Fresh out of four action-packed weeks of training camp, the Mammoth are set to head east for its first game of the season against the Georgia Swarm. With a few exhibition, tune-up games out of the way, Head Coach Pat Coyle and company have a comfortable understanding of the 2021-22 roster and are ready to get to work as the Mammoth visit Georgia’s Gas South Arena during the NLL’s Faceoff Weekend.
After ending the 2019-20 season with a three-game win streak, the Mammoth will look to carry that fire into the season as the team welcomes a variety of new faces to Saturday’s lineup. Supported by the team’s returning veteran defensive core, Colorado will look to maintain consistency on both ends of the floor and continue to develop its chemistry within the new-look offensive front.
With the recently announced NLL and ESPN partnership, Mammoth fans will be able to stream Saturday’s season debut, and all 18 Mammoth games, on ESPN+!
Familiar Faces and Fresh Destinations
During the near two-year period without professional box lacrosse, several trades, acquisitions, and signings have taken place throughout the National Lacrosse League. The Mammoth and Swarm are surely no exception to the prolonged offseason, as both squads feature a number of newcomers, rookies and seasoned veterans.
The Good Guys:
Colorado enters the 2021-22 season by returning a plethora of familiar faces to the lineup, including 17 players who were a part of the team’s 2019-20 roster.
An offensive front headlined by Ryan Lee, Tyler Digby, Chris Wardle, Eli McLaughlin and Dylan Kinnear, the group of forwards helped the organization take its next step toward offensive consistency in 2020 and showcased glimpses of what the unit can produce under competitive, high-pressure environments.
After acquiring a pair of top-five-overall NLL Entry Draft selections during the extended offseason in forwards Zed Williams and Connor Robinson, recently appointed Offensive Coordinator Jason Bishop has an assortment of options at his helm and will look to utilize the team’s new talent.
Williams, who was named the PLL’s 2020 Most Valuable Player, has been recognized as a scoring threat regardless of his involvement. Off-ball, isolation, pick-and-roll switches; he’s showing up in opponent’s scouting reports and the Mammoth anticipates him showing up on the score sheet this season. Robinson joins the squad after spending the early years of his career with the Saskatchewan Rush. Playing alongside a lengthy list of perennial offensive contributors up north, Robinson is expected to receive a significant increase in playing time and opportunities with the Mammoth and will look to provide a boost to the team’s lefty-O side.
Rounding out the offensive contributors to begin the season are rookies Sam LeClair (Brock University) and Brett McIntyre (UMBC). LeClair, who is slated to begin the season on the active roster, recorded 20 points (13g, 7a) in 9 games with St. Catharines Jr. A this summer en route to capturing an OJALL championship. The forward added 11 points (6g, 5a) in five games with the MSL’s Six Nations Chiefs. Selected in the sixth round (86th overall) of the 2020 NLL Entry Draft, LeClair quickly demonstrated his understanding for the game and displayed his ability to find the net throughout November’s training sessions.
McIntyre, by way of the University of Maryland Baltimore, was selected by Colorado in the second round (22nd overall) of the 2020 NLL Entry Draft and will start the campaign as part of the team’s practice squad. The potent scoring threat racked up 416 points from 2014-2018 in five seasons with the Okotoks Raiders of the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League (Jr. A), including 107 points (59g, 48a) in 2016 and 103 points (58g, 45a) in 2017, despite appearing in three less contests than the year prior. McIntyre’s 416 points currently represent the most accumulated by a player in the RMLL.
Colorado’s defensive unit features an experienced group of veterans in Robert Hope, John Lintz, Joey Cupido, Jordan Gilles, Josh Sullivan, Tim Edwards, Scott Carnegie, Erik Turner and Warren Jeffrey. The Mammoth defensive core has historically been relied upon as the team’s foundation and regularly minimizes the impact of some of the NLL’s biggest offensive threats each week. After leading Colorado in loose balls for the third consecutive season and finishing the campaign tied for third-most in the league (114), Robert Hope enters the year as the team’s captain alongside longtime alternate captain Joey Cupido and newly donned alternate Tyler Digby.
The experienced group will be complemented by a few rookies stemming from the 2020 and 2021 NLL Entry Drafts with defensemen Ron John (Albany), Jalen Chaster (Coquitlam Adanacs Jr. A) and Noah Lebar (Kitchener-Waterloo Jr. A) expected to register floor time during their inaugural campaigns. John, who was chosen as Colorado’s first selection in the 2020 NLL Entry Draft (second round, 18th overall), and Chaster, selected moments after at 31st overall, are expected to contribute regularly despite their rookie status. 2021 NLL Entry Draft selection Noah Lebar (sixth round, 83rd overall) will begin the year as part of the team’s practice roster and represents the second sixth-round selection made by General Manager Brad Self to make this year’s squad.
Of course, the accolades and characteristics of the field players don’t mean much without quality goaltending talent, right? Thankfully, the Mammoth are covered there, as well. Enter: The Wall, Dillon Ward.
After posting impressive figures during the 2019-20 season and leading his “outdoor league” team to the turnaround story of the summer, Dillon Ward is ready to GET IN THE BOX as the veteran goaltender prepares to lead efforts in net during his eighth year with the team. The 2019-20 All-Pro Second Team netminder is primed to continue his career in Denver with the support of position mates Tyler Carlson and Nate Faccin.
Carlson, who helped the Mammoth secure a victory in its final contest of the 2019-20 season, returns for his second year with the Mammoth and continues to provide a veteran presence in the locker room and on the turf. The 2019-20 Jay Jalbert Teammate of the Year recipient brings championship experience from his days with the Rush and will work with Ward in helping to develop rookie teammate Nate Faccin.
Faccin, Colorado’s fourth round (58th overall) selection in the 2020 NLL Entry Draft, has played for Mammoth Head Coach Pat Coyle and Offensive Coordinator Jason Bishop’s Coquitlam Adanacs Jr. A program since 2016 following the graduation of NLL goaltender Christian Del Bianco. The 6-4, 225 lbs. goaltender held his own throughout the four weeks of training camp and will occupy a position on the team’s practice roster to begin the season.
Rookie forward Sam Firth and second-year defenseman Brett Craig are scheduled to begin the season on the organization’s Injured Reserve List after suffering injuries during training camp.
The Other Guys:
After posting a 7-5 record during the 2019-20 NLL campaign, the offensive-minded organization returns several pieces of its goal-scoring unit in Lyle Thompson, Jordan Hall and 2020 NLL MVP Shayne Jackson.
Last season, Jackson paced the Swarm in points (73), goals (31), power-play goals (11) and average time on floor (24:22) while finishing the year ranked second on the squad with 42 assists. In framing his MVP-caliber season, the forward ranked among league-leaders in goals (3rd), assists (5th), points (3rd) and power-play goals (T1st) and will likely look to work to kickstart the O-unit with teammate Lyle Thompson Saturday.
Thompson, the former Tewaaraton Award recipient, has exerted his dominance in the NLL for several seasons and will look to continue his regular production in a highlighted role of the Swarm offense. The forward ended the season ranked among Georgia personnel with 27 goals (2nd), 33 assists (4th), 60 points (3rd), six power-play goals (3rd), 10 power-play assists (3rd), 87 loose balls (2nd) and 22:39 average time on floor (4th). A true one-two offensive punch, the Swarm featured two qualifying forwards ranked in multiple top-10 categories, as Thompson also finished the season ranked among league-leaders in goals (7th) and points (T6th w/ Ryan Lee).
With the offseason departures of forwards Randy Staats (22g, 48a), Miles Thompson (17g, 16a) and Zed Williams (18g, 12a), who represented the Swarm’s second, fifth and sixth-highest point totals last season, respectively, Jordan Hall (10g, 37a) and Jordan McIntosh (2g, 16a) serve as the remaining supporting leading scorers returning from last season’s roster.
The Swarm selected University of Denver forward Ethan Walker 10th overall during the 2020 NLL Entry Draft and will look to activate the rookie as he makes his debut Dec. 4.
Mike Poulin is likely set to get the start between the pipes for Georgia on Saturday, with Craig Wende available in the wings if needed. Defensemen Joel White, Connor Sellars, Chad Tutton and company will head up the defensive unit for the Swarm.
2019-20 Series Recap
Colorado captured the lone regular season matchup between the Mammoth and Swarm last year during a 13-11 victory as the Mammoth recorded their second win of the season at Infinite Energy Arena Dec. 28, 2019. Mammoth forward Jacob Ruest scored five goals among seven points while Dillon Ward stopped 36-of-47 shots as the Mammoth improved to 2-1 on the season. Facing a Swarm roster which featured some of the NLL’s best scorers and playmakers, the Mammoth were able to limit Georgia’s primary offensive threats (Lyle Thompson, Shayne Jackson and Randy Staats) to a combined four goals, as Jackson lead the way for Georgia with three goals and three assists while Staats posted six helpers.
Tickets to Colorado’s Dec. 11 Home Opener matchup against the San Diego Seals, and all Mammoth home games, can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com. Mammoth road games can be streamed live via ESPN+.