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Altitude: Wings take off for Colorado to face Mammoth

03/26/2013, 4:10pm EDT
By NLL.com's Mammoth beat writer Nick Salen and Wings beat writer Dave Walls

Colorado and Philly meet for rematch as playoff race heats up

The Colorado Mammoth (4-8) host the Philadelphia Wings (5-6) at Pepsi Center on Saturday at 9pm ET. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)

The Colorado Mammoth (4-8) will look for a crucial home win when they host the Philadelphia Wings (5-6), who are looking to rebound from their 20-11 road loss to the Minnesota Swarm on Friday night, at Pepsi Center on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET. Watch the game live on Altitude and on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.

Colorado returns to Denver after dropping a thrilling 12-11 overtime loss to Calgary this past weekend. According to head coach Bob Hamley, the loss was disappointing but overall, he’s satisfied with the chemistry developed among his players over the past month.

"I really feel the last five or six games, our team has been coming together and playing much better,” Hamley said. “I’ve said it after every game that you can’t deny the effort from our fellows. We are getting contributions from a lot of our young guys and they’re drawing on some new experiences, and that bodes well for the future."

Philadelphia came into Week #13 fresh off a bye and didn't show any signs of rust in the first half of their loss on Friday but were blown out in the second half by allowing 15 goals. With two wins this weekend, the Wings could have punched their postseason ticket as well, but according to Philadelphia’s assistant general manager Jimmy Butler, such accomplishments are taken in baby steps.

“Anytime you have an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot, you always want to put that out there and let everybody know where we are and where we stand,” Butler said. “We've worked real hard to get to this part of the season, but one game at a time, one shift at a time, all those things you need to do especially coming into a place like Colorado."

The Wings topped the Mammoth by a score of 14-12 back in February. Adam Jones led all players with seven points (4+3) while Sean Pollock added six points (3+3). But transition will be key in this weekend’s matchup, much like the previous outing where the Wings took advantage with their edge in speed.

"They're a quick team, they're going to push the ball on us and we definitely going to watch reverse transition on them as well,” said Mammoth transition player Cam Holding. “I think we have a nice, young athletic team as well so I think we should be able to match up alright with them."

Colorado’s defense has taken two major blows recently after trading Jon Sullivan to Rochester and losing John Gallant to injury. Hamley however appeared unphased by the notion, swiftly citing that the rest of the roster has filled the void in the players’ absence.

"I think it's been an overall team effort,” he said. “Saturday, we had two offensive guys go back and play in the back end because of injuries. Mat MacLeod and Colton Clark went in and did an admirable job. We're seeing guys like Cam Holding, Jaeden Gastaldo and Joey Cupido mature and play really well right in front of us, and doing it while we are in tough games."

The defense should get a big boost this weekend. The Mammoth activated Ian Hawksbee from the Holdout List and signed John Orsen earlier this week and both are expected to be in the lineup on Saturday. Both players were on the roster for Colorado in 2012.

During Philadelphia's win over Colorado in February, Drew Westervelt’s four goals and Brandon Miller’s 45 saves led the way.

Since that time, however, Colorado has undergone a reshaping of their entire roster, releasing Matt Roik, and adding young goaltender Tye Belanger, who has solidified himself as the starting netminder. The Mammoth also acquired Casey Powell via trade from the Rochester Knighthawks, adding to an already dangerous Mammoth offense that features John Grant, Jr. and Gavin Prout.

Despite a star-studded Mammoth team in front of them, Butler doesn’t believe his young players will be intimidated by the players or by playing at Pepsi Center, which is known for their raucous fan base.

“Our guys have played a lot of lacrosse in a lot of big settings," he said. "They’ve become adjusted to the big settings. We’re more focused on the little subtleties of our opponents.”

The teams will also meet again next weekend for their third and final meeting in the 2013 regular season. But not before the Wings play on consecutive nights this weekend.

“They take a toll on the body, however, they help your focus," Butler said. "Your mentality is on nothing but lacrosse. Really helps you get down to business. With a week of practice, and healing up some injuries, the back-to-back weekend shouldn’t affect us. We’re ready to go."

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