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Weekend Wrap: Rocky Mountain High; Slow Start for Last two Champions

01/23/2012, 9:42am EST
By Andy Lefkowitz, Associate Editor for NLL.com

Mammoth off to fast start; others looking for first win of 2012


Title game finalists each of the last 2 years both winless


Rookie Adam Jones is off to a great start for the Mammoth. Photo Credit: Brad Watson

The Colorado Mammoth have become the talk of the league at this early stage of the season.  After going 5-11 and 4-12 the past two seasons, the Mammoth are off to a 3-0 start.  Last year their third win of the season didn’t come until April. It’s even more impressive when you consider the complete overhaul of the lineup that took place this off-season, with 15 new players on the 23 man roster.

“We have a bunch of young guys who are really fit, and two old guys [John Grant and Gavin Prout] who are pretty fit as well,” said Mammoth Head Coach Bob Hamley, after the 13-12 win at Calgary that improved the record to 3-0. “John is what he is, a coach on the floor. He loves playing with the kids.”

Mammoth players young and old have bought in, and it’s been something else to watch Grant (13 goals, 17 assists for 30 points through three games) get off to a start that’s reminiscent of his play when he won the League MVP Award in 2007. 

Following Saturday's game, Ian Busby of the Calgary Sun noted in his game story that at times Grant was unstoppable,  and the Roughnecks defenders agreed. Busby wrote, “There were times when Grant was checked well by the Roughnecks defense. You just can’t hold him down every time, and, of course, he assisted on Prout’s winner. “He’s the best player in the world,” Riggers defender Scott Carnegie said. “A couple of times he scored, we played really well against him. That backhand … what else are you supposed to do?”.  Read Busby’s story in the Calgary Sun here.

Equally impressive has been the fast start to the career of Mammoth rookie Adam Jones.  The Canisius product, drafted with the third overall pick in the 2011 Entry Draft, has scored 11 goals and 9 assists for 20 points in his first three NLL games. 

Team captain Gavin Prout is doing his best to keep the team level-headed during this hot start. “It feels great, but the job is not done,” said Prout. “The first three wins mean nothing. We need to get right back to work.”

Grant told ColoradoMammoth.com that he’ll give the ball from his 1,000th career point to Mammoth President & GM Steve Govett, who will place the ball alongside the ball from Gary Gait’s 1,000th career point, which also came in a Mammoth uniform.  Grant scored the historic point assisting on a goal scored by Derek Hopcroft in the 1st Quarter against Calgary.

In Edmonton on Friday night, the Rush lost to the Mammoth 13-12, but it was a positive debut for in a Rush uniform for Shawn Williams.  The long time Rochester Knighthawk set Rush franchise records for assists and points in a single game. Williams scored one goal, but assisted on eight others for nine points (1G, 8A). The player known as "Willy" to his teammates should also be joining the 1,000 point club soon.  He now has 978 career regular season points, 22 away from the milestone.

In Philadelphia, the Wings are feeling better about themselves after a 10-9 win over Washington on Saturday to improve to 1-1.  While Wings rookie and #1 draft pick Kevin Crowley scored 5 of the Philly goals including the OT winner, the defense had a much better night after allowing 22 goals to Rochester in the season opening loss. It all starts with goaltender Brandon Miller. “It was important to get a couple big saves early.  You never like to have bad games but I wasn’t feeling it (last week).  I thought about it all week,” Miller told Alex Lee, Wings beat writer for NLL.com.

Nothing new here, but John Tavares led the way for the Buffalo Bandits in their 12-9 win at Rochester with 4 goals and 4 assists.  After the game, Bandits defenseman Billy Dee Smith told Budd Bailey of The Buffalo News of the 43-year old Tavares, "He's 14 years older than I am. I think I might retire before he does. He's been the best player ever, and he still is." Read Budd’s game story here.

The Washington Stealth and Toronto Rock have met for the NLL championship each of the last two seasons with each club taking the Champion’s Cup home once. However, both clubs have gotten off to 0-2 starts in 2012.

The Stealth are coming off Saturday’s 10-9 overtime loss to the Wings. A  concern for Washington is that Rhys Duch, Lewis Ratcliff and Jeff Zywicki combined to score only two goals in this game.

“Our stars have to outwork their stars and that didn’t happen tonight,” Stealth assistant coach Art Webster told Aaron Lomers of the Everett Herald after the game. You can read Lommer’s account of the game here.

As for Toronto, the Rock were idle this past weekend. The Rock can even its record with a pair of wins this weekend, facing Rochester on Friday and Calgary on Saturday. Head Coach Troy Cordingley told Ty Pilson of ILIndoor.com that it’s not time to panic.  I’m not the most patient person,” said Cordingley. “However, it’s January and we’re not winning a championship in January. Right? I have to be realistic, too, and (believe in) our veteran guys. We’re still confident, we’re still positive and this can happen.” Read the full story here.

One final note for our recap, three of the four games this past weekend were decided by one goal, with two of those going to overtime. 

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