After picking up a key 10-7 divisional victory over the San Diego Seals at Pepsi Center Feb. 15, the Mammoth embraced its bye week and logged some well-needed rest as the team enjoyed its first break from action since December. Heading into a Week 14 slate of games which features all 13 of the NLL’s teams, Colorado will face off with the East Division-leading Philadelphia Wings during Military Appreciation Night at The Loud House.
The second match of Colorado’s four-game homestand comes against the Wings and represents the lone matchup between the teams during the 2020 regular season. Fans can watch Saturday’s matchup against Philadelphia locally on Altitude 2 TV, as well as stream the game live via Bleacher Report Live.
Last Time They Met
Colorado secured a 12-10 victory over the Wings when the teams last squared off on Feb. 9, 2019 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
The streaky-scoring affair featured several lead changes, and despite trailing 3-1 at the end of the first quarter, Colorado went on to outscore Philadelphia the rest of the way, posting an 11-7 deficit in the remaining three quarters of action to secure the road victory.
Ryan Benesch led the Mammoth in scoring with nine points (2g, 7a) while forward Eli McLaughlin logged five points (4g, 1a) to help secure the win for Colorado. Jacob Ruest (2g, 2a), Kyle Killen (2g, 1a) and Ryan Lee (1g, 2a) rounded out the scoring for the Mammoth as Dillon Ward stopped 43-of-54 in the victory.
Blaze Riorden (3g, 1a), Josh Currier (3g, 1a) and Kiel Matisz (1g, 3a) each recorded four points for the Wings, while Steph Charbonneau netted two goals (2g, 0a). Netminder Doug Buchan made 28 saves on the evening and allowed goals on four-of-seven Mammoth power-play opportunities as Trevor Baptiste secured 16-of-26 faceoff wins for the Wings.
While the cross-divisional opponents don’t have much history in head-to-head matchups, both teams have plenty to play for as Philadelphia holds a mere half-game lead over the New England Black Wolves while Colorado looks to get back to .500 and inch one game closer to a West Division playoff seed.
Home Sweet Home
Following Colorado’s most recent match at Pepsi Center Feb. 15, the Mammoth have played seven of its first 11 games away from Pepsi Center, allowing Colorado to close out the season hosting five-of-seven remaining games and providing several opportunities for Mammoth fans to get The Loud House rocking during the stretch run as the team makes a push for playoffs.
The Mammoth head into Saturday’s contest as one of only four teams to have completed 11 games through the league’s first 13 weeks of action, joining the Philadelphia Wings, Vancouver Warriors and New York Riptide (following New York’s Friday evening matchup against New England on Feb. 28).
Colorado will look to improve on its 2-2 record at Pepsi Center this season behind the energetic support of its fans during an always-memorable Military Appreciation Night. Fans interested in bidding on the team’s new game-worn Military jerseys and shorts can visit the team’s auction website for a chance to win the exclusive, patriotic gear.
Spread Your Wings
Despite dropping a 15-10 decision to the Saskatchewan Rush last weekend at home, the Philadelphia Wings hold a 7-4 record and remain in first place of the competitive East Division. As one of four teams to have logged 11 games heading into Saturday’s matchup, Philadelphia is tied with the Halifax Thunderbirds for the most wins in the NLL through 13 weeks of action. With the New England Black Wolves and Georgia Swarm both trailing in the division by a game or less, the high-scoring Wings will look to get back in the win column against Colorado Saturday.
Fans can expect a disciplined and efficient team effort from the Wings, as Philadelphia leads the league in goal (122) and shot (838) totals, while ranking second with 794 loose balls and second in faceoff win percentage, thanks to defenseman and faceoff specialist Trevor Baptiste. Averaging roughly 11 goals per game, the Wings like to log shots on goal and regularly find the back of the net. Holding a 4-1 record against non-divisional opponents, the Wings will look to shoot early and often against a Colorado defense that has allowed less than 10 goals per game (9.73) through 11 contests this season.
Philadelphia began its season with a 12-6 loss on the road in Georgia before stringing together a three-game win streak against the Calgary Roughnecks (8-7), New York Riptide (15-12) and Vancouver Warriors (18-10). The Wings dropped an 8-7 overtime decision against its divisional rival New England Black Wolves on Jan. 18 before securing a pair of victories in its next two matches against the Rochester Knighthawks (12-4) and the New York Riptide (14-6). Philadelphia again fell to the Georgia Swarm (12-11) on Jan. 31, this time at home, before securing wins against the Buffalo Bandits (7-6) and the New England Black Wolves (14-11). Colorado’s divisional rival Saskatchewan Rush handed the Wings its most recent loss (15-10) Feb. 22 during an offensive showcase that featured a combined 25 goals on 102 shots on goal at Wells Fargo Center.
For the Wings, the offensive sets run through Kevin Crowley, as the forward has recorded a team-best 37 assists among his club-high 55 points (18g, 37a) in 11 games this season. Crowley’s 157 shots and 12 power-play helpers also lead the team, while the forward ranks among league-leaders in the following categories:
Goals: 18 (T8th)
Assists: 37 (1st)
Points: 55 (3rd)
Power-Play Assists: 12 (3rd)
Shots: 157 (T2nd)
Shots on Goal: 108 (3rd)
Philadelphia’s high-powered offense also features forward Matt Rambo, who’s racked up 45 points (18g, 27a) in 11 games this season and ranks among league leaders in several categories, including goals (T8th) and points (11th), while his 11 power-play assists are good for a fourth-place tie. The forward also ranks 11th overall with 129 shots and ninth in shots on goal with 92.
Brett Hickey’s 24 goals among his 34 points (24g, 10a) rank first among all Wings players and are tied for third in the league, while the forward’s seven power-play goals also qualify for a third-place tie in the NLL. Blaze Riorden (9g, 22a), Josh Currier (14g, 15a) and former Mammoth player Cory Vitarelli (11g, 11a) round out the team’s elite forward group, with each of the mentioned players providing consistent secondary scoring for the squad.
Kiel Matisz has posted 31 points (10g, 21a) in 11 appearances with the Wings and currently leads all transition players in scoring and assists, while remaining tied for first place with 10 goals through Week 13. Defenseman and faceoff specialist Trevor Baptiste has logged 10 points (6g, 4a) for the Wings while posting the second-best faceoff win percentage (73.5%) and securing the most faceoff wins in the league (197) and loose balls (122) during 11 games this season.
Wings goaltender Zach Higgins has quietly put together an MVP-caliber season thus far, posting a 7-3 record while ranking among the league’s elite netminders with a 9.18 goals-against average (3rd), .822 save percentage (3rd) and 438 saves (2nd). Competing against Colorado’s Dillon Ward Saturday at Pepsi Center, Higgins is prepared for what could very likely be another goaltending showcase as two of the league’s spectacular goaltenders duke it out Saturday, Feb. 29 at The Loud House.
Colorado continues to distribute the offensive load among its talented roster of forwards and transition players this season, while relying on its sound defensive effort and efficient power-play unit.
Following his fifth-consecutive three-plus-point performance (1g, 5a) during Colorado’s last match against San Diego, Ryan Lee (18g, 31a) continues to pace the Mammoth in points, goals and assists through Colorado’s first 11 contests.
After logging his eighth-consecutive three-plus-point outing (1g, 3a) against the Seals Feb. 15, Eli McLaughlin (14g, 30a) trails forward Ryan Lee by five points for the team lead despite only logging 9 games to Lee’s 11 and continues to lead Mammoth players with 4.89 points-per-game.
Chris Wardle’s three-point-performance (1g, 2a) brings the forward to 40 points (15g, 25a) on the season as the sixth-year veteran continues to provide consistent scoring for the Mammoth.
Jacob Ruest (16g, 11a) and Kyle Killen (6g, 14a) have solidified depth scoring for the Mammoth, as Joey Cupido’s 16 points (7g, 9a) rank tied for third in the league among transition players, while his three short-handed goals remain tied for first in the NLL through Week 13.
After recording a team-best 14 loose balls against San Diego, Veteran Defenseman Robert Hope is one of the three NLL players to have recorded triple-digit loose ball counts this season and continues to lead Colorado in the category while joining the noted Mammoth players among the league’s leaders in several categories:
Goals: Ryan Lee, 18 (T8th)
Assists: Ryan Lee, 31 (11th)
Points: Ryan Lee, 49 (6th)
Power-Play Goals: Jacob Ruest/Ryan Lee, 5 (T6th)
Power-Play Assists: Ryan Lee/Eli McLaughlin, 9 (T8th)
Short-Handed Goals: Joey Cupido, 3 (T1st)
Loose Balls: Robert Hope, 101 (3rd)
Saves: Dillon Ward, 476 (1st)
Save Percentage: Dillon Ward, .824% (T1st—1st among G w/ 11 GP)
Goals Against Average: Dillon Ward, 9.27 (4th—2nd among G w/ 11 GP)
Goaltender Minutes: Dillon Ward, 660:30 (1st)
Jake McNabb, Colorado’s second-round pick (31st overall) in the 2019 NLL Entry Draft, recorded three points (2g, 1a) during his NLL debut Feb. 15, including a short-handed goal late in the first quarter and a power-play tally early in the third quarter. The forward showed flashes of dominance in his first professional game and added an impressive assist on a Dylan Kinnear goal at the 14:59 mark of the opening session as the rookie logged 12:11 of time on the floor during his debut.
Kinnear, Colorado’s third-round pick (39th overall) in the 2019 NLL Entry Draft, also recorded three points (2g, 1a) in Colorado’s victory over San Diego, including the contest’s first goal during the game’s first possession and his second as the first quarter expired to give the Mammoth a 4-2 lead heading to the second quarter. The first-year forward added an assist late in the first quarter to give the rookie 13 points (7g, 6a) in eight games.
Kinnear and McNabb’s two goals each marked the first time this season that a rookie has led the team in scoring through 11 games.
Defenseman Brett Craig logged 18:45 of floor time and 6 loose balls during the rookie’s third-consecutive start and joins his fellow first-year players in ranking among league-leading rookies:
Goals: Dylan Kinnear, 7 (T4th)
Assists: Will Malcom, 7 (T7th)
Points: Dylan Kinnear, 13 (7th)
Power-Play Goals: Will Malcom/Jake McNabb, 1 (T5th)
Loose Balls: Brett Craig, 44 (5th)
Caused Turnovers: Warren Jeffrey, 5 (T8th)
Shots: Will Malcom, 39 (6th)
Shots on Goal: Will Malcom/Dylan Kinnear, 24 (T6th)
Shot Percentage: Jake McNabb, .250% (4th)
Consistency is Key
The Mammoth continue to produce on both ends of the floor, executing a pass-first mentality and demonstrating unselfish play through the team’s first 11 contests. Consistent performances from forwards and defenders alike continue to fuel Colorado’s competitive contests while disciplined play continues to support the Mammoth’s special teams’ success.
While the Mammoth have enjoyed spreading the offensive workload, at least one Colorado player has produced a hat trick in eight-of-11 contests this season, including three-plus goal performances by Jacob Ruest (3g, 2a) Nov. 29, Jacob Ruest (5g, 2a) Dec. 28, Joey Cupido (3g, 2a) Jan. 4, Ryan Lee (3g, 2a) Jan. 11, Chris Wardle (5g) and Eli McLaughlin (3g, 4a) Jan. 18, Ryan Lee (5g, 0a) Jan. 25 Eli McLaughlin (3g, 2a) Feb. 1 and most recently Eli McLaughlin (3g, 2a) as the forward logged his third hat trick of the season Feb. 8 in Saskatchewan.
Several Mammoth players continue to contribute points each game, as eight forwards currently hold active point streaks this season:
Ryan Lee: (3-3-8-3-5-2-7-5-4-3-6)
Jacob Ruest: (5-2-7-1-2-1-1-4-1-2-1)
Chris Wardle: (2-3-6-2-4-2-5-8-3-2-3)
Kyle Killen: (2-3-3-1-3-3-3-2-1)
Eli McLaughlin: (5-4-4-3-7-7-5-5-4)
Will Malcom: (3-3-2-1-1-1)
Dylan Kinnear: (2-2-2-2-3)
Jeff Wittig: (1-1-3-2-1)
On the flip side, defenders and transition players continue to rack up stellar loose ball counts, with the following consistently leading the scoop charge thus far:
Robert Hope: (11-12-5-6-6-6-10-5-8-16-14)
Tim Edwards: (8-6-5-4-5-5-1-2-2-3-2)
Jordan Gilles: (4-4-7-8-2-8-9-10-3-2-3)
Joey Cupido: (4-6-4-1-6-3-9-3-3-7-4)
John Lintz: (4-4-3-7-2-1-4-3-3-6-5)
Big Man, Big Production
The Mammoth further bolstered its roster depth last week when the team acquired forward Tyler Digby from the New York Riptide in exchange for a second-round selection in the 2020 NLL Entry Draft (via Toronto, via Rochester) and a second-round selection in the 2021 NLL Entry Draft. In 10 games with the Riptide this season, the New Westminster, BC native has posted 36 points (14g, 22a) and 15 penalty minutes while adding 30 loose balls and two caused turnovers.
Drafted by the Vancouver Warriors in the third round of the 2013 NLL Entry Draft, 20th overall, the 28-year-old has spent time in Vancouver, Calgary, New England, and most recently New York, after being selected by the Riptide in the ninth round of the 2019 NLL Expansion Draft, where he led the team in goals, assists and points during the 2019-20 campaign before joining the Mammoth.
The 6-3, 277-lb. forward has logged 165 goals and 214 assists to give the seven-year veteran 379 points in 112 career games. In six playoff appearances, Digby has logged 16 points (10g, 6a) two penalty minutes and 15 loose balls, including a three-game, nine-point (8g, 1a) stretch in 2016 with Calgary.
The big-bodied forward will bring welcomed size to the otherwise average-height forward group and should help create space via picks and drawing opposing defenders inside. If Digby can get inside and disrupt defensive spacing, expect Ruest, Lee, McLaughlin and company to log an increased amount of shots on goal and continue to find the back of the net.
The power forward played alongside Mammoth forward Jacob Ruest for two seasons in 2012 and 2013 when the duo played together at Robert Morris University. Colorado will hope that the right-side forwards can pick up where they left off during the collegiate days and bring some existing chemistry to the NLL. Digby is expected to make his debut with the Mammoth Saturday, Feb. 29 as Colorado hosts the Philadelphia Wings at Pepsi Center.
Get in the Game
Tickets to Colorado’s Feb. 29 matchup against the Philadelphia Wings, and all Mammoth home games, can be purchased at AltitudeTickets.com. Mammoth home games will be aired on Altitude and Altitude 2 network stations, while all road games can be streamed live via Bleacher Report Live.