Since dropping its fourth-consecutive road game and second-in-a-row overall, the Colorado Mammoth prepares for a three-game homestand at Ball Arena, as the organization gets ready to host the Buffalo Bandits, New York Riptide and San Diego Seals for a set of three games in nine days. The first of the three matchups arguably represents Colorado’s biggest challenge this year, as the 12-1 Buffalo Bandits continue to dominate the 2021-22 NLL season with the Mammoth now in its sights. But before travelling to Ball Arena Friday, the Eastern Conference squad will faceoff with the Philadelphia Wings Thursday.
Despite seeing the San Diego Seals drop its 14-12 contest last weekend, the Vancouver Warriors, Panther City Lacrosse Club and Calgary Roughnecks each managed to secure victories while tightening the already-close Western Conference playoff picture. Christened by the NLL earlier this week, the league’s Chase for the Championship has officially begun! With all of the 14 NLL teams continuing to keep their playoffs hopes alive, Colorado’s remaining five games become even more important since the squad has dropped four of its last five contests after beginning the season 6-2.
If the NLL postseason were to begin this weekend, Colorado and Calgary would be slated as the two and three seeds in the Western Conference and would meet each other in the first round of playoffs, hosted at Ball Arena, after Calgary recorded a 10-9 overtime win over Vancouver Friday night. Defending its one seed in the West, San Diego is slated to host the league’s wild card right now, which is currently the Vancouver Warriors.
Colorado is set to enter the first of its two Week 18 matchups against the Bandits on April 2 as the organization hosts its annual Military Appreciation Night. Focused on celebrating, thanking and honoring the service men and women around the country, the evening will feature a variety of commemorations, celebrations, a halftime swear-in and new Military Appreciation Night jerseys! Helmets, shorts and jerseys worn from Saturday’s contest will be signed and auctioned online beginning Monday, April 4 (as the team prepares to host the New York Riptide at Ball Arena).
Beginning the elongated weekend with a 7-6 record and in second place of the West, Colorado can control its own postseason destiny by taking care of business in its own games and doesn’t need help from the remainder of the league to qualify at this time. That said, with looming matches against the East and West-leading teams in Buffalo and San Diego approaching, the Mammoth needs to reinstate its consistent offensive efforts while hoping goaltender Dillon Ward can continue to keep the squad in games.
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 on Altitude 2.
After dropping a 9-7 decision to the San Diego Seals during the team’s second Week 16 matchup, Colorado travelled to Dickies Arena last weekend to conclude its regular season series with Panther City. The low-scoring 10-6 affair ultimately ended in favor of the rookie-led squad, as the Lacrosse Club continued its franchise-best five-game win streak Saturday evening while goaltenders Dillon Ward and Nick Damude provided outstanding efforts in net.
Panther City successfully defended its home turf with a quick, dominating start, as the Lacrosse Club opened the contest’s scoring 14 seconds in, with rookie defenseman Josh Medeiros converting as the result of a scrappy possession exchanging following the opening faceoff. The home team eventually followed up its opening goal with tallies at the 7:48, 10:32 and 11:11 marks of the first before taking an early 4-0 lead into the second quarter.
As the Mammoth offense struggled to earn and convert on quality looks, Colorado defenseman Erik Turner got his squad on the board 10 minutes into the second period to create a 4-1 game. Panther City quickly regained its four-goal lead before a Chris Wardle power-play goal established a 5-2 score heading into the half.
While Panther City forward Phil Caputo logged an extra-man conversion of his own 10 minutes into the third, Colorado was able to score three-straight with bids from Connor Robinson and two more from Wardle, giving the forward his first hat trick of the season. The then 6-5 contest featured four fourth-quarter goals from Panther City, while Zed Williams was the lone scorer for the Mammoth in the final 14 minutes of play.
Forwards Chris Wardle (3g, 0a) and Ryan Lee (0g, 3a) paced Mammoth offensive leaders Saturday, while Connor Robinson (1g, 1a), Eli McLaughlin (0g, 2a) and Zed Williams (1g, 0a) rounded out scoring efforts in the conference showdown. Mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward saved 39-of-48 while Will Malcom (1g, 4a), Patrick Dodds (1g, 4a) and Phil Caputo (2g, 1a) helped Panther City earn its sixth win of the season.
Ryan Lee & The Consisten-Zs:
While the Mammoth’s offensive unit has cooled off in its past few games, forward Ryan Lee continues to produce among the NLL’s leading scoring threats. Ranking third in points (84), second in assists (56) and 12th in goals (28), Lee’s 6.46 points-per-game rank second-highest among players who have played in 11-plus games and third-most in the NLL overall heading into Week 18, as the RIT product continues to perform alongside elite NLL scoring talent, including:
Dhane Smith: 7.54 PPG (98 in 13 GP)
Jeff Teat: 6.8 PPG (68 in 10 GP)
Ryan Lee: 6.46 PPG (84 in 13 GP)
Callum Crawford: 6.25 PPG (75 in 12 GP)
Lyle Thompson: 6.15 PPG (80 in 13 GP)
Through Colorado’s first 13 games this season, Ryan Lee joins teammate Eli McLaughlin as the only players to have recorded at least one point in all 13 contests for the Mammoth this season. After surpassing his previous career-high point total earlier this year (60 points in 13 GP), Lee looks to build on his career-best 84 points while Colorado’s offense looks to get back on track. The pair of Mammoth-drafted forwards join Zed Williams as the team’s three players to have recorded at least one point in each game played this season:
Ryan Lee (5g, 3a), (1g, 1a), (2g, 3a), (2g, 10a), (4g, 3a), (0g, 9a), (2g, 2a), (5g, 2a), (2g, 4a), (3g, 2a), (1g, 12a), (1g, 2a), (0g, 3a) = (28g, 56a)
Eli McLaughlin (3g, 3a), (1g, 2a), (1g, 3a), (3g, 4a), (1g, 3a), (2g, 1a), (3g, 0a), (1g, 4a), (2g, 2a), (3g, 4a), (5g, 6a), (0g, 2a), (0g, 2a) = (25g, 36a)
Zed Williams (2g, 1a) (0g, 2a), (1g, 1a), (1g, 1a), (1g, 1a), (0g, 3a), (0g, 4a), (1g, 1a), (2g, 4a), (2g, 1a), (2g, 1a), (1g, 0a) = (13g, 20a)
Colorado approaches Week 18 of NLL play receiving quality performances from its penalty-kill unit, as the Mammoth remain tied with the Seals with the league’s most shorthanded goals (9). Colorado also continues to maintain the NLL’s third-best penalty kill percentage (64.2%), while Colorado’s 19 power-play goals allowed are tied for a league-best with Vancouver, Georgia and Toronto. Having recorded 142 penalty minutes in 13 matchups, which qualifies as the third-fewest for any team so far this season, the Mammoth heads into Saturday’s contest against Buffalo with the third-lowest average of penalty minutes per-game (10.92). As the team continues to work as collective units, the Mammoth roster features several individuals who rank among league-leaders in multiple categories, including:
Goals: 31 (T6th) Connor Robinson
Assists: 56 (2nd) Ryan Lee
Points: 84 (3rd) Ryan Lee
Points-Per-Game: 6.46 (3rd – 2nd among players with 11+ GP) Ryan Lee
Shots on Goal: 139 (4th) Ryan Lee
Loose Balls: 109 (11th) Robert Hope
Caused Turnovers: 24 (6th) Robert Hope
Shorthanded Goals: 3 (T2nd) Connor Robinson
Shorthanded Assists: 3 (T1st) Chris Wardle
Game-Winning Goals: 4 (2nd) Eli McLaughlin
Save Percentage: .810 (3rd) Dillon Ward
Goals-Against Average: 10.15 (7th) Dillon Ward
*All rankings updated through Week 17 of NLL play
The Best Heading West:
Kicking off a unique Week 18 slate of games, Buffalo continued its three-game road trip by playing Thursday night against the Philadelphia Wings. Currently riding a league-best seven-game winning streak after picking up a pair of victories last weekend over Halifax at home and then at The Nest, the Bandits continued its win streak Thursday evening by recording a 17-12 decision over the Philadelphia Wings. Dhane Smith’s seven points (2g, 5a) paced Buffalo’s scoring on the evening, with Chase Fraser (4g, 0a), Kyle Buchanan (3g, 2a), Josh Byrne (2g, 4a) and Connor Fields (2g, 3a) rounding out standout efforts for the team which clinched a home playoff game.
The Bandits can now clinch the Eastern Conference title this weekend with A victory over Colorado or with a loss Saturday accompanied by some help from conference opponents.
Buffalo opened its season on a similar seven-game winning streak before suffering a 12-10 decision to the Toronto Rock Feb. 12, the team’s only loss during the 2021-22 campaign. Regularly beating up on its Eastern Conference rivals, the Bandits posted a 16-9 victory against Calgary to open its season Dec. 4, which marks the team’s only competition against the West this year.
The organization’s success this season can be attributed to a variety of causes, but two individuals have undoubtedly helped lead the way, as the squad features the league’s leading scorer in Dhane Smith (105 points in 14 GP) and Goaltender of the Year Candidate Matt Vinc, who enters Week 18 with league-best totals in saves (616), save percentage (.825) and wins (13), while ranking second in goals-against average (9.47).
Smith’s MVP campaign has greatly benefitted the high-powered offense, as the forward’s 105 points qualify for the most in the NLL, while his 70 assists also pace the league. The veteran has added 35 goals on the year, which rank third-most heading into this weekend. Captaining the team’s fourth-most efficient man-up unit (29-for-59: 49.2%), Smith has earned himself a place among extra-man league-leaders this season, recording nine power-play goals (T3rd) and 14 extra-man helpers (T4th).
Helping to fuel the team’s power-play and overall offensive efforts, forward Josh Byrne’s 78 points (26g, 52a) represent the team’s second-best total and include 15 extra-man points (3g, 12a). The veteran’s 52 assists (3rd) and 78 points (5th) rank among league-leaders, while he’s added 58 loose balls and five caused turnovers in 14 appearances. Buffalo’s elite front end is rounded out with five additional 40-plus point contributors in Connor Fields (27g, 25a), Chris Cloutier (19g, 27a), rookie Tehoka Nanticoke (27g, 15a) and Chase Fraser (24g, 20a) and Kyle Buchanan (13g, 30a).
Defenseman Ian MacKay and veteran captain Steve Priolo headline defensive efforts for the veteran-led squad, with goaltender Matt Vinc impressing the league with his best season to date. Coming off its Thursday night victory with the Wings, Buffalo will look to continue its successful season while the Mammoth attempts to make a statement by securing a victory Saturday night.
Get in the Game
Tickets to Colorado’s April 2 Military Appreciation Night matchup against the Buffalo Bandits, 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+.