DENVER – Coming out hungry and ready to play, the boys got sticks warmed up donning the Mammoth crest for the first time as the team prepares to begin its season in just 35 days.
Featuring four separate training camp sessions within the first weekend of interactions, you could tell the Colorado squad, which has appeared in the last two NLL Finals, has been held to championship standards throughout the offseason as the quest begins for another NLL title.
Set to face off with the Georgia Swarm out east on Saturday, Dec. 9, the two squads will meet again two weeks later inside the LOUD HOUSE on Dec. 22 as the Mammoth host the Swarm during the team’s 2023-24 home opener.
With the first segment of the 2023-24 Colorado Mammoth Training Camp officially in the books, we’re looking at a few key takeaways from preseason action inside Foothills Fieldhouse:
Zed’s Physicality is Unmatchable: It’s typically a treat to see the skilled, big-bodied forward draw and successfully defeat double, triple (and occasionally on the PK) quadruple-team efforts while shedding what would we defenders, but there’s something about seeing the big man push around his own guys that reminds you just how much of a menace he can be. Not just in the O-zone, either. Always a threat in transition and never afraid to accept a defensive shift, (especially after spending the summer wielding a pole for the Haudenosaunee Nation), Williams is set to anchor the team’s right side of the offense. Unsurprisingly, he stuck out as one of the most athletic and conditioned athletes during the opening weekend of camp as well.
Huge Talent, Bigger Expectations: Speaking of big bodies, there sure are a lot of big guys at camp this year. With veteran Paul Dawson and the team’s 2022 NLL Entry Draft, Owen Down, projected to be featured regularly, they’ve displayed tons competitiveness working alongside established back-enders in Warren Jeffrey, Brett Craig and company. Bryce Tolmie hasn’t shied away from a battle yet, either. On the opposite side of the floor, rookies Declan Fitzpatrick and Ben McDonald haven’t been afraid to get scrappy in battling for spots of their own and join Williams and Ty Thompson amongst the team’s bruisers up front.
Still Gotta Score: Size isn’t everything though, as fan favorites in Eli McLaughlin and Connor Robinson appear set to continue to lead the way for the lefties and offense as a whole. After spending some time playing summer ball north of the border, both of the sharpshooters seem primed for another set of stellar campaigns, especially with forward Ryan Lee expected to miss the season following successful knee surgery. Though a defenseman by trade, Evan Downey continues to have a knack for finding the back of the net when given an opportunity. His brother, George Downey, has meshed well early, and will get a chance to contribute as soon as next weekend when the team participates in its first matchups of the season in Vancouver Nov. 10-12.
Pat Knows His Ball: A defensive specialist all of his life, he’s never been afraid to jump in with Offensive Coordinator Jason Bishop and mix things up with the forwards, but his home is near the goalie, and that’s where he’s continued to focus his energy this preseason. Working alongside one of the best goaltenders in the world in Dillon Ward and making sure his surrounding personnel is aggressive and on the same page, Coyle was once again on the floor, stick in hand, running the show. Excited and passionate like it’s his first season, yet patient and reserved enough to showcase his three decades of experience around the game, he’s got the boys fired up to be together again and back at the grindstone.
For the Game: The Boys love this game and were even more juiced to be back together as a team for the first time in nearly six months. Smiles, sticks and stretches are the best way to start off any training camp, but doing it beside the guys you enjoy going to battle with makes it that much better. Sure, there are some new faces around this season, but most have a tie or two somewhere within the lacrosse world. Regardless of where you’re coming from or going to, at the end of the day, everyone at this camp is sporting burgundy’s and black right now, and they’re having a hell of a time.
Conditioning is Key: Even the most fit and conditioned of lacrosse players have been known to find the garbage can during training camp for a quick break in getting back to full speed. But through three intense sessions inside Foothills Fieldhouse and a challenging working within the beautiful venue of Red Rocks Amphitheater, the group may be in the best Week 1 shape in quite some time. No discredit to previous conditioning efforts, but Joel Raether, the team’s Head of Sports Performance had this year’s guys in shape coming and instantly got to work in cranking it up a notch at altitude.
Defensive Stalwarts: With the amount of shots taken on goaltenders throughout the duration of training camp and the way drills tend to focus more on teamwork and communication early on in camp in general, it’s typically easy to give the early advantage to the forwards when everyone is getting warmed up for the season. But, typical to the Mammoth Way, the team’s defensive unit showed up with prowess, constantly vacuuming loose balls and winning battles in the corner. Scrappy by nature, yet disciplined by craft, they’ve displayed their intentions to remain one of the most efficient and feisty groups in the league, setting the tone through the first weekend of action.
The team will now prepare to head north for the next two weekends, with scrimmages looming in Vancouver, British Columbia Nov. 10-12 and the following weekend in Toronto, Ontario Nov. 17-19 before returning to Denver to close out this year’s camp.
Mammoth fans can stay tuned to coloradomammoth.com and Colorado Mammoth social media for the latest news, transactions and beyond!