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Mammoth stampede into Calgary for visit with Roughnecks

03/18/2013, 2:30pm EDT
By NLL.com's Mammoth beat writer Nick Salen and Roughnecks beat writer Jessica Elverum

New-look Colorado hopes to continue playoff push, clinch season series

The Calgary Roughnecks (6-5) host the new-look Colorado Mammoth (4-7) at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday at 9pm ET. (Photo: Michael Martin)

In a key West Division matchup, the Colorado Mammoth (4-7) aim to continue their hot streak on the road when they visit the Calgary Roughnecks (6-5) at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET. Watch the game live on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.

It is the third and final regular season matchup in 2013 between the two squads, and with both sides each holding a victory over each other, the game could play a much larger factor as the postseason approaches.

Mammoth forward Sean Pollock scored in overtime for a 13-12 comeback road win over the Roughnecks in Week #3 before Calgary returned the favor with a 19-12 victory in Denver the following week.

Sitting two games behind the Edmonton Rush (6-5) in the West Division, the Mammoth still need wins down the stretch to both ensure a spot in the postseason and improve their playoff position. According to head coach Bob Hamley, securing two wins against the Buffalo Bandits in as many weeks has energized a revamped Colorado roster.

"The last two games, getting wins against Buffalo, were very important for us,” Hamley said. “We’ve been in a playoff mode for the last three or four games. I thought our team has played pretty well the last five games and improved on where we were even a month ago. Pretty happy about that and will take that momentum into Calgary.”

Before catching their second wind in recent weeks, Colorado lost three games by seven goals, one of which coming at the hands of the Riggers in Week #4. According to Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky, round three will not be like their previous two matchups after Colorado’s recent shake ups to their lineup.

"They’re a different team from when we played them some weeks back, having Casey [Powell] and [John Grant, Jr.] playing together,” Malawsky said. “I played with both of those guys and they’re both dynamic players and they make everyone around them better. I think our guys realize the importance, I think the big thing for us is focusing on ourselves. We really look to be proactive in a lot of the stuff with the other teams that we play, but for the most part, we want to really concentrate on what we need to do."

Mammoth forward Jordan McBride has been one of those players that has shown improvement from his fellow NLL veterans. In his last four outings, McBride has recorded 17 points (11+6) and has been a key offensive shooter over that stretch.

Meanwhile, Grant, Jr. has continued his dominance in all offensive categories, leading the team in goals (32), assists (32), points (64) and shots on goal (141). The 2012 NLL MVP acknowledged that Calgary is a big matchup on the calendar but is more focused on how the team plays down the stretch.

"It's always going to be a big game but we’ve got a lot of other things to worry about as well,” he said. “Just getting into the playoffs, keeping our run going...It's good that finally meant we got over some of those hurdles. Get some wins and go forward here."

The Mammoth’s defense took a big blow last weekend, losing veteran John Gallant during the game. Gallant, the longest-tenured Mammoth player, suffered two broken ribs after being caught with a hard pick against the Bandits, but Hamley expects him to return before season’s end.

The Roughnecks are coming off a bye week, which came at the right time according to Malawsky, whose team now turns their attention to prepping for the postseason as well.

"We had some guys nicked up and banged up,” he said. “We went hard there for the first 11 weeks and it’s just a good time to have that break. Kind of recharge your battery and look to fight for a playoff spot."

Calgary’s goaltender Mike Poulin agreed that the timing of their bye week was much needed after their 19-15 home win over the Minnesota Swarm in Week #10, when they were led by forward Dane Dobbie’s six goals.

“I think it was good timing for us to come off of a good team win against Minnesota,” he said. “A lot of times, if you have a bye after a loss, you are really aching to get back at it and that extra week you sit there thinking about the negatives a lot more. So I think the timing on our bye was great.”

But just because the Roughnecks had a week off didn’t mean they stopped training as they look to regain their spot atop the West Division.

“They held each other accountable so they didn’t just put their feet up and do nothing,” Malawsky said. “They made sure that they kept their fitness going over the two-week period and I know by talking to a few of them, they’re pretty hungry to get back and battle for that spot.”

To get back on top of the standings, Calgary will first have to go through an improved, new-look Colorado team.

“We’re treating these last five games like playoff games,” Malawsky said. “That’s the mentality we are going in with. So what better way to start than with one of the top and hottest teams in the league? We will be ready to go Saturday night.”

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