After capturing its sixth victory of the season Sunday, a 12-10 scrappy battle with the Saskatchewan Rush, the Mammoth is set to head north to complete the home-and-home series with the desperate Rush squad. Entering Week 13 with a 6-2 record, its best start through eight games since the 2016-17 season, Colorado sits in second place of the NLL’s Western Conference, as the San Diego seals (6-1) enjoyed a week of rest during Week 12’s slate of competition.
Undefeated against the Eastern Conference (1-0, W @ Georgia Dec. 4) and now 5-2 against the West, the Mammoth will look to secure its series advantage against the Rush Saturday, a potential key playoff scenario-deciding factor as the NLL postseason quickly draws near. Having captured the early-season series against Vancouver during consecutive victories in Vancouver Jan. 7 and then back at the Loud House Jan. 29, Colorado’s trip back to the states (and playoff picture outlook) will be much more enjoyable if the squad can take care of business at SaskTel Centre Saturday evening.
Mammoth fans will be able to stream Saturday’s matchup, and all Mammoth games this season, on ESPN+! This weekend’s matchup will also air locally (delayed) Feb. 27 at 11:30 a.m. MT on Altitude TV.
Following a seven-goal performance in Calgary Feb. 11, the Mammoth recorded 12 tallies last weekend en route to picking up its fifth win in the team’s last six matchups. Despite trailing by four goals as halftime approached, Colorado picked up two goals in the final six minutes of the opening half and went on to outscore Saskatchewan 3-1 in the third, bringing a 7-7 tie into the final quarter. The physical match, which featured a combined 31 penalty minutes, was decided in the final moments of play, as defenseman Warren Jeffrey collected a loose ball and took it the length of the turf to score an empty-net goal and put the Mammoth ahead with just over a minute to play. What seemed like the last goal of the contest was quickly followed up by another defenseman, this time in the form of veteran Mark Messenger, who abruptly reinstated the one-goal deficit. After successfully denying the Rush during its last six-on-five attempt, Jordan Gilles kept the scoring going for the D guys, as the B.C. native delivered another empty-net bid to solidify Colorado’s 12-10 victory.
Ryan Lee (5g, 2a) headlined offensive efforts for the Mammoth, as the forward logged his third hat trick of the season while managing to score in all four quarters at Ball Arena Sunday. Connor Robinson extended his goal streak to five games, as the former Rush player recorded three points (2g, 1a) in his first contest against his old squad. Eli McLaughlin posted his fifth four-plus point performance (1g, 4a) while Zed Williams added four helpers (0g, 4a) in the win.
Mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward stopped 47-of-57 shots against and brings a league-best .820 save percentage (among goaltenders with 100+ minutes played) into Saturday’s matchup against the Rush.
An afternoon which included two defensemen surpassing 800+ career loose ball totals (Joey Cupido, Robert Hope), three defensemen scoring their first markers of the campaign (John Lintz, Warren Jeffrey, Jordan Gilles), Eli McLaughlin logging his 200th career assist and Zed Williams recording his 100th career point, the Mammoth head into Week 13 looking to stay hot and capture its second series advantage of the season.
Ryan Lee & The Consisten-Zs:
As the organization approaches its midseason point, forward Ryan Lee continues to produce for the Mammoth offense and paces Colorado personnel in goals (21), assists (33) and points (54). After picking up seven points (5g, 2a) Sunday, Lee was firing from afar, diving through the crease and connecting with teammates as a scoring threat and distributer alike. While ranking among league-leaders in numerous categories as the forward continues to fuel his Most Valuable Player campaign, the fourth-year forward’s 6.75 points-per-game rank highest among players to have played in eight-plus games and second-most in the NLL overall heading into Week 13, positioning him alongside elite NLL scoring threats in:
Jeff Teat: 7.16 PPG (43 in 6 GP)
Ryan Lee: 6.75 PPG (54 in 8 GP)
Dhane Smith: 6.62 PPG (53 in 8 GP)
Callum Crawford: 6.25 PPG (50 in 8 GP)
Lyle Thompson: 6.0 PPG (60 in 10 GP)
In eight games this season, Ryan Lee has logged a goal in seven (0g, 9a 2/5 vs. Calgary) and joins forward Connor Robinson as the only forwards to have scored in all but one contest for the Mammoth this season (McLaughlin represent the only player to have scored a goal in each contest). After surpassing his own single-season high of 59 points last season in five less games (60 in 13 GP), the 2018 NLL Entry Draft selection heads into his ninth game of the year just six points shy of his career-best. While Lee and Robinson have led the scoring attack, forwards Eli McLaughlin and Zed Williams have continued to find twine while getting their teammates involved and represent two of four players who’ve scored at least one point in each game played this season, including:
Ryan Lee (5g, 3a), (1g, 1a), (2g, 3a), (2g, 10a), (4g, 3a), (0g, 9a), (2g, 2a), (5g, 2a) = (21g, 33a)
Eli McLaughlin (3g, 3a), (1g, 2a), (1g, 3a), (3g, 4a), (1g, 3a), (2g, 1a), (3g, 0a), (1g, 4a) = (15g, 20a)
Zed Williams (2g, 1a) (0g, 2a), (1g, 1a), (1g, 1a), (1g, 1a), (0g, 3a), (0g, 4a) = (5g, 13a)
Sam LeClair (3g, 0a), (3g, 1a), (0g, 1a) = (6g, 1a)
Colorado enters Week 13 of NLL play as the only team to have less than 10 power-play conversions this season (7) and continues to defend its league-best penalty-kill unit title, effectively negating 27-of-34 opportunities to boast a 79.4 kill percentage. Having only recorded 93 penalty minutes in eight contests, which qualifies as the fewest this season after racking up 15 last weekend, the Mammoth have remained committed to being physical, yet disciplined on the back end this season and head into this week’s contest with the third-lowest average of penalty minutes per-game (11.63). As the organization as a whole has impressed to begin the year, the Mammoth roster features several individuals who rank among league-leaders in multiple categories, including:
Goals: 21 (T4th) Ryan Lee
Assists: 33 (T4th) Ryan Lee
Points: 54 (3rd) Ryan Lee
Points-Per-Game: 6.75 (2nd) Ryan Lee
Loose Balls: 78 (7th) Robert Hope
Shorthanded Goals: 2 (T2nd) Connor Robinson
Shorthanded Assists: 2 (T1st) Robert Hope, Chris Wardle
Game-Winning Goals: 3 (T1st) Eli McLaughlin
Save Percentage: .820 (2nd – 1st among G w/ 200+ minutes played) Dillon Ward
Goals-Against Average: 9.58 (3rd) Dillon Ward
*All rankings updated through Week 12 of NLL play
Rushing Back to the Win Column
Last week we opened this section by discussing the Rush’s championship pedigree from 2015 to 2018, recognizable veterans making an impact and prior successes rushing south from the lacrosse kingdom of Saskatoon. While Saskatchewan’s stars have continued to make an impact at both ends of the floor, the team’s slow start to the 2021-22 campaign doesn’t exactly reflect the riches typically enjoyed by the aging squad.
The Rush, which has begun the season with a 2-6 record, ranks fifth in the West and 12th in the NLL through Week 12. Regardless of the team maintaining a mere minus-six goal differential (80 GF, 86 GA) in eight contests, Saskatchewan has been a part of several close contests this season, as four of the team’s eight games have been decided by one goal, including the club’s first three matches of the campaign (12-11 L, 11-10 L, 10-9 W). While the Rush has battled closely in nearly each of its competitions, the organization has only come away with two wins, as Saskatchewan captured victories against the Vancouver Warriors (10-9) Dec. 17 and Panther City Lacrosse Club (16-7) Jan. 29.
After carrying a 4-2 lead into the second quarter, the Rush continued its first half dominance at Ball Arena Sunday, eventually logging five-consecutive goals to establish a 6-2 lead midway through the second quarter. Colorado went on to outscore Saskatchewan 8-4 for the duration, spiraling the veteran-led Rush squad to an unfamiliar 2-6 start to the season. DU product Mark Matthews produced a team-best five points (2g, 3a) Sunday, while teammate Josh Currier’s hat trick effort and Dan Lintner’s pair of tallies combined to fall short for the Rush. Despite holding a 2-5 record and .770 save percentage, Saskatchewan netminder Adam Shute enters Week 13 has provided quality goaltending for the club.
The Rush’s offensive efforts have been paced by veteran forwards Mark Matthews (13g, 25a) and Robert Church (16g, 19a), while teammate Ryan Keenen (6g, 24a) has added 30 points in eight games. The trio has operated as the team’s leading force as the group’s on-field chemistry is on display nightly, with the Rush unit regularly benefitting via the extra skip pass and tic-tac-toe approach early this season. Dan Lintner (13g, 5a) has enjoyed a hot start to the season with his 13 markers and joins Jeff Shatter (10g, 7a) and defenseman Mike Messenger (4g, 8a) as the remainder of Rush personnel with double-digit point totals so far.
Teammate Kyle Rubisch’s 72 loose balls qualify as a team-best and rank tied for 10th-most in the league, while the veteran’s 15 caused turnovers rank tied for seventh-best. Defenseman Ryan Dilks’ 17 caused turnovers are a team-best for the Rush and rank fourth-most among NLL players this season. Despite allowing six-of-eight opponents to rack up double-digit point totals, goaltender Adam Shute enters Week 13 with a respectable 9.78 goals-against average on 261 saves through the first half of the campaign.
New Faces, New Places
Entering a crucial Week 13 matchup, both organizations added a player Wednesday evening as each squad look to end its first half of play with a victory. The Mammoth added a 6-3, 200lb. defenseman out of Trent University in Nick Finlay. The defenseman has played with the Arena Lacrosse League’s Peterborough Timbermen and played Jr. ball with the Peterborough Lakers (Jr. A) and Gloucester Griffins (Jr. B). Originally selected 16th overall in the 2017 NLL Entry Draft by the Saskatchewan Rush, the Trent product has logged five points (2g, 3a), 28 loose balls and nine caused turnovers in 14 games with the Rush and Philadelphia Wings during the last three NLL seasons.
On Saskatchewan’s end, the club sent a 2022 NLL Entry Draft selection to the Philadelphia Wings in exchange for goaltender Eric Penney. The veteran goaltender, who’s played in 83 career NLL games, joins Rush netminder Adam Shute in Saskatchewan’s goaltending room, as the organization released Peter Dubenski Wednesday. Penney currently totes the league’s highest save percentage (.833%), though the netminder has logged just under 75 minutes of play in two games this season. The goaltender earned a victory in his lone start (1/8 vs. Georgia) by stopping 39-of-50 bids against the Swarm and added 10 saves in 15 minutes of play Feb. 5 to bring the veteran’s goals-against average to 9.61, which ranks fourth-best currently.
Get in the Game
Tickets to Colorado’s March 11 Rumble at the Loud House matchup against Panther City Lacrosse Club, and all Mammoth home games, can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com. Mammoth road games can be viewed on Altitude TV and streamed live via ESPN+.