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Colorado Set to Renew Rivalry with San Diego Saturday Night

COLORADO MAMMOTH (1-3) VS. SAN DIEGO SEALS (2-2)
SAT. JAN. 13 | 7 P.M. MT | BALL ARENA
ALTITUDE TV 2 | ESPN+

Resilience comes in many shapes and sizes.

Thankfully for the established core of veterans on this year’s team, they’ve experienced almost any possible scenario this league has to offer at this point. From multiple NLL Championships to early playoff exits to even just four-win campaigns, it hasn’t been all glitz and glamor.

Which is the point, right?

If it were easy to qualify for three consecutive trips to the NLL Finals, everybody would be doing it. With the same two squads earning said final postseason berth, there’s been 13 “losers” both of the last two seasons, extended to an even 14 once the best-of-three series has been completed.

Long story short, it’s important to remember the highs of that 2021-22 Championship season.

As fans. As coaches. As players and anyone else who touches this organization.

Remembering the celebrations and glory, sure. But more importantly, remembering what it takes as a team, a collective unit, to earn the right to represent the National Lacrosse League on its biggest stage.

That will be Head Coach Pat Coyle’s goal this weekend as the team regroups after its 1-3 start. Getting guys on the same page defensively, pressing the reset button in the O-zone and mixing in a few new guys to spice things up. Which is exactly what the boys need after dropping a 12-8 final to the league’s defending champions.

Allowing the Bandits to score the first six goals of the contest throughout the opening 25 minutes of play, Mammoth forward Zed Williams eventually got the Mammoth on the board midway through the second quarter. However, that would represent the away team’s lone goal of the first half, as the offensive group struggled to produce and the defense seemed to be out of sync during the opening 30.

RELATED: Bandits Secure 12-8 Victory Over Mammoth Saturday Night in Buffalo

Sitting up straight and getting back to typical form, Colorado outscored Buffalo 5-3 in the third, with Eli McLaughlin recording a third-quarter hat trick in addition to defenseman Tim Edwards stepping up with a quick shorthanded goal in transition and Connor Kelly continuing to display his goal-scoring talents. Seeing Kelly net another pair of tallies in the final quarter, he completed a hat trick of his own en route to willing the Mammoth back within three with seven minutes to play.

Unable to keep the momentum flowing, the comeback stalled at eight, while Bandits’ forward Kyle Buchanan solidified the 12-8 final with a strike at the 13:23 mark.

Eli McLaughlin paced Mammoth forwards with five points (3g, 2a), while Connor Kelly (3g, 1a), Tim Edwards (1g, 1a) and Zed Williams (1g, 1a) representing the remaining goal scorers. Across the turf, it was Dhane Smith (2g, 5a), Josh Byrne (3g, 4a) and Brad McCulley (2g, 4a) highlighted Buffalo’s top scoring threats on the night, with Chase Fraser chipping in four points (2g, 2a) and Tehoka Nanticoke (2g, 0a) logging a pair of goals in the win.

Dealing with one of the league’s hardest schedules to kick off the season, things don’t get much easier when the Seals come to town Saturday. Currently 2-2 and the one of two teams from last year’s West Conference with more than one win, San Diego will first have to entertain a matchup against the Las Vegas Desert Dogs in Sin City Friday night before taking an early morning flight into the altitude Saturday morning.

Seeing the Albany FireWolves (5-0) and Toronto Rock (4-0) continue their perfect starts to the season, the Georgia Swarm improved to 4-1 last weekend after picking up a big win over Panther City, and now join the Rochester Knighthawks (3-1) and two aforementioned squads as the only organizations with three-plus wins through the opening six weeks of action. Even more shocking, teams occupying the No. 9 to No. 15 rankings each only have one win, with the No. 9 Calgary Roughnecks set to bring a 1-2 record into its showdown with the Vancouver Warriors, while each of the Saskatchewan Rush, Colorado Mammoth, Panther City Lacrosse Club, New York Riptide and Vancouver Warriors will look to build on their matching 1-3 records.

Another showdown, another week Mammoth General Manager Brad Self and company have been wheeling and dealing. Arguably the league’s most active team since the start of the 2023-24 campaign, Colorado completed its fourth trade of the season Wednesday afternoon by acquiring forward Thomas Vela from the Calgary Roughnecks (lefty) in exchange for forward Brett McIntyre (righty).

RELATED: Mammoth Acquire Forward Thomas Vela from Calgary Roughnecks

With forward Dylan Kinnear placed onto the team’s Injured Reserve List Wednesday as well, the team will now look to Connor Robinson, Eli McLaughlin and Chris Wardle to continue leading efforts on that side of the floor, with either Vela or Practice Player forward Jon Phillips potentially receiving their first opportunity of the year to don the burgundy and black.

Saturday’s matchup inside the LOUD HOUSE represents the first of two matchups against San Diego this season and the only to be hosted inside Ball Arena, as the Mammoth will travel to Pechanga Arena for a rare Sunday bout with the West Coasters next month on Sunday, Feb. 4.

Serving as the seventh of eight Week 7 contests set to occur throughout the league’s slate, two of last season’s “Best in the West” are primed to clash in what’s quickly becoming a very important game for Colorado, as the organization looks to avoid a 1-4 start to the season.

Saturday night’s showdown against the scrappy Seals is set to begin at 7 p.m. MT inside Ball Arena! Fans can catch the team’s fifth matchup of the year on Altitude TV 2 and ESPN+.

Last Time They Met

Beating your rivals feels good because those matchups mean more. So, after knocking San Diego out of the playoff during Colorado’s 2021-22 Championship run, within a three-game West Conference Finals series, the burgundy boys doubled down last season, this time eliminating San Diego during a winner-takes-all Quarterfinal showdown.

Traveling to Pechanga Arena for the postseason battle, Colorado didn’t waste any time getting started, as Jordan Gilles and Chris Wardle notched a pair of goals less than six minutes in. Eventually outscoring the Seals 7-3 throughout the first half, controlling both zones and seeing goaltender Dillon Ward put on quite the show, the Mammoth were locked in.

However, after a brief halftime pause, San Diego came out firing. Picking up three goals in the opening six and a half minutes of second-half action, the Seals were suddenly down just two. With Tim Edwards, Ryan Lee and Zed Williams getting on the scoreboard, they helped the away team earn a 10-7 lead through the first 45 minutes of play. Outscoring the Mammoth 5-2 during the final quarter, it was Eli McLaughlin who destroyed the Seals’ postseason dreams with just two seconds remaining. Sending the West’s No. 1 seed home early in shocking fashion, Colorado secured its spot in yet another West Conference Finals courtesy of the 13-12 win.

Ryan Lee put on a show of his own, leading all scorers in the game with nine points (4g, 5a). Rounding out the trio of standouts, McLaughlin produced six points (4g, 2a), while Williams added five (2g, 3a) in the team’s first of four playoff victories.

Leading the Way

Liger see, Liger do, as the talented forward continues to pace this year’s squad with a team-high 17 points (8g, 9a) and remains tied with teammate Tyson Gibson with a squad-leading nine helpers. Which shouldn’t be much of a surprise to opponents or Mammoth fans, as the B.C. native has been filling nets and connecting with his teammates in Colorado for quite some time (now in his ninth season with the Mammoth). Leading the way once again last weekend with five points (3g, 2a), he’s logged at least two goals in three of his four appearances while producing at least two assists in each game as well, now averaging 2.25 helpers per outing.

Joining fellow veteran Joey Cupido as one of the team’s two alternate captains this season, he sits alongside Colorado captain Robert Hope and the following players in leading the way in their respective statistical categories, including:

Points: 17 (Eli McLaughlin)

Goals: 8 (Connor Kelly)

Assists: 9 (Tyson Gibson, Eli McLaughlin)

Loose Balls: 32 (Robert Hope)

Caused Turnovers: 6 (Brett Craig, Robert Hope)

Penalty Minutes: 25 (Jordan Gilles)

Blocked Shots: 6 (Robert Hope)

Faceoff Wins: 67 (Tim Edwards)

Consistency is Key

Through the team’s first four matchups of the season, forward Connor Kelly has played in just three, missing the team’s overtime win over the Vancouver Warriors while sitting on the team’s Short Term Hold Out List. In the three games he’s appeared in, he’s recorded at least two goals in each, while meeting the revered hat-trick mark in two of the three, including last weekend’s showdown in Banditland. Able to score from a variety of step-down looks and set plays alike, he’s continued to improve his on-floor chemistry with the likes of McLaughlin, Robinson and beyond as he finds his role in Jason Bishop’s offense. Seeing Robert Hope stay involved with some key passes in the transition game, he’s now got at least one point in all four contests, joining fellow back-enders in Evan Downey and Joey Cupido in finding the scoresheet in each game played. Cupido, now with three points in his first two contests back from the Injured Reserve List, could be just the spark the Mammoth need Saturday night to fend off a Seals squad that’s enjoyed plenty of regular season success inside Ball Arena and joins each of the following players in keeping their respective point streaks alive, including:

Eli McLaughlin: (2g, 3a), (1g, 2a), (2g, 2a), (3g, 2a) = 17 points (8g, 9a)

Connor Robinson: (0g, 2a), (3g, 0a), (4g, 3a), (0g, 1a) = 13 points (7g, 6a)

Tyson Gibson: (1g, 4a), (1g, 2a), (2g, 1a), (0g, 2a) = 13 points (4g, 9a)

Connor Kelly: (3g, 2a), (2g, 1a), (3g, 1a) = 12 points (8g, 4a)

Zed Williams: (0g, 1a), (2g, 4a), (1g, 1a) = 9 points (3g, 6a)

Robert Hope: (0g, 1a), (0g, 1a), (0g, 1a), (0g, 2a) = 5 points (0g, 5a)

Joey Cupido: (0g, 1a), (0g, 2a) = 3 points (0g, 3a)

Evan Downey: (0g, 1a) = 1 point (0g, 1a)

Just Another Matchup

The new yellow jerseys with the palm trees are pretty cool, but that’s pretty much where it starts and stops for one of the league’s, if not sport’s, scrappiest teams. While Father Time Brodie Merrill finally endured retirement in the league’s offseason, the team has returned plenty of badgering back-enders, with Danny Logan, Patrick Shoemay, Cam Holding and Drew Belgrave representing some of the biggest names. Welcoming veteran defenseman Kyle Rubisch to the squad as one of many older guys who have found their way to San Diego with the unfulfilled hopes of earning an NLL championship, they’re definitely solid on defense, and need to be, with the organization turning to young netminder Chris Origlieri this time around.

Allowing Frank Scigliano to sign with a former West Conference rival, Origlieri has looked solid in his four starts and will bring a 2-2 record, 11.00 goals-against average and .774 save percentage into Saturday’s showdown, where he’ll be forced to deal with the numerous productive options featured within Colorado’s offense.

Up front, forward Wes Berg leads the team with 23 points (11g, 12a) while also pacing the team in overall goal-scoring. Set to enter Ball Arena Saturday after dropping a 10-8 battle to the Las Vegas Desert Dogs, the Seals team also wields potent scoring weapons in Austin Staats (9g, 13), Dane Dobbie (6g, 13a) and Curtis Dickson (7g, 12a). Arguably the league’s most talented and established Top 4 (typically rivaled by Colorado, who would start McLaughlin, Robinson, Williams and Lee on its healthiest of nights), these guys can score with or without the rock, as any of the options are worthy of drawing an extra slide or double team, with respect to their elite scoring profiles.

Tre Leclaire has stepped up a bit for San Diego this season as well, ranking fifth in scoring courtesy of his 12-point (4g, 8a) effort thus far. Signing free agent forward Kyle Jackson (6g, 3a) this past offseason, a quality scoring and dodging player in his own right who netted a hat trick (3g, 0a) Friday night in Las Vegas, it will likely be these six finding the scoresheet most frequently throughout the beginning of the season, starting on Saturday inside Ball Arena.

With Dillon Ward rounding back into regular season form and the Mammoth organization continuing to trend to healthier days, most recently welcoming rookie defenseman Owen Down back from the Injured Reserve List, the Seals will face a determined and dedicated Colorado squad who looks to improve to 2-1 inside the LOUD HOUSE Saturday night!

Get in the Game

Mammoth games can be viewed on Altitude TV and streamed live via ESPN+. Saturday’s Jan. 13 matchup against the San Diego Seals can be viewed on Altitude TV 2 and streamed live on ESPN+. Mammoth fans can keep an eye on the team’s social media channels and coloradomammoth.com for the latest news, transactions and organizational updates throughout the 2023-24 NLL season.

Limited tickets for Colorado’s Military Appreciation Night matchup against the San Diego Seals Jan. 13 at Ball Arena remain available!

 

Colorado Mammoth Pro Lacrosse Team