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Mammoth Head East for NLL Finals Rematch with Buffalo Bandits

COLORADO MAMMOTH (1-2) VS. BUFFALO BANDITS (1-2)
SAT. JAN. 6 | 5:30 P.M. MT | KEYBANK CENTER
ALTITUDE TV | ESPN+

Momentum can be quite dangerous in professional sports. Whether you’re the team who scored six-straight in a half or the goaltender who refused to allow a goal for more than 30-plus minutes, when you’re feeling yourself, you’re feeling yourself. And after picking up a dramatic 12-11 overtime victory over the Vancouver Warriors last weekend, the team was definitely in a celebratory mood following its first win of the campaign.

Spotting the Warriors a five-goal lead less than five minutes into the contest, the Mammoth had their word cut out for them if they wanted to avoid an 0-3 start to the season. Eventually getting some efforts coordinated as the opening period concluded, Colorado trailed 7-3 after the first 15. But seeing Vancouver continue to keep its foot on the gas pedal, the home team brought a six-goal deficit in the break.

Thankfully for the burgundy boys, it was all Mammoth from there, as goaltender Tyler Carlson allowed zero goals for the remainder of the contest while the Mammoth collectively netted six-in-a-row to force some free lacrosse. With forward Connor Robinson sealing the deal just over four minutes into the extra session, the LOUD HOUSE exploded with joy, as the team captured its first win of the 2023-24 season in front of the loudest fans in lacrosse!

Naturally, Saturday’s showdown out east against the Buffalo Bandits will serve as a bit of a heat check and measuring stick for both teams, as the Bandits most recently dropped a tight 9-8 decision to the Georgia Swarm, who Mammoth fans are all too familiar with this season. Georgia, who was one of the hottest teams in the second half of last year’s campaign, is now 3-1 during the 2023-24 slate, with three combined wins over teams who made it to the NLL Finals just seven months ago.

The two teams sitting above the Swarm in the NLL standings heading into Week 6 are the league’s two remaining undefeated squads in the (4-0) Albany FireWolves and the (3-0) Toronto Rock, who are making early cases as juggernauts with postseason aspirations (nothing new for the Rock, but quite the turnaround for Albany, who finished last year’s slate with a 3-15 record and last place overall ranking (15 of 15). Quite the different story for the northeast contingent this time around.

With its win Saturday night inside Ball Arena, Colorado is now one of seven teams set to bring a one-win record into its Week 6 matchup, as teams anywhere from the No. 8-ranked Calgary Roughnecks (1-2) to the No. 14-ranked Las Vegas Desert Dogs (1-3) have endured slow starts to year, while the New York Riptide remain the only team yet to secure a win at 0-3. The No. 10 Bandits (1-2) will now prepare to hose the No. 11 Colorado Mammoth (1-2) as squads meet for the first time since Buffalo captured its 2022-23 NLL Championship last summer.

Personnel for both teams looks a bit different than last year’s NLL Finals, and even different than the beginning of the 2023-24 season for Colorado, as the team finalized its third trade of the regular season on Tuesday afternoon. Acquiring a conditional third-round selection in the 2025 NLL Entry Draft in exchange for defenseman Jordan Stouros, who the team signed in early December, but hadn’t cracked the lineup, the organization added some future draft capital while continuing to navigate the waters of the numbers game, with players continuing to return from the Injured Reserve List. Seeing Joey Cupido make an instant impact during his season debut last weekend against Vancouver, fans can stay tuned to coloradomammoth.com and Colorado Mammoth social media channels for the latest news, transactions and beyond!

RELATED: Colorado Acquires Third-Round Pick from Philadelphia Wings

Saturday’s matchup inside KeyBank Center represents the first of two matchups against the Bandits this season and the only to take place within Banditland, as the Mammoth are set to host Buffalo for the regular season finale later this season on Friday, April 5.

Representing the third of four Week 6 contests set to occur throughout the league’s slate, two of last year’s top teams are set to faceoff with bad blood on the brain, while fans inside the LOUD HOUSE will prepare to salute our active and retired service men and women during the team’s next home showdown, Saturday, Jan. 13 against the San Diego Seals.

Saturday night’s action in Buffalo is set to begin at 5:30 p.m. MT! Fans can catch the team’s fourth battle of the year on Altitude TV and ESPN+.

Last Time They Met

Sometimes bringing up the past means drudging through less fortunate memories, a la the last time the Mammoth suited em’ up against Saturday’s opponent. With Buffalo completing its postseason run by cementing a 13-4 final during Game 3 of the NLL Finals, it stings the players as much as it pains the fans, but will also serve as motivational fuel for this year’s squad. Just as the Bandits who watched on as Colorado celebrated in their house the previous summer. With the NLL being the NEXT big league, old memories and cellies are great, but it’s about the NEXT champion now, exactly what the Mammoth hope to become.

Keeping it brief, the third contest of the best-of-three format belonged to Buffalo from start to finish, as Colorado was extremely banged up and dealing with injuries all over the floor. Colorado managed one goal per quarter, with Connor Robinson striking in the first, Eli McLaughlin logging a goal in both the second and third quarters, and dunking specialist Chris Wardle finding twine early in the final 15. The Bandits, however, averaged just over three goals per quarter, with Dhane Smith (2g, 7a) and Josh Byrne (4g, 3a) leading the charge for Buffalo a variety of personnel contributing as well, with eight total scorers on the night.

Leading the Way

With forward Connor Kelly moved to the Short Term Hold Out List ahead of last weekend’s contest (don’t worry, he’s expected back soon!), who was pacing the squad with five goals and remained tied with fellow scorers Eli McLaughlin and Tyson Gibson with a team-best eight points, McLaughlin and lefty partner Connor Robinson knew exactly what they had to do against Vancouver. Find teammates, find the net and find the win!

Featuring a season-high performance from Robinson, which included four goals and three assists, including a game-winning saucer in overtime, the Magic Man is officially warmed up on the season after producing just two points (0g, 2a) during the team’s season-opener. Rounding into form a bit during the LOUD HOUSE season-opener against the Swarm, the B.C. native netted his first hat trick of the season as he continued to ramp things up. This time, leading the team in both points (seven) and goals, the red-headed menace has officially re-established himself as one of the league’s elite scoring options, and joins the following players in leading the way in their respective statistical categories, including:

Points: 12 (Connor Robinson, Eli McLaughlin)

Goals: 7 (Connor Robinson)

Assists: 7 (Tyson Gibson, Eli McLaughlin)

Loose Balls: 28 (Robert Hope)

Caused Turnovers: 4 (Brett Craig, Robert Hope)

Penalty Minutes: 25 (Jordan Gilles)

Blocked Shots: 6 (Robert Hope)

Faceoff Wins: 50 (Tim Edwards)

Consistency is Key

With Ryan Lee out for the season and Connor Kelly stepping as the shiny new offensive option (as he currently leads the team with five goals and remains tied with Eli McLaughlin and Tyson Gibson with a team-best eight points), the team hasn’t gotten off to the fiery start that some expected. But with Zed Williams missing last weekend’s rematch with the Swarm and Kelly continuing to get used to his new role in burgundy and black, a bit of patience will go hand-in-hand with seeing the team grow and come alive on the offensive end as the season progresses. Some teams have been able to rip off impressive 13 and 14-win seasons en route to their deep playoff runs, but that’s just not who this team is most nights. They’ll continue to rely on their All-World netminder in Dillon Ward and its established veteran core in turning things around. When the Mammoth are lighting the lamp, it will very likely be some combination of McLaughlin, Kelly, Tyson or Robinson finding their way to the score sheet, as the forwards continue to lead the way in producing points in each game:

Eli McLaughlin: (2g, 3a), (1g, 2a), (2g, 2a) = 12 points (5g, 7a)

Connor Robinson: (0g, 2a), (3g, 0a), (4g, 3a) = 12 points (7g, 5a)

Tyson Gibson: (1g, 4a), (1g, 2a), (2g, 1a) = 11 points (4g, 7a)

Connor Kelly: (3g, 2a), (2g, 1a) = 8 points (5g, 4a)

Zed Williams: (0g, 1a), (2g, 4a) = 7 point (2g, 5a)

Chris Wardle: (2g, 2a), (0g, 1a), (0g, 2a) = 7 points (2g, 5a)

Robert Hope: (0g, 1a), (0g, 1a), (0g, 1a) = 3 points (0g, 3a)

Jordan Gilles: (0g, 1a), (1g, 0a) = 2 point (1g, 1a)

Joey Cupido: (0g, 1a) = 1 point (0g, 1a)

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

Last Year’s Champs

By now, everyone is quite aware of which team exited the 2023 NLL Finals in the winner’s circle. But five weeks into the 2023-24 slate, that doesn’t mean much, as all 15 of the league’s teams are chasing THIS year’s championship! Nonetheless, Buffalo returns a majority of its star-studded lineup this time around, with the trio of Dhane Smith, Josh Byrne and Chase Fraser continuing to do what they do: make plays. Through three games, Smith (1g, 19a) and Byrne (8g, 12a) pace all Bandits personnel with 20 points each, respectively, while Chris Cloutier (7g, 2a), Fraser (4g, 3a), Kyle Buchanan (3g, 3a), Ian MacKay (2g, 3a) and Brandon Robinson (3g, 1a) representing all players who have recorded more than one goal for Buffalo so far.

Similar to Colorado, the team has endured a bit of a rough start, just 1-2 through its first three competitions, as the Georgia Swarm most recently defeated Buffalo 9-8. Picking up a 12-9 win the previous weekend against the San Diego Seals, the Bandits dropped its season-opening showdown with the flawless Albany FireWolves, 17-13.

Veteran goaltender Matt Vinc is expected to get the nod, but with the team carrying three goaltenders on its Active Roster, most recently trading for netminder Steven Orleman, there’s a chance one of the youngsters see some action Saturday. That said, if the orange and purple squad is looking to turn things around, they’re likely best suited with the experienced netminder between the pipes.

Coming off the heartbreaking loss, Buffalo will be amped up, just as Banditland typically is. But they’ll be forced to deal with a momentum-guided Mammoth squad who just stole its first victory of the season in stunning, comeback fashion. When the Unstoppable Force meets the Immovable object Saturday night, one team will come out with an even .500 2-2 record, while the loser will be staring down a 1-3 start to the season. High stakes, higher compete levels and a whole lotta goal scoring is on tap in Week 6, so strap in and get ready to TUSK UP!

Get in the Game

Mammoth games can be viewed on Altitude TV and streamed live via ESPN+. Saturday’s Jan. 6 matchup against the Buffalo Bandits can be viewed on Altitude TV 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