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Rocky start: Calgary visits Colorado tonight

01/23/2013, 11:30am EST
By Nick Salen, Mammoth beat writer for NLL.com

Roughnecks, Poulin take on Mammoth, Grant Jr. again this weekend

After last weekend's OT thriller, the Calgary Roughnecks and Colorado Mammoth finish off their home-and-home series on Friday night at Pepsi Center at 9 p.m. ET. (Photo: Brad Watson)

After a dramatic overtime win on the road last weekend, the Colorado Mammoth (1-1) look to cap off a home-and-home sweep of the Calgary Roughnecks (0-2) on Friday night at 9 p.m. ET at Pepsi Center. The game will be broadcast live on the NLL on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network and on Altitude.

With the clock winding down in last Saturday’s game, Colorado’s offense surged with four goals in the final five minutes of regulation to force overtime. After dominating play for most of OT, the Mammoth eventually scored the game winner six minutes into the extra frame for a 13-12 win.

“We stopped executing for five minutes,” said Roughnecks goaltender Mike Poulin. “We know that we have what it takes to win games. Once we get one (win), they’ll start rolling in. We’ve gone through two-game losing streaks before so this isn’t anything new to us. We’re very optimistic and still positive but we know how important each game is. We can’t let games slide out of our hands anymore.”

Despite the improbable comeback win, the exuberance was short-lived in the Colorado locker room. With round two between the teams set for this weekend in Denver, the Mammoth acknowledge the road to consistency is long and winding.

“We’re obviously thrilled with the win, but we’re not kidding ourselves,” Mammoth head coach Bob Hamley stated. “We still have a lot of work to do and it is early in the season.”

Mammoth forward John Grant Jr., the team’s leader in shots, goals and points, earned the NLL Offensive Player of the Week award for Week #3 after his eight-point (6+2) performance against the Roughnecks.

“I think I had 45 shots, so to me, it wasn’t really a good game,” Grant, Jr. said. “But luckily, I got some in at some good times in the game. We are just happy with the kind of heart we showed at the end to get a victory in a very tough place.”

Luck is not an ally to rely on in the National Lacrosse League as many have witnessed over past seasons. Every game is different, and for Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky, the difference this week will be whether or not his team can come together on the road and earn their first win.

“It’s always good to move along after a couple losses,” said the first-year head coach. “There’s quite a few distractions at home at times. It’s nice to gel and come together on road. What better place to do it than a hostile environment in Denver."

Malawsky mentioned that his club cannot falter in the final minutes once again, citing how critical mistakes contributed to Colorado’s rally. Although the mistakes were self-inflicted, Malawsky credited the Mammoth for taking advantage.

“We’ve got redemption on our mind – they earned that win,” Malawsky said. “We made some key mistakes at the end of the game. But those key mistakes were forced by [Colorado]. We didn’t execute. Ready to get on the road and put those things behind us.”

Inconsistencies on both offense and defense have plagued the Mammoth in their first two outings, but they have shown improvement since their opening-night loss to Washington. Despite a threatening offensive scheme, Colorado has been bogged down by a defense that has allowed a large percentage of goals at key times.

According to Hamley, the Mammoth's defense will be an area of focus.

“Calgary has a great offense, and we want to limit as many chances as we can with our defense,” he said. “It is early in the season. Still trying to find your way and prove [yourself] each game out. That’s what we will ask of our defense this week – to keep improving.”

The Mammoth shooters will most likely face Calgary’s Poulin again this weekend. Poulin proved to be a headache for Colorado in Week #3, making 41 of 54 saves, including two highlight-reel saves in the final seconds of regulation to ensure overtime, the second on a shot off the stick of Grant, Jr.

“Fundamentally, it wasn’t one of my best days,” Poulin said. “It worked out in the end to force overtime. We needed to have a few loose balls and I needed to stop some more rebounds. Came up short.”

Colorado struggled between the pipes on their end and shuffled between starter Chris Levis and backup Matt Roik throughout the game. It is unclear who will start for the Mammoth until later in the week. Controlling rebounds will be key for both goaltenders as that proved to be a problem last week.

In the faceoff circle, Colorado has struggled to find a solution to Roughnecks transition player Geoff Snider, who has won over 90% of his faceoffs against the Mammoth in his last three outings.

After Friday night’s game, the Roughnecks will travel to Philadelphia to take on the Wings on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET at Wells Fargo Center while the Mammoth will rest up for their return to action the following week.

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