It’s déjà vu for the Colorado Mammoth (3-0) and Vancouver Stealth (1-3) as the two teams square off in the second half of a home-and-home series on Saturday at 10 p.m. ET at Langley Events Centre. Watch the rematch live on UniversalSports.com (U.S.) and TSN.ca (Canada).
Colorado put the Stealth in the rear-view mirror early in last week’s 20-9 win in Denver. The team tallied 20 goals for the second time already this season, and currently sports the highest-scoring offense in the NLL with a 19 goals per game average.
Last game received praise by the Mammoth coaching staff, but now a handful of days removed, it’s an afterthought in the locker room. The idea of staying perfect on the season meanwhile is a thought that remains absent.
“As far as the undefeated part, we only worry about what we can control, and that’s our games,” said Mammoth coach Chris Gill. “Last week’s game was probably our most complete game of the year, but there’s still some sloppy play we can clean up.”
John Grant, Jr. echoed much of what his coach mentioned in this week’s NLL media call. The team has been in a similar situation in the past, as well as the complete opposite. Thus worrying about the squad’s record is an irrelevant distraction says Grant, who currently sits second on the Mammoth roster in with 22 points (9+13).
One of the biggest differences from the past he noted was that the team’s philosophy on offense has changed from a handful of key shooters to anyone being a threat on the floor.
“We had three or four guys with three or four goals. At any given point, we’ve got guys that can put the ball in the net,” Grant said. “We’re a pretty well balanced group right now.”
Colorado is expecting a completely different Vancouver team this week compared to their first matchup, where the Stealth lacked in nearly every aspect. Adam Jones leads the Mammoth currently with 24 points (12+12). Jones, who was named the Pinty’s Wingman of the Week, currently sits third overall in the NLL scoring race, and is coming off a 10-point performance (4+6) in Denver.
Defensively, Dillon Ward continues to impress early on in the season with a 12.53 GAA in three outings. He frequently credits the ‘D’ in front of him however for helping force the opposition to take bad shots, but regardless makes key stops on his own when needed.
For the Stealth, the best defense is a good offense. That is the mindset of the team as they head into a rematch with the Mammoth.
“We have to play a more complete game,” said Stealth defender Chris O’Dougherty, who returns to the lineup after missing time due to injury. “We have to play a bit more aggressive and dictate the game and not let them dictate to us.
“Your offense can be the best defense.”
Last week’s loss in Denver was the third-straight defeat for the Stealth after they won the team’s season opener in Calgary. The Stealth were up 4-3 early in the second quarter before the Mammoth seized momentum in the middle two frames with a 12-2 run.
“We turned the ball over (and) those turnovers turned into goals,” said Stealth coach Dan Perreault. “We have to find ways to score goals and stop runs.”
“Colorado has the best offense in the league right now. We turn the ball over and we put the ball on their sticks and we are giving them great opportunities to put the ball in the net,” he added.
The Mammoth took advantage of 26 Stealth turnovers, as well as a decisive advantage in the faceoff circle to control the game.
Perreault said his team has to tighten up in both areas, as well as quit playing on their heels so much and instead get more aggressive.
“We didn’t have the ball and our defense was on the floor way too much,” he said. “We are going to have to value the ball a lot better this week.”
It hasn’t helped matters that Vancouver has been without three key defenders the past few weeks. The players filling in have done a good job, but need more reps, the coach said.
Colorado has scored a league-high 57 goals while Vancouver has allowed an NLL-worst 68 goals.
The Stealth have allowed a minimum of 14 goals every game, but Perreault wasn’t ready to lay the blame solely on his goaltenders.
“I am sure he (Tyler Richards) will admit he has to be a bit better but overall, I am not going to pin it on our goalies,” Perreault said. “Last week, (Colorado) had some naked looks.”
The coach is confident his team can turn things around.
“Obviously it was a very discouraging result but fell credit to Colorado, they played well,” Perreault said. “We are anxious; this is a great opportunity to get back and home recover.”
Story by Nick Salen (@MammothBeat) & Gary Ahuja (@VanStealthBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Michael Martin.