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Training Camp Takeaways: Week 4

DENVER – With the Colorado Mammoth officially wrapping up its 2023-24 Training Camp in Lakewood, Colorado this past weekend, the team is set to announce its official roster for the upcoming season Monday afternoon. Able to keep 21 players on the Active Roster when the season begins, plus an additional four on the Practice Player List, the key number this week is 25.

But with some of the boys continuing to nurse injuries from last season, the offseason and even bumps and bruises acquired during this month’s Training Camp, the team is likely to begin the slate with some players designated to either the Physically Unable to Perform List or various Injured Reserve Lists, including All-Pro Ryan Lee, who was designated to the team’s Long Term Injured Reserve after undergoing successful knee surgery during the offseason.

A lot has happened since the team opened up this year’s tune-up sessions within the beautiful confines of Red Rocks Amphitheatre, working with Joel Raether, the team’s Head of Sports Performance, to get the lungs working early and often. Following three intense sessions inside Foothills Fieldhouse to round out the opening weekend, the team set its course for Vancouver, British Columbia for a pair of preseason skirmishes with the Vancouver Warriors and San Diego Seals.

Seeing Tyson Gibson and rookie forward (2023 NLL Entry Draft selection) Ben McDonald get on the board early, Assistant Captain Eli McLaughlin got back to his scoring ways, logging a pair of conversions in the second before completing his first preseason hat trick in the third. With McDonald doubling down in the fourth before receiving some welcome contributions from faceoff specialist (turned defenseman turned scorer of goals) Tim Edwards and forward Ty Thompson, the team notched an 8-7 overtime win to get things started.

Following a tight, always-scrappy battle with the Seals to wrap up weekend two, the teams called it after four quarters, tied at 10 per side. Robinson shined, netting five goals during the scrimmage against a former West Conference rival, as the Magic Man continued to find innovative new ways to find twine. Thompson, McDonald and defenseman Anthony Joaquim each found the back of the net as well, while Declan Fitzpatrick, another 2023 NLL Entry Draft selection, picked up a pair of tallies in his second scrimmage with the squad.

Always a good partner to the league, some of the team’s top talents also participated in content shoots for both ESPN and TSN, as the league and many of its teams are set to be featured within the networks’ linear programming and digital platforms (ESPN+ and TSN+) throughout the season. Of the 10 matchups primed to be featured on ESPN’s linear network, the Mammoth will appear in three of them.

RELATED: ESPN to Broadcast 10 National Lacrosse League Games Across Linear Channels

When weekend three rolled around, as did another opportunity to get better against a quality draw, with the Mammoth prepared to square off against the hometown Toronto Rock inside the TRAC. Eventually dropping a competitive 14-13 showdown to the red, white and blue unit, it was still a step in the right direction for Colorado. Seeing newcomer Connor Kelly, whom the team acquired from the Albany FireWolves during the offseason in exchange for a first-round selection in the 2023 NLL Entry Draft, record a nearly unheard-of preseason sock trick, Brad Self and the organization have to feel good about their early dividends. Teaming up with Kelly to score 10 of the team’s 13, Connor Robinson added four of his own from the opposite side of the set.

Bringing the tour back home to wrap things up in the greater Denver area, the team completed its final three Training Camp sessions inside Foothills Fieldhouse before taking in a Colorado Avalanche game Saturday night. Grinding in the trenches against one another for the past month, a couple of fist-bumps, some popcorn and a bunch of time bonding as a collective unit … a family rather, can go a long way.

Putting the finishing touches on the 2023-24 preseason slate, the boys returned to Ball Arena on Sunday morning to execute the team’s annual Media Day. Shooting content for fan-favorites like Meet the Mammoth, theme night surprises, social media contests, Altitude TV and beyond, the boys shared a few more smiles before going their separate ways for the final time as individuals.

For the next time they gather, inside Gas South Arena, it will be as a TEAM.

With the Colorado Mammoth’s 2023-24 Training Camp officially in the books, we’re looking at a few key takeaways from the past four weeks of ramp-up activities, scrimmages and beyond:

Physical Game, Physical Play: Entering the final week of warm-ups with a few existing injuries is never an ideal situation, but it goes hand-in-hand with one of the industry’s richest aspects: This is a tough game we play. A physical one. Sustaining and dealing with injuries is merely part of the mix. Able to navigate both of the past two regular and postseasons missing the likes of Ryan Lee, Eli McLaughlin, Joey Cupido, Brett Craig (the list goes on, but we’ll stop here) at different points, the team has still enjoyed its fair share of success. Add in a few more bumps and bruises suffered during this fall’s Training Camp sessions and it may feel like the team is right back where it was the past two seasons. Not to worry, though, as the team is expected to bring quite the sizable pool of personnel onto the season-opening roster as the organization continues to traverse those bumps and bruises.

Depth is Key: Which brings up another big takeaway … Having depth is important in any professional sports league. It’s always fun, and usually productive, slotting in your best five forwards and best five D guys when projecting big matchups throughout the year. But between the ever-contagious injury bug and early-season conditioning levels across the league, teams have learned you can’t solely rely on the regulars to get the job done. Depth guys who have played important roles within this organization for several years are the reason this team has been to two consecutive NLL Finals. They may spend parts of the season with low amounts of playing time, as a healthy scratch or even designated up and down to the team’s Practice Player List. That’s part of earning a spot as a regular and playing complementary ball. It’s a team sport on and off the floor, but the most crucial aspect is to be ready when called upon. Just ask forward Brett McIntyre, who didn’t score any points during the regular season of the team’s 2021-22 Championship, but came alive during the postseason run, contributing the first 16 points (7g, 9a) of his young career.

New Guys Fitting In: From the team’s recently appointed Defensive Coordinator Dan MacRae getting used to working with back-end extraordinaire Pat Coyle and his established group of veterans to rookie forwards Ben McDonald and Declan Fitzpatrick not only mixing it up in the O-zone, but actually scoring goals, the new guys are fitting in just fine so far. Free agent signees like Paul Dawson? Well, the veteran appears primed to play a vital role early in the season, potentially including some of the looks vacated by John Lintz’s departure. Nate Wade and Bryce Tolmie, another pair of defensive minds added during the offseason, have also seemed to fit in well, and will likely get a look at some point this season. Though, the real test comes Dec. 9, when they’re potentially thrust into their first action donning the legendary burgundy and black threads. With Tyler Carlson, Dillon Ward and Nate Faccin the final three goalies on the roster, it appears they will again anchor the organization’s net presence.

Bishop’s Boys: With Dan MacRae and Head Coach Pat Coyle heading up the team’s established defensive core, Offensive Coordinator Jason Bishop returns for his third season drumming up ideas in the O-zone. Continuing to utilize the talents of Zed Williams, Connor Robinson, Eli McLaughlin, Connor Kelly and beyond, he’s only been associated with success since making his NLL coaching debut during the team’s Championship run. The unit has noticeably taken a step forward with each season that Bishop has been on the bench. That isn’t expected to change in 2024, as the soft-spoken leader feels more and more comfortable in the same light. Pat trusts him. His forwards believe in him. And in just a few more weeks, the LOUD HOUSE will cheer for him and his scorers as they look to fill the net at an above normal rate.

Leaders Lead: Of course, Captain Robert Hope continues to set the pace and tone for his group within practices and travel, but it’s still been Connor Robinson and Eli McLaughlin who have led the charge on the scoresheet. Offensively, that is. With C-Rob coming up just short of his own sock trick, while seeing Liger earn a hat trick in weekend two, teams will be able to recognize who amongst the lefties will get the first and best looks. But with right-handed forward Connor Kelly stepping in and immediately elevating the offense, Zed Williams will very much benefit from the new speedster on his side of the floor, demonstrated throughout the preseason as Kelly has not only created space but found twine, including his six-goal effort against the Toronto Rock in weekend three.

Accountability, Discipline, Progress: Goals are important. For this team and for any group working towards the same endgame. Defining pillars which they’ll regard throughout the work(out) week, during travel and once they hit the turf together as a unit, the team spent more than an hour after practice Saturday afternoon discussing goals for the upcoming campaign. Among them: A bunch of in-game specifics, benchmarks and measurables for the games and the grind, sure, but just as many bits regarding the team’s culture and communication. Talking about the importance of the youngsters soaking up whatever they can and the veterans leading the way. Talking to each other in the game. Lifting each other up in the hardest of times and staying humble when things are going well. In-game prep, execution, recovery and beyond. Goals for games, goals for the season, goals for the postseason. Plenty of good talking points, but the main goal is to bring a Championship back to the LOUD HOUSE come June.

While 10 of the league’s 15 teams will prepare to begin this season’s slate Dec. 1-2 during the NLL’s Faceoff Weekend, Colorado will prepare to face the Georgia Swarm during the team’s Season Opener Dec. 9 in Duluth, Georgia before hosting the team inside the LOUD HOUSE Dec. 22 for this season’s Home Opener in Ball Arena!

Limited tickets for the Dec. 22 against Georgia remain available!

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