The Colorado Mammoth (2-3) host the Edmonton Rush (2-4) at Pepsi Center on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET. (Photo: Michael Martin)
The Colorado Mammoth (2-3) and 2012 NLL MVP John Grant, Jr. host the Edmonton Rush (2-4) and rookie sensation Mark Matthews at Pepsi Center on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET. Watch the game live on Altitude2 and on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.
On Friday, the Rush beat the Washington Stealth by a score of 15-10 as Matthews scored six goals to help Edmonton earn their first home win.
"We want [Matthews] shooting the ball," said Rush head coach Derek Keenan. "He's not going to score five or six [goals] every night. He's going to continue to get better. He will have ups-and-downs. He's still a young player and still adapting to the offense. He just needs to keep working at it and he'll be a premier player in this league, there's no question."
Saturday's game marks somewhat of a homecoming for Matthews, who played four seasons collegiately at the nearby University of Denver.
Last weekend, Colorado lost to the Washington Stealth on the road by a score of 13-6, the fewest goals scored by the team since the franchise’s inaugural season in 2003.
"It was a tough Saturday, but fortunately for us we get to come home,” said Mammoth head coach Bob Hamley. “We're playing a tough team. This league...the parity is so, so close and every night is a grind. Edmonton will be hungry. They have lost some tough games so far but we know we have our hands full.”
Mammoth defenseman Dan Coates said he hopes the team can improve after such a tough loss last weekend.
"We didn’t have the start we wanted to Saturday night in [Washington] and I think that’s what we are looking to do,” he said. “We got our hands full with their offense, they have some good shooters...but we are focused this week.”
Despite 57 shots on goal, the Mammoth could not cash in on most of their attempts on offense. Between Adam Jones and John Grant Jr., the team’s top two shooters, the pair combined for 24 shots on goal with only two crossing the goal line, both by Jones.
Defensively, Colorado struggled from the get-go and continued that trend at full strength and on penalty killing. Coates said talking and maintaining a lead will be critical to avoid another big loss at home.
"We need to be more disciplined at the back end. I think last game we took too many penalties,” Coates said. “We can’t let a power play like Washington or Edmonton pick us apart. We need a good start, we need to be more physical. Communication is huge and it's just a trust factor back there. I think as games go along, we are improving, but we need a good start this weekend and we just need to be physical and communicate.”
Mammoth rookie Joey Cupido earned praise this week from Coach Hamley when he said that Cupido’s play last weekend was one of the best on the floor as he recorded his first NLL goal and led the team in loose balls and forced turnovers.
“Joey had a great game,” Hamley said. “Scored his first goal. He’s had some other opportunities in other games for goals and has had a couple called back.”
But the Denver-based team won’t be the only ones with something to prove at Pepsi Center. Sitting at the bottom of the West, Edmonton hopes to rise up the standings after their win on Friday heading into Colorado. Matthews scored six goals to give the Rush their first home win of the season.
The Mammoth will add another familiar face to their active roster this week. Jarrett Park, acquired by Colorado in 2010, was activated from the injured reserve earlier this week after tearing his ACL last season. To make room, the team released defenseman Eric Martin, who was signed by the Mammoth after his release from Washington during the preseason.
With a win, Edmonton could get right back into the mix in the West Division standings.
“This is a big weekend for us,” said Rush forward Jarrett Davis. “We’ve got back-to-back games and obviously with the 1-4 record we have right now, it’s time to turn it around. I think there’s a little more urgency for us to win this week."