After dropping four of its last five matches, including a 17-10 decision to the San Diego Seals in Las Vegas last weekend, Colorado will look to log its fifth victory of the season as the Mammoth head north for a duel with its divisional rival Saskatchewan Rush at SaskTel Centre Feb. 8.
The West Division contest represents the third of three regular season meetings between Colorado and Saskatchewan this year and holds great implications for the league’s most competitive division through 10 weeks. Fans can stream Saturday’s NLL Game of the Week for free on Facebook, Twitter or Bleacher Report Live.
Last Time They Met
Colorado secured a 12-6 decision over Saskatchewan Jan. 18 after recording its largest margin of victory for the campaign and limiting the Rush to an opponent’s season-low goal total of six. The Mammoth converted two-of-four power-play opportunities as Dillon Ward logged a season-high 54 saves in the win.
Eli McLaughlin (3g, 4a) and Ryan Lee (1g, 6a) each netted seven points in the match, while Chris Wardle notched five goals (5g, 0a) to lead Mammoth scorers as Taylor Stuart and Robert Hope each forced two turnovers and collected 10 loose balls in the skirmish.
Ben McIntosh (2g, 1a) and Mark Matthews (1g, 2a) paced the Rush in scoring with three points, while Jeff Shattler logged two goals (2g, 0a) for Saskatchewan. Jeremy Thompson led the Rush with nine loose balls as Evan Kirk stopped 35-of-47.
Early and Often
Following last weekend’s matchup against San Diego in Las Vegas, the Mammoth have played six of its first nine games away from 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. Following a road-and-road series against Vancouver and Saskatchewan, Colorado returned to Pepsi Center to face Buffalo before taking place in the first professional lacrosse game to take place in Sin City last weekend. As the Mammoth head to Saskatchewan Saturday, Colorado will have traveled for seven of the team’s first 10 games.
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.
The Mammoth head into Saturday’s contest as the only team to have completed nine games through the league’s first 10 weeks of action. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Saskatchewan has only logged five games this season, as the Rush played its last game three weeks ago when Colorado secured a 12-6 win at SaskTel Centre, Jan. 18.
Hit Me with Your WEST Shot:
Heading into Saturday’s contest against Saskatchewan, the Mammoth have competed against West Division opponents in six of its first nine matchups and will face the Rush this weekend, representing Colorado’s seventh divisional duel in the team’s first 10 games.
Colorado currently leads the division in goals-for (90) through nine matches, with an average of 10 goals logged per-game. Since the Rush have only logged five contests this season, Saskatchewan ranks last in the West in goals-for (46) and has averaged a division-low 9.2 goals-per-game.
As the league’s lone division with five teams, Colorado has been afforded several early looks at its divisional opponents but has only captured three of the six matches so far. Comparatively, Saskatchewan has faced West Division opponents in three-of-five matchups this season, having logged cross-divisional meetings with the New England Blackwolves and New York Riptide.
The West continues to be the league’s most competitive division through ten weeks of league play, as the Saskatchewan Rush hold a one-game advantage over Colorado and Vancouver, while the Calgary Roughnecks and San Diego Seals remain a mere game-and-a-half back of first place.
Despite only rostering five players who have accumulated double-digit point totals to begin the season, Saskatchewan recognizes its offensive threats and regularly organizes its offensive sets around forwards Mark Matthews, Robert Church, Ryan Keenan and Ben McIntosh.
Pacing the Rush in points (25) and assists (17), former NLL MVP Mark Matthews continues to lead Saskatchewan on the offensive end and remains tied with Ben McIntosh with a team-high eight goals while averaging five points-per-contest in the team’s young campaign. Matthews has also excelled on the team’s efficient power-play, having recorded two power-play goals and seven power-play assists (T8th among NLL forwards) while adding 19 loose balls and 46 shots on goal through five games.
Since posting eight points against Colorado in the squads’ Nov. 29 season-opening contest, Robert Church has logged nine points in his next four contests for a combined 17 points (7g, 10a), which ranks second in points among Saskatchewan players. McIntosh (8g, 6a) and Ryan Keenan (5g, 9a) are tied for third among Rush scorers with 14 points while Jeff Shattler’s 13 points (6g, 7a) round out Saskatchewan’s top-heavy offense.
Former Defensive Player of the Year Ryan Dilks has collected 27 loose balls and forced 15 caused turnovers, which ranks first in the league despite the Rush having logged only five games this season. Defenseman Kyle Rubisch has logged three points (2g, 1a) and continues to pace the Rush with 45 loose balls, while Saskatchewan goaltender Evan Kirk has earned a 3-1 record in net while ranking fourth in goals against average (9.09) and seventh in save percentage (.812%) for the Rush.
Sporting a one-game lead over Colorado and the Vancouver Warriors in the West Division as a result of its condensed start to the season, the Saskatchewan Rush are 3-2 through the team’s first five contests after posting victories over Colorado, New York and San Diego and dropping decisions to New England Dec. 14 and in its most recent matchup against the Mammoth, Jan. 18.
With Saturday’s seasonal tiebreaker looming between the West Division foes, the Mammoth have a chance to capture the regular season series with Saskatchewan for the first time since 2012. Heading into Saturday’s Week 11 competition, Saskatchewan is the only team yet to have logged six games in the NLL, while Colorado travels north for its tenth match of the season.
The Rush have limited opponents to a modest eight, 12, four, nine and 12 goals this season for an average of nine goals-against-per-game, but have averaged just 9.2 goals-for, which ranks 12th in the NLL. Despite its perfect 3-0 record on the road, Saskatchewan has averaged seven goals-per-game at SaskTel Centre, logging a combined 14 goals in two home appearances this season, including just six against Colorado three weeks ago.
Through the team’s efficient start to the season, the Rush have concentrated on its special teams and transition success, as the team currently averages roughly 78 loose balls-per-game and ranks third overall with a 55.60% power-play conversion rate. Saskatchewan has also stayed composed on both ends of the floor, as the team’s 40 penalty minutes and eight penalty minutes-per-game rank as the most efficient in the league through Week 10. Comparatively, the Mammoth currently average around 68 loose balls-per-game and 12.22 penalty minutes-per-contest while its extra-man opportunity conversion rate sits at an even 50% (17-of-34) to rank tied for fifth overall through Colorado’s first nine games.
The Mammoth will look to limit scoring opportunities and offensive rebounds against the Rush, as well as focusing logging quality offensive looks and staying disciplined defensively as the West Division opponents face off Feb. 8 at SaskTel Centre.
Colorado continues to spread the offensive load among several forwards this season while relying on its sound defensive effort and efficient power-play unit. Following a four-point performance last weekend against San Diego, Ryan Lee (16g, 24a) continues to pace the Mammoth in scoring through Colorado’s first nine contests. After leading the Mammoth in scoring last weekend with five points (3g, 2a) Eli McLaughlin (10g, 25a) leads Colorado in assists and has averaged five points-per-game in his seven games played, while Chris Wardle (13g, 22a) continues to provide consistent scoring for the Mammoth. Jacob Ruest (14g, 10a) and Kyle Killen (6g, 13a) have carved out solid depth scoring as Joey Cupido’s 15 points (6g, 9a) rank second in the league among transition players. Veteran Defenseman Robert Hope remains atop the team’s loose ball charts with 71 loose balls and joins the noted Mammoth players among the NLL’s leaders in several categories.
Goals: Ryan Lee, 16 (T6th)
Assists: Eli McLaughlin, 25 (6th)
Points: Ryan Lee, 40 (T4th)
Power-Play Goals: Jacob Ruest, 5 (T3rd)
Power-Play Assists: Ryan Lee/Eli McLaughlin, 8 (T4th)
Short-Handed Goals: Joey Cupido, 3 (1st)
Loose Balls: Robert Hope, 71 (3rd)
Saves: Dillon Ward, 377 (1st)
Save Percentage: Dillon Ward, .814% (6th—1st among G w/ 9 GP)
Goals Against Average: Dillon Ward, 9.55 (5th—1st among G w/ 9 GP)
Goaltender Minutes: Dillon Ward, 540:30 (1st)
Dylan Kinnear, Colorado’s third-round pick (39th overall) in the 2019 NLL Entry Draft, recorded a pair of goals last weekend against San Diego to give the rookie eight points (5g, 3a) in six games with the Mammoth. Colorado’s second-round pick (26th overall) in the 2019 NLL Entry Draft, Brett Craig, logged his second professional goal and picked up seven loose balls against the Seals Feb. 1, giving the rookie defenseman two points (2g, 0a), 32 loose balls and four caused turnovers in four games with Colorado this season. Despite missing Colorado’s last three games as a member of the practice roster, Will Malcom joins fellow first-year players in ranking among league-leading rookies:
Goals: Dylan Kinnear, 5 (T5th)
Points: Will Malcom, 10 (8th)
Power-Play Goals: Will Malcom, 1 (T5th)
Loose Balls: Brett Craig, 32 (7th)
Caused Turnovers: Warren Jeffrey/Brett Craig, 4 (T6th)
Shots: Will Malcom, 33 (7th)
Shots on Goal: Will Malcom, 21 (T7th)
Consistency is Key
The Mammoth continue to produce on both ends of the floor, executing a pass-first mentality and demonstrating unselfish play through the team’s first nine contests. Consistent performances from forwards and defenders alike continue to fuel Colorado’s competitive contests while disciplined play continues to support the Mammoth’s special teams’ success.
While the Mammoth have enjoyed spreading the offensive workload, at least one Colorado player has produced a hat trick in seven-of-nine 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, Ryan Lee (3g, 2a) Jan. 11, Chris Wardle (5g) and Eli McLaughlin (3g, 4a) Jan. 18, Ryan Lee (5g, 0a) Jan. 25 and most recently Eli McLaughlin (3g, 2a) in last weekend’s matchup with San Diego.
Several Mammoth players continue to contribute points each game, as seven forwards currently hold active point streaks to start the season:
Ryan Lee: (3-3-8-3-5-2-7-5-4)
Jacob Ruest: (5-2-7-1-2-1-1-4-1)
Chris Wardle: (2-3-6-2-4-2-5-8-3)
Kyle Killen: (2-3-3-1-3-3-3-2)
Eli McLaughlin: (5-4-4-3-7-7-5)
Jeff Wittig: (1-1-3-2-1)
Will Malcom: (3-3-2-1-1)
On the flip side, defenders and transition players continue to rack up stellar loose ball counts, with the following consistently leading the scoop charge thus far:
Robert Hope: (11-12-5-6-6-6-10-5-8)
Tim Edwards: (8-6-5-4-5-5-1-2-2)
Jordan Gilles: (4-4-7-8-2-8-9-10-3)
Joey Cupido: (4-6-4-1-6-3-9-3-3)
John Lintz: (4-4-3-7-2-1-4-3-3)
Tickets to Colorado’s Feb. 15 matchup against the San Diego Seals, and all Mammoth home games, can be purchased at AltitudeTickets.com. Mammoth home games will be aired on Altitude and Altitude 2 network stations, while all road games can be streamed live via Bleacher Report Live. Fans can stream Saturday’s NLL Game of the Week for free on Facebook, Twitter or Bleacher Report Live.