to the season, averaging 6.4 points-per-game through five contests. Vancouver’s stud leads the league with 32 points (12g, 20a) while ranking in the top 10 of several other categories, including:
Goals: 12, (T1st)
Assists: 20, (1st)
Shots: 85, (2nd)
Shots on Goal: 59, (1st)
Loose Balls: 37, (T8th – 2nd among forwards)
Rounding out the top-four offensive threats for the Warriors are forwards Keegan Bal, Jordan McBride and Logan Schuss. Bal, who logged five points (2g, 3a) during the Jan. 4 matchup at Pepsi Center, continues to provide consistent offense for the Warriors and ranks among league leaders with 25 points (T3rd), 19 assists (2nd), 72 shots (T4th) and 50 shots on goal (5th) while teammate Jordan McBride is tied for first in the NLL with 12 goals. Logan Schuss, who logged five points (3g, 2a) during the teams’ last meeting, has picked up 13 points (8g, 5a) and ranks tied for eighth in the league in goals. Vancouver captain Matt Beers has contributed seven points (2g, 5a) while scooping 33 loose balls and causing eight turnovers, which currently ranks for a third-place tie.
As a team, Vancouver ranks second in shots (384), shots on goal (268) and loose balls (377) through five contests, so expect the Warriors to come out shooting early and often. Sporting a top-heavy offensive approach to the season so far, Jones, Bal, McBride and Schuss have combined for a total 276 shots and 193 shots on goal for Vancouver, representing nearly 72 percent of the team’s shots taken and shots on goal this season. Comparatively, the Mammoth have registered 312 shots and 238 shots on goal as a team and will look to contain Vancouver’s top four forwards during Friday’s matchup between the West Division opponents.
Efficient Attack, Defensive Rush
Sporting a half-game lead over the Mammoth in the West Division via its consistent start to the season, the Saskatchewan Rush are 3-1 through the team’s first four contests after posting victories over Colorado, New York and San Diego and dropping a 12-8 decision to New England Dec. 14. The Rush have successfully limited opponents to a modest eight, 12, four and nine goals this season for an average of 8.25 goals-per-game, including limiting the Mammoth to eight goals during Faceoff Weekend. Robert Church logged a team-high eight points (3g, 5a) when the teams met Nov. 29 while Ryan Keenan added six (2g, 4a) and Mark Matthews chipped in five (1g, 4a). The streaky-scoring season-opening affair featured a Mammoth comeback effort stopped short in the fourth quarter, as the Rush secured the 9-8 win. Jacob Ruest tallied five points (3g, 2a) while Eli McLaughlin added five helpers (0g, 5a) as Ryan Lee and Chris Wardle each contributed two goals.
Despite only four players logging double-digit points through the team’s first four games, Saskatchewan understands who needs to touch the ball and regularly feeds forwards Mark Matthews, Robert Church, Ryan Keenan and Ben McIntosh whenever possible.
Matthews has produced unmatchable efficiency for the Rush, logging 22 points (7g, 15a) on a mere 37 shots on goal this season. The forward’s 22 points are tied with Ryan Lee for eighth in the league, while Matthews’ 15 assists rank him tied for seventh overall. Robert Church ranks second among Saskatchewan forwards with 15 points (7g, 8a) while his 60 shots tie teammate Ben McIntosh for 12th most shots recorded in the NLL. McIntosh’s 43 shots on goal also rank tied for eighth while his 11 points (6g, 5a) are good for fourth among Rush players. Forward Ryan Keenan has produced 13 points (4g, 9a) and scooped 26 loose balls while Jeff Shattler has logged nine points (2g, 7a) to round out Saskatchewan’s scoring leaders.
Defenseman Ryan Dilks has collected 22 loose balls and forced 10 caused turnovers, which ranks tied for first in the NLL. Kyle Rubisch continues to pace the Rush with 40 loose balls, good for sixth in the league, and remains tied with teammate Mike Messenger for seventh overall with seven caused turnovers. Saskatchewan goaltender Evan Kirk has earned a 3-0 record in net while ranking among second in goals against average (8.20) and save percentage (.831%) for the Rush.
Saskatchewan has put forth a valiant team effort so far this season, ranking among league leaders in several team categories, including:
Loose Balls: 318 (6th overall – 2nd among teams with 4 games played)
Shots: 307 (7th overall – 3rd among teams with 4 games played)
Shots on Goal: 227 (5th overall – 1st among teams with 4 games played)
Through the team’s efficient start to the season, the Rush currently average roughly 80 loose balls-per-game, 77 shots per-game and 57 shots on goal-per-game. As a point of reference, the Mammoth currently average around 66 loose balls-per-game, 62 shots-per-game and 48 shots on goal-per-game.
Colorado will need to focus on limiting shot lanes, scoring opportunities and offensive rebounds against the Rush, as well as keying in on collecting loose balls and logging quality offensive looks as the West Division opponents face off Jan. 18 at SaskTel Centre.
Colorado continues to rely on its sound defensive effort, speedy transition game and efficient power-play to generate its steady offensive output thus far. Ryan Lee (8g, 14a), Jacob Ruest (11g, 6a), Chris Wardle (7g, 10a) and company have continued to develop offensive chemistry in leading the Mammoth in scoring, while Eli McLaughlin (2g, 11a), Kyle Killen (4g, 8a) and rookie Will Malcom (4g, 5a) have provided secondary scoring for Colorado. Veteran Defenseman Robert Hope has led the loose ball charge with 42 scoops and joins the noted Mammoth players among the NLL’s leaders:
Goals: Jacob Ruest, 11 (T4th)
Assists: Ryan Lee, 12 (T9th)
Points: Ryan Lee, 22 (T8th)
Power-Play Goals: Jacob Ruest, 5 (2nd)
Power-Play Assists: Ryan Lee, 5 (T7th)
Short-Handed Goals: Joey Cupido, 2 (1st)
Loose Balls: Robert Hope, 42 (5th)
Caused Turnovers: Joey Cupido/Jordan Gilles/John Lintz, 5 (T10th)
Saves: Dillon Ward, 225 (1st)
Save Percentage: Dillon Ward, .827% (3rd—1st among G w/ 5 GP)
Goals Against Average: Dillon Ward, 9.18 (5th—1st among G w/ 5GP)
Goaltender Minutes: Dillon Ward, 307:02 (1st)
Since netting his first NLL goal during Colorado’s 8-7 overtime win over Calgary Dec. 21, Will Malcom has continued to turn in quality performances for the Mammoth, logging nine points (4g, 5a) and 12 loose balls in five games. The forward joins defenseman Brett Craig and rookie Warren Jeffrey in ranking among rookie league leaders in eight categories:
Goals: Will Malcom, 4 (T5th)
Assists: Will Malcom, 5 (T6th)
Points: Will Malcom, 9 (T6th)
Power-Play Goals: Will Malcom, 1 (T2nd)
Loose Balls: Warren Jeffrey, Brett Craig, 18 (T6th)
Caused Turnovers: Warren Jeffrey, 3 (T6th)
Shots: Will Malcom, 29 (3rd)
Shots on Goal: Will Malcom, 18 (5th)
Consistency is Key
The Mammoth continue to execute on both ends of the floor, executing a pass-first mentality and demonstrating unselfish play through the team’s first five contests. Consistent performances from forwards and defenders alike continue to fuel Colorado’s transition game and special teams’ success. While the Mammoth have enjoyed spreading the offensive workload, at least one Colorado player has produced a hat trick in four-of-five contests this season, including three-plus goal performances by Jacob Ruest (3g, 2a) Nov. 29, Jacob Ruest (5g, 2a) Dec. 28, Joey Cupido (3g, 2a) Jan. 4 and most recently, Ryan Lee (3g, 2a) Jan. 11 against Halifax.
Several Mammoth players continue to contribute points each game, as seven forwards currently hold active point streaks to start the season:
Ryan Lee: (3-3-8-3-5)
Jacob Ruest: (5-2-7-1-2)
Chris Wardle: (2-3-6-2-4)
Kyle Killen: (2-3-3-1-3)
Jeff Wittig: (1-1-3-2)
Will Malcom: (3-3-2-1)
Eli McLaughlin: (5-4-4)
On the flip side, defenders and transition players continue to rack up stellar loose ball counts, with the following consistently leading the scooping charge thus far:
Robert Hope: (11-12-5-6-6)
Tim Edwards: (8-6-5-4-5)
Jordan Gilles: (4-4-7-8-2)
Joey Cupido: (4-6-4-1-6)
John Lintz: (4-4-3-7-2)
After posting a season-high 57 shots on goal Jan. 11 against the Thunderbirds, Colorado has placed an emphasis on balancing a comfortable amount of shots on goal with a steady and physical defensive presence.
The Mammoth currently rank third in the league with 11 power-play goals and fifth in power-play percentage (52.38%) through five games. Expect the Mammoth to limit extra-man opportunities by staying disciplined defensively and continuing to take advantage of Joey Cupido and its speedy transition game while feeding the hot sticks of Ryan Lee, Chris Wardle and company this weekend as Colorado travels to Vancouver Jan. 17 and Saskatchewan Jan. 18 for a West Division double-header.