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Stories/Op-Ed

Into Thin Air: Swarm Fly In To Face Mammoth

The Colorado Mammoth (4-5) rekindles an old rivalry on Sunday night when they host the Minnesota Swarm (3-6) at Pepsi Center. The game can be seen live on WatchESPN & Altitude 2 (U.S.) and TSN GO (Canada) at 8 p.m. ET.

While the nostalgic emotions of these former divisional opponents are old and bittersweet, so too is the performance of Colorado’s roster in the first half of the season. The team started 2015 on a high note as the highest scoring offense in the NLL and the last undefeated squad in the league.

That was in January; since then it seems as if Colorado’s performance quarter by quarter has been a coin flip so to speak, either efficient on both ends of the floor or just downright flat.

The Loud House knows it, and so does the locker room, and Mammoth coach Chris Gill knows things need to change as Week 11 rapidly approaches.

“It’s the halfway point of the season, and we’re not playing a full 60 minutes of lacrosse,” Gill said. “We haven’t done that much of the year, so our focus is just going to be focusing on each quarter, and breaking it down to each shift and getting the best out of the guys.

“In the locker room, no one has been happy with our overall performance, this will be a great week to show each other and show everyone around that we have it and can go 60 minutes.”

Colorado and Minnesota squared off in Week 1, where the Mammoth won 20-13 on the road, and they will face a Swarm team coming off the back end of a two-game weekend after hosting New England on Saturday night. Gill added that he and the rest of Colorado know what the Swarm bring to the table, and that they will focus on their game plan rather than what they may or may not see in Minnesota’s matchup against the Black Wolves.

“It’s all about us, we have to focus on our game and what we do right and what we do well.”

Colorado’s “Big 3” made a big splash in Week 1’s matchup, with Adam Jones (5), John Grant Jr. (4) and Drew Westervelt (3) accounting for 12 of Colorado’s 20 scores. Outside of Jones’ two goals last game versus Toronto, the Big 3 were kept off the board.

Mike Burke will be a shooter to keep an eye on, who has looked consistent since being added to the Mammoth roster last month. Colorado’s rookies have also been making big contributions thus far on offense and defense. One of which is Robert Hope, who has made his presence known in front of Dillon Ward. Hope is easy to teach according to Gill.

“We’re very happy with the progress he’s made… anticipates where the ball is going to be. He’s one of those players who’s always attacking on loose balls and aggressive on it.”

Rookie Eli McLaughlin (10+11) has also been performing to expectations on offense, where the left-handed shooter is establishing himself as another threat to Colorado’s talented pool of potential threats on the floor.

Adding to the excitement for Sunday, rookie forward Jeremy Noble, the second overall pick from the 2014 NLL Draft out of University of Denver, is expected to make his pro debut for the Mammoth after being acquired by Colorado on Friday via trade with the Rochester Knighthawks.

For the Swarm, the game will be a quick turnaround after dropping a close one 10-9 to the New England Black Wolves in Minnesota on Saturday night.

“I thought the guys worked really hard, the effort was great,” said Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan postgame. “The compete level was incredible, so I’m very happy to see that.”

The game was tied 9-9 before a late New England goal by Kevin Crowley with about a minute left gave the Black Wolves the hard-fought win. Minnesota had several chances in the final moments but was unable to get the equalizer.

“A little bit longer, a few seconds more and I think we probably would have had that tied up,” Sullivan added.

While Minnesota has seen its struggles since the home opener loss to the Mammoth, the team is concentrated on bringing its Sunday best to Colorado.

“Colorado is a tough place to play,” said Swarm assistant coach Aime Caines. “When we get on that plane, we’re gonna re-focus and think about Colorado and what they bring.”

The Swarm defense will seek an elite performance from the back to combat the aggressive offense of the Mammoth, who have scored a West Division high of 118 goals this season.

“They’re a high offensive team with a lot of scoring, so we’ve really got to focus on some key players,” Caines said. “I know the guys are excited to get out there, we look forward to it.”

By Nick Salen (@MammothBeat) & Maria Jollie (@SwarmBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Scott Pierson.

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