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Make-or-break weekend for Mammoth

03/05/2013, 1:30pm EST
By Nick Salen, Mammoth beat writer for NLL.com

Colorado (2-7) looks to snap five-game skid, faces Buffalo (5-4) on Saturday

The Colorado Mammoth (2-6) play back-to-back road games against Toronto and Buffalo this weekend. (Photo: Jack Dempsey)

After a 14-10 loss to the Toronto Rock on Friday night, the Colorado Mammoth (2-7) will be desperate for a win when they visit the Buffalo Bandits (5-4) at First Niagara Center on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. ET. Watch the game live on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.

Coming into this weekend on a four-game losing streak, the Mammoth would rather have a big momentum swing now than later. A big weekend on the road can put the team right back in the hunt, but it won’t be easy.

"Every game is huge for us now,” said Mammoth head coach Bob Hamley. “We put ourselves in a tough situation and we need wins. It really doesn’t matter if we're playing two or three in a row here this weekend or one [game]. It's crucial we get off to a good start and finish as well."

Last weekend, Colorado finished on the losing end of a tight 12-11 contest with Rochester. But as a whole, the team looked more complete than any other outing this season.

"It was a tough game. We were obviously disappointed and frustrated with the loss but at the same time I think as a coach there were a lot of positives,” Hamley said. “Can’t deny the effort from our players from goaltending right through to the offense. I thought everyone left it on the floor. That’s life in the NLL – the one-goal game could have gone either way – and unfortunately for us, it didn’t go our way.

“We're going to try and draw on some positives, try and cut down on a few mistakes we're making and try and do our best in Toronto."

From a player’s standpoint, transition player Cam Holding could not agree mor. But as a team, ironing out all the mistakes is a challenge in itself while on the floor. Those small mistakes will be one of the keys to a successful weekend.

"It wasn’t from a lack of effort,” Holding said. “I thought we pushed hard, everybody was working and you almost have to play a perfect game in order to get a win in this league. We had a couple small mistakes and ended up with the ball in the back of our net. A one-goal loss like that is not going to help us. So we’ve got to play close to a perfect game and just keep working hard."

Seven points from captain Gavin Prout (1+7) and Sean Pollock (4+3) led Colorado in their matchup with Toronto in 2012 and those two could be poised to make big contributions this time as well. Prout and Pollock are one of four Mammoth players, along with Adam Jones and John Grant, Jr., with 20+ points this season.

Colorado ran away with a 19-12 victory in Denver last season against Toronto. The Rock remain at home this week after dropping a rough 15-13 loss to the Buffalo Bandits. Toronto’s general manager and assistant coach Terry Sanderson commented that it was one of their worst outings with too many players having bad nights. The Rock will look to get back in the win column on Friday, but it won’t be easy against a hungry Mammoth team.

Colorado will then travel to faceoff against Buffalo on Saturday, hoping to ride into “Banditland” on a high note. If it is anything like last year, the distraction of the home crowd won’t be a factor for a Mammoth team playing in an environment that rivals First Niagara Center out West, but will be a challenge nonetheless. It will also be a small homecoming for Hamley, who spent several seasons in Buffalo during his playing days.

"We had some success there last year but it is a very tough place to play, it reminds me a lot of Pepsi Center here in Denver, really a ruckus crowd, very knowledgeable fan base,” Hamley said. “Obviously I played there back in the day with [Bandits assistant coach] Richie [Kilgour] and kind of holds a special place in my heart there to play.”

Their record in the standings seemed irrelevant to the coaching staff in such a competitive league as Bandits assistant coach Rich Kilgour said that Colorado should not to be taken lightly.

"They’re a wounded animal right now and that's the most dangerous animal,” Kilgour said. “They got a game in Toronto the night before. A lot of times that works out for the teams going back-to-back a little better.”

Mammoth goaltender Dan Lewis put up solid numbers in his first career start for Colorado last weekend, earning praise from Hamley and the rest of the coaching staff. The young netminder is stepping into a bigger role with his squad and could be the difference in the Mammoth’s crucial weekend road trip.

"He gave us a chance, but in the same respect, he's now a big part of this team and has to be better, just like the rest of us,” Hamley said. “He's a young guy who has a bright future. As we kept saying, ‘the future is now’ and we're expecting Dan to step up and be our rock back there. It’s an important position and he understand that and we’re looking forward to seeing him get better."

Lewis started the game in Toronto but was pulled in favor of Tye Belanger. Lewis was forced back into the net after Belanger suffered an injury in the fourth quarter of the loss.

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