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Buzzworthy: Mammoth & Swarm look to get back into form

01/30/2014, 9:30am EST
By Mammoth beat writer Nick Salen & Swarm beat writer Maria Jollie for NLL.com

Powell set to make his 2014 debut for Colorado with Minnesota in town

The Colorado Mammoth (2-5) host the Minnesota Swarm (1-3) at Pepsi Center on Saturday at 9pm ET. (Photo: Jack Dempsey)

Coming off a thrilling overtime victory last weekend, the Colorado Mammoth (2-5) look to keep it rolling when they host the rested Minnesota Swarm (1-3) at Pepsi Center on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET. Watch the game live on Altitude (DIRECTV channel 681 and Dish Network channel 410) or on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.

Colorado secured a much needed win in Week 5 against Calgary in a dramatic 14-13 OT win on the road, snapping a four-game losing streak in the process. Rolling with momentum, the Mammoth look to get their second win in Denver and rise from the bottom of the West Division.

“We’re very happy obviously with the outcome,” Mammoth head coach Bob Hamley said. “It was a well played lacrosse game by both teams, I thought and we’re very fortunate to be on the right side of the ledger Saturday night. Very proud of my guys, they battled all night and, again happy with the outcome.”

But like most games, Saturday’s matchup will not be an easy one against Minnesota, a rivalry that has sprouted in recent years in both blowouts and close games. Overall, the Swarm have gotten the better of the Mammoth in recent years, posting a 7-5 regular season record since 2010.

Nothing different is expected this time around either, according to Hamley, especially when both squads are eager to dig themselves out of the loss column.

“Every team is a battle…there’s three teams that have winning records, everybody else has losing records,” he stated. “It’s a tough league, Minnesota we have a tough rivalry with over the past few seasons, and we look forward to getting back home.”

Colorado will also welcome back forward Casey Powell this week, after missing the first seven games due to personal reasons. The 2010 NLL MVP will now join fellow MVPs John Grant Jr. and Athan Iannucci.

Alongside them will be Adam Jones, who is coming off an impressive weekend against the Roughnecks, tallying seven of Colorado’s 14 goals in Alberta. The NLL’s points leader mentioned the Swarm is a practical mirror when compared to the Mammoth’s style of play, setting up an intriguing matchup.

“In my opinion, I think we both kind of play similar styles, but I think it’s going to be an exciting game,” chimed Jones. “We could both really use a win right now, so it’s going to be a huge game.”

Defensively, Dillon Ward has made a name for himself in recent weeks, getting the nod in Colorado’s last two starts. His play has been consistent enough to get the outright starting job in front of Mammoth veteran Tye Belanger, and will start Saturday between the pipes against the likes of Ryan Benesch, Callum Crawford and Jordan MacIntosh.

“Dillon got us a win. and that’s what we asked for,” Hamley added. “We’re very confident in both guys, they are young fellas, they are getting experience every week. We look forward to seeing Dillon start again on Saturday and take it from there.”

Meanwhile, with a bye week behind them and a rivalry game ahead of them, the Swarm are looking to renew their strength and rectify a slow start to the season. A relentless game is anticipated to determine which team will prevail and improve their record in the NLL standings.

The Swarm’s last appearance was a disappointing season home opener against the Philadelphia Wings - a game they’d rather forget. Minnesota fell 15-8 with an uncharacteristic showing in front of a home crowd at the Xcel Energy Center.

“That was the first game that I would say we’ve been outworked, all in all, right across the board,” said Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan. “It’s unacceptable from my standpoint and from the players standpoint.”

In an effort to reinforce their offense, Minnesota has acquired forward Dane Stevens from the Edmonton Rush and hope he will deliver the extra push they need. Stevens had a strong summer league ball, posting 26 goals and 55 assists in 18 games, and his offensive tenacity is just what the Swarm is looking for.

“I think he’s going to be a component that’s going to bring size,” said Sullivan. “If he gets his body going and frees himself up like I know he’s capable of doing, then he’ll really help our offense.”

Armed with their own new addition, Colorado will look to Casey Powell for extra vitality on Saturday. Powell has missed the first seven games of the season due to personal reasons but is expected to perform against the Swarm this week. The 2010 NLL MVP has the capability to obliterate the scoreboard as his impressive career resumes.

“His leadership and his enthusiasm for the game of lacrosse is contagious,” said Hamley. “So we’re excited.”

Although Minnesota’s 1-3 record is not impressive, it is redeemable. A week off and the strong acquisition of Stevens may be just what the Swarm needed to buzz back to life this weekend.

“With the exception of our last game against Philly, I don’t think we were doing anything poorly… we just weren’t able to find the back of the net,” said Swarm assistant captain Callum Crawford. “The work was there, the effort was there and the only component that was missing was execution.”

Execution will be key as the Swarm and the Mammoth share an insatiable desire to win. The mutual hunger for triumph is expected to produce an action-packed game this Saturday. With both teams standing at the bottom of their respective divisions, it’s time to find out who will conquer in the Pepsi Center.

“We need a win just as bad as they do," said Swarm assistant captain Callum Crawford. "I think the atmosphere of that is amazing in its own."

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