COLORADO MAMMOTH (0-1) VS. GEORGIA SWARM (1-1)
FRI. DEC. 22 | 7 P.M. MT | BALL ARENA
ALTITUDE TV 2 | ESPN+
The National Lacrosse League may be diving into Week 4 action Friday night, beginning with a showdown between Panther City Lacrosse Club and the Toronto Rock, but when the Colorado Mammoth get their season inside the LOUD HOUSE started via an instant rematch with the Georgia Swarm, it will be just the second time all year that they’ve hit the turf.
Just three weeks into the 2023-24 slate, the NLL’s new unified standings feature a variety of records. From the (3-0) Albany FireWolves and (2-0) Halifax Thunderbirds leading the charge thus far to the (1-2) Las Vegas Desert Dogs, (0-2) New York Riptide and (0-1) Mammoth, schedules have always been a bit crazy while navigating the holiday season, and this year is surely no exception!
Enduring a pair of bye weeks early in the season, with early campaign resting opportunities coming in Week 1 (Dec. 2-3) and most recently last weekend during Week 3 (Dec. 15-16), the team has continued to trend toward healthier days after beginning the season just outside of Atlanta, Georgia with not only seven defensemen designated to the team’s Injured Reserve List, but also All-Pro goaltender Dillon Ward on the Physically Unable to Perform List.
While the team has a chance to welcome back any of the eight mentioned players, they’ll be without the services of a pair of fan favorites, as forward Zed Williams and defenseman Jordan Gilles are expected to miss the LOUD HOUSE Home Opener while serving suspensions stemming from penalties accrued during the season-opener in Georgia.
Friday’s showdown inside Ball Arena represents the second of two matchups against Georgia this season and the only to take place inside the LOUD HOUSE, with the Swarm picking up the initial showdown courtesy of a 16-10 final.
Marking the second of three games set to go down in Week 4, with the (2-0) Rochester Knighthawks and (1-1) Vancouver Warriors (who just handed the Swarm a hearty 15-7 loss just last weekend) representing Saturday’s matchup, lacrosse fans can sit back, relax and take in the fastest game on two feet as the defending West Conference Champions prepare to host one of the hottest teams during last season’s postseason picture run Friday night at 7 p.m. MT. Fans can catch the second showcase of the year on Altitude TV 2 and ESPN+.
Last Time They Met
It wasn’t long ago that the two squads met for their respective season-opening clashes, with the Swarm ultimately exiting the matchup with a six-goal advantage. Featuring quite the score-heavy start, it was Mammoth forward Eli McLaughlin who came out of the gates with one goal, and that was to score. Netting the first tally of the competition four minutes in, he picked up his second of the night two and a half minutes later, albeit with a Swarm conversion sandwiched between. Eventually seeing Georgia go on a three-goal streak, Colorado forward Chris Wardle stopped the bleeding with four minutes to play in the opening quarter, only to be followed up by a make and take conversion from draw man Jeremy Thompson, thus cementing a 5-3 score at the end of the first 15.
With the Swarm showing up and showing out during their 2023-24 campaign opener, they went on to outscore the Mammoth 5-2 in the second quarter, putting together a two-goal run before ending the half with three-straight. Coming out of the break, the Swam made it four in a row, thanks to a conversion from forward Seth Oakes.
Scoring a combined two goals throughout the third period, Mammoth talent Dylan Kinnear answered back with the only other tally midway through the third. To the fourth they went, seeing the goal count soar as the teams locked in during the final 15 minutes of play. Able to keep pace with the Swarm for the most part, the Mammoth produced four goals for Georgia’s five, and with an existing lead established prior to the fourth quarter, the home team concluded the contest with a 16-10 victory.
Leading the Way
Dropping the first game of the season isn’t all that bad, all things considered. Just last season, the team suffered an 18-6 beatdown during its season-opener in Saskatchewan, yet went on to secure a trip to the NLL Finals for the second-straight year in a row. With an 18-game regular season slate established, and 17 games remaining against 14 different opponents (including a pair of showdowns against the Buffalo Bandits, San Diego Seals and Vancouver Warriors), there’s plenty of time for the team to get trending in the right direction. When healthy top to bottom, the organization understands it has one of the prized talent pools of all 15 franchises. Fans may just have to wait another few weeks to see that product and those players return from injury, but it won’t stop guys like Eli McLaughlin, Robert Hope, Connor Kelly and company from leading the way in the meantime. One game into the 2023-24 NLL campaign, these are the players currently pacing the team heading into Friday night’s showdown with the Swarm:
Points: 5 (Connor Kelly, Tyson Gibson, Eli McLaughlin)
Goals: 3 (Connor Kelly)
Assists: 4 (Tyson Gibson)
Loose Balls: 7 (Tim Edwards, Robert Hope)
Caused Turnovers: 2 (Warren Jeffrey, Jordan Gilles)
Penalty Minutes: 25 (Jordan Gilles)
Blocked Shots: 3 (Robert Hope)
Faceoff Wins: 14 (Tim Edwards)
When all was said and done, the team dropped its opening showdown of the season, but there were several bright spots that the squad will look to build on Friday night during its rematch with Georgia. Starting and ending with the performance of one Connor Kelly (3g, 2a), who tied Eli McLaughlin (2g, 3a) and Tyson Gibson (1g, 4a) with a team-high five points, including a hat trick in his first-ever game playing for Colorado. Leading the charge for the righties while working well with Gibson in their first time on the floor together, Kelly had his full talents on display, which is definitely a welcomed sign for a Mammoth organization that not only traded away a first-round selection for the talent, but is without the skills of All-Pro Ryan Lee for the entire 2023-24 slate.
Enacting his physicality while reminding folks around the league he’s still got what it takes to compete within a team’s top defensive looks, veteran defenseman Paul Dawson served as a leader on the floor and on the bench, a great complimentary piece to team captain Robert Hope. Racking up four penalty minutes (two, two-minute minors acquired as the game got scrappy in the fourth) and three loose balls during his Mammoth debut while adding one faceoff opportunity (0-for-1). Just as helpful, it’s his smooth, confident voice in the locker room and on the bench which could prove to be the ultimate key for some of the team’s younger defenseman. If he’s able to share some of his wisdom and continue to lock into Head Coach Pat Coyle’s defensive approach, he’s set to be featured regularly on the back end.
The third and final member of the squad to make his debut two weekends ago in burgundy and black was rookie defenseman Sean Kriwokon, who was recently selected by Colorado in the 2023 NLL Entry Draft (third round, 43rd overall). Easing the first-year talent into some action throughout the game, he recorded three loose balls in limited time on the turf, albeit important time as the youngster gets his bearings within the most talented lacrosse league in the world.
After missing last season’s postseason picture as the first time on the outside, thanks to its historic 8-3 record to close out the campaign, the Swarm have kept on buzzing into the 2023-24 slate. Seeing the team combine for 16 goals during the season opener, it was none other than forward Lyle Thompson and his eight-point (4g, 4a) performance that got them fired up early and often as the All-Pro talented operated seamlessly throughout the contest as both a primary scorer and assist man. Racking up a game-high six assists, Andrew Kew’s seven points (1g, 6a) undoubtedly helped provide the team’s early season success, while both Seth Oakes (3g, 3a) and Brendan Bomberry (3g, 3a) each enjoyed six-point showcases.
But when the team pulled up to Vancouver last weekend, it was a quite different outcome, with the West Coast squad posting a convincing 15-7 final over the blue and yellow squad. Lyle Thompson was still able to exit the competition with a team-high four points (2g, 2a), tied with Andrew Kew (1g, 3a), while Shayne Jackson (2g, 1a) and Zach Miller (1g, 1a) marking the only Georgia players who produced more than point. Brett Dobson allowed 14 goals on 44 shots against, eventually paving the way for backup netminder Dustin Hill to log his first action on the year, allowing just one goal in just under seven minutes in net.
With Dillon Ward designated as “Questionable” on the team’s injury report, that’s a step in the right direction for a Mammoth team which will look to right the ship and get back to 1-1 on the season. But it also means the Swarm will need to bring an effort closer to its Week 2 game than its Week 3 if the All-Pro goaltender is able to make his season debut. Currently sitting on the Physically Unable to Perform List, both Swarm and Mammoth fans can stay tuned to the team’s transactions page for the latest updates on available personnel for Friday’s LOUD HOUSE Home Opener!
Get in the Game
Mammoth games can be viewed on Altitude TV and streamed live via ESPN+. Friday’s Dec. 22 LOUD HOUSE Home Opener against the Georgia Swarm 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 LOUD HOUSE Home Opener against the Georgia Swarm Dec. 22 at Ball Arena remain.