If baseball legend Yogi Berra were still alive, and he saw that the Colorado Mammoth and Calgary Roughnecks were facing off in the West Division Semi-Final on Saturday, May 5th at 9:00 pm EST, he would have repeated one of his most famous Yogi-isms, “It’s like Deja vu all over again.”
It’s remarkable, but this is the 10th West Division Semi-Final meeting in the last 15 seasons between two of the fiercest rivals in the NLL. Unfortunately for the home-side Mammoth, who are the hosting the Roughnecks in the playoffs for the 5th time, they have been on the losing end in all but one of the nine NLL Playoff battles between the two competitors – their only win came in 2006, the same year the Mammoth went on to win the Champion’s Cup.
Despite history not being on the Mammoth’s side going into this highly-contentious contest, Mammoth head Coach Pat Coyle has zero concerns about what previous Mammoth teams have done in this situation.
“Nobody remembers that Calgary wasn’t even in the playoffs last year and the we beat the [Vancouver] Stealth in the first round last year,” Coyle said. “The past is the past. The past record doesn’t matter. It only matters what is happening this game and this season.”
Regarding this season, the Mammoth had regular season success against the Roughnecks winning two of the three games played. All games were decided by four goals or less, the Mammoth were able to win in Colorado and in Calgary, and, most importantly, the Mammoth won the last affair between the two back on March 10th.
Since that March 10th game, the Mammoth finished the season with a win-loss record of 3-4, and the Roughnecks were 4-3. But, concerning the “What have you done for me lately?” mentality, the Mammoth are 1-3 in their last four games while the Roughnecks were 2-2 with both losses coming by just one goal, and their average winning margin in the victories was by 11 goals.
The Mammoth can hold their head higher than their that record suggests, though, because their final regular season game versus the Toronto Rock was a resounding success that saw the team win the high-scoring match 19-15.
“I really liked how we responded,” Coyle said about the win. “To go from losing three games in a row, I thought the guys played well. I know the guys had their own conference call and whatever they talked about really changed things for them. I think it’s good for our confidence, for our whole team’s psyche, to go into a playoff game having had success the game before.”
Confidence can be vital to winning the close, back-and-forth battles that are so common in the NLL, particularly when rivals match-up. The intensity will be palpable on Saturday even before the opening whistle blows, that’s for sure, only adding to what should be an incredible matchup.
“I can tell you that I don’t like them, and that all the guys on the [Mammoth] don’t like them,” Mammoth transition player Joey Cupido said of the rivalry. “It’s a good rivalry, and we’ve had some great games in the past.”
Mike Poulin, the Roughnecks goaltender from 2010-2016 and faced the Mammoth in four straight West Division Semi-Finals matches from 2013-2016, shared similar sentiments.
“It really is a great playoff rivalry,” Poulin said. “Both teams do not like each other. Being a part of the Roughnecks, you always kind of had this smug feeling about playing [the Mammoth] because we had their number so often that you had this feeling that you had an advantage. I
know they beat [the Stealth] last year, but until they beat Calgary, that’s the hump they need to get over.”
For this rivalry playoff match, the Mammoth will have a strong playoff-experienced lineup out on the turf. With the additions of Zack Greer, who won a Champion’s Cups in Edmonton and Saskatchewan, and Brad Self, who won multiple Champion’s Cups with the Rochester Knighthawks, this year’s squad is hoping that the championship-tested players can bring the expertise that is needed to win each game on route to the title.
“I think it helps a lot,” Cupido said of having guys like Greer and Self on the turf for this match. “They know what to expect. They can help some of the younger guys and hopefully take away some of the nerves.”
Only time will tell if the Mammoth can break their seven-game playoff losing streak against the Roughnecks this weekend. As always, the game can be seen on NLL.com with the face-off scheduled for 9:00 pm EST.