It’s too early to say that Saturday’s home game for the Colorado Mammoth is a must-win, but it’s surely a game they can’t afford to lose. Welcoming the San Diego Seals is never a walk on the beach, but with the pressure to fall further out of the playoff hunt looming over their heads for the remainder of the season, they’ll have extra incentive to stop the West Division’s current two-seed.
Eight games remain on the Mammoth’s schedule and five are against current West Division playoff position holders. Overall, seven games are against West Division opponents. If the seals were to slip into the third-seed down the road, Colorado will want to have bragging rights by holding the season-series. However, if the Seals win tomorrow night, they will take the series against the Mammoth.
What makes this game even more intriguing is that both teams made pre-NLL Trade Deadline deals earlier this week. The Mammoth traded away their leading point-getter in Ryan Benesch to the Rochester Knighthawks in exchange for an offensive-talent in his own right, Cory Vitarelli. The Seals brought over Paul Dawson also from the Knighthawks to play alongside his brother Dan in exchange for draft picks.
A clear bright spot for the Mammoth has been the production from their youth. Kyle Killen is proving to be a consistent scorer, Ryan Lee has earned his spot in the lineup by producing respectable numbers, and then Eli McLaughlin has taken the league by storm with his many highlight reel goals and constant tormenting of opposing goaltenders. And you can’t forget Jacob Ruest who in his third season and is on pace for his second straight year with at least 60 points.
McLaughlin is comfortably the team’s leading goal scorer with 25 tallies and pulls even further ahead of the next closest Mammoth player, Vitarelli (15), now that Benesch is back East. Killen and Lee are right on Vitarelli’s tail with 14 and 12 goals scored respectfully.
What’s so encouraging about Killen, Lee, McLaughlin and Ruest continuing to grow together every game is that they are all 26 or younger.
The first quarter could be the most consequential of the match. The Mammoth have scored a league-low 12 goals in the fourth quarter while the Seals have doubled that by netting 25 in the opening frame. Playing from behind is always tough to do and Mammoth head coach Pat Coyle has stressed the need to play a full 60 minutes ad nauseam.
It’s also very possible that this game could turn into a defensive showdown. Before last week, the Mammoth were holding their last three opponents to an average of nine goals per game. That’s a respectable number, to say the least. Dillon Ward, as one would expect, had much to do with that. He stopped 40+ goals in two of those three contests.
Just as I have throughout this preview, the Mammoth will be wanting to forget last weekend’s match against the surging New England Black Wolves. For a team that was showing such promise, particularly on the back-end in previous games, that wasn’t a factor last week. It’s never too late to right your wrongs and there is no better weekend to do that than this one.
Aside from getting prepped for the game, Mammoth fans should remember to bid on game-worn jerseys by making donations at mammoth.givesmart.com.
The Mammoth have had the pieces in place to secure a playoff spot, they just haven’t all fit together as often as they’ve needed to up to this point. Could this be the turning point for the Mammoth’s season? We’re only hours away from finding out if they can flip the switch inside the Pepsi Center tomorrow night at 9:00 PM EST.