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Any given Sunday: Mammoth and Wings will play matinee

02/21/2013, 1:15pm EST
By Nick Salen, Mammoth beat writer for NLL.com

Last four games between Colorado and Philly decided by just one goal

The Philadelphia Wings (3-3) host the Colorado Mammoth (2-4) at Wells Fargo Center on Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. ET. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)

The Philadelphia Wings (3-3) will finish off their back-to-back weekend by hosting the Colorado Mammoth (2-4) at Wells Fargo Center on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET. Watch the game live on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.

The Wings beat the Rochester Knighthawks on the road by a score of 10-8 on Saturday night despite an early 4-0 deficit. Coming off a bye weekend, Wings GM and head coach Johnny Mouradian expects his team to be ready to play twice on consecutive days.

“We have three back-to-back weekends left,” he said. “I think we match up well with Colorado. Last year, we beat Colorado [on the road] by one and then they beat us at home by one in an overtime game. So we don’t expect anything different.”

After 45 minutes of close play last Saturday, Colorado fell apart late against the Edmonton Rush offense, allowing seven goals in the fourth quarter en route to a 14-7 home loss in Denver. The Mammoth could not find a solution to the Washington Stealth on Feb. 6 either, losing on the road 13-6.

Colorado’s head coach Bob Hamley stated earlier this week that his team simply hasn’t been able to finish.

"At the end of the day, you’ve got to finish,” he said. “We had some really good chances especially early in both games. You don’t finish – confidence kind of wanes a little bit and snowballs.”

Heading into their first game against an East Division opponent, Colorado hopes to finally fire on all cylinders against a Philadelphia squad that has matched up well in recent meetings.

"We're definitely going to try and regroup," Hamley said. "Philly presents another challenge this weekend. At the end of the day, we’ve got to keep getting better and improving in all aspects of our game and we haven’t done that yet. Hopefully we can get that started on Sunday."

The two teams have met in a home-and-home series in each of the last two seasons. All four games were decided by just one goal, with the Wings winning three of four. At the bottom of their respective division’s standings, Colorado and Philadelphia find themselves in similar positions entering Sunday’s game, which should be tightly-contested as usual.

Wings transition player Jordan Hall said that the play of Mammoth forward and 2012 NLL MVP John Grant, Jr. could the “X-factor” on Sunday.

"The Mammoth match up really well against us,” Hall said. “We try to create one-on-one mismatch and I think they have a really strong defense one-on-one. I think it’s going to be a matter of who sticks to principles and who puts a good team together. Whatever 'Junior' does kind of dictates games sometimes.”

Philadelphia will battle Rochester on the road before coming home to Wells Fargo Center against Colorado. Head coach and general manager Johnny Mouradian noted he hopes his team can ride momentum from the first game to the second.

The best team on the floor could come down to who wins the small elements of the game. For Colorado’s offense, that means putting points on the board rather than another save for the opposition, and relying less on the defense to make a stop of their own like they did late in last weekend’s loss.

“We didn’t score very often, only seven times and that puts a lot of pressure on the goaltending and the defense,” Hamley said. “I think if we can do our job on offense, then it will help the defense as well. But I have no concerns in terms of the defense, just kind of ran out of gas and tried a little too hard to get stops in the fourth quarter.”

Goaltending meanwhile is still up in the air for the Mammoth. Matt Roik, who is the projected starter, has played only one complete game so far this season. Time and time again, Roik has been relieved during the game, most recently by young netminder Dan Lewis, only to be put back in later on.

Lewis got some action against Washington and hopes to improve when given the nod again.

"It’s been great to be in Colorado for the short time I’ve been in the league,” Lewis said. “They’ve been really good both years. I have been down there [with] two veteran goalies that have been able to talk to me quite well. This year has been a bit of a different story, but the guys seem to be coming together and I can’t wait to get in again."

With both teams needing a win to move up in the standings, Mouradian also said that it’s the little things that will make the difference between winning and losing.

“Every team in this league has the physical capability to beat any team on any given night,” Mouradian said. “It’s the team that plays better in the little situations. The last couple of games, we’ve been watching. We have a practice in Rochester on Friday. That’s going to help us a lot.”

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