The Colorado Mammoth will play just their second (and final) game of January this Friday as they face the Vancouver Stealth at the Pepsi Center in Denver. They will be looking to get back into the win column after a 17-12 shellacking at home against the now 4-1 Saskatchewan Rush a couple of weeks back.
“I don’t really like how we played.” Head Coach Pat Coyle said candidly. “I don’t think we played as well as we could at every position. As good of a team as Saskatchewan is, I feel it was more about us beating ourselves than them beating us.”
There were certain aspects of how his team played against the Rush that Coyle has been stressing to his team via teleconferences, phone calls and the like, while the team has been apart the last two weeks.
“Offensively we need to move our feet better and move the ball better. We really played a lot of perimeter lacrosse and let their defense dictate how we moved; we need to be in control of how we move on offense. Defensively, I feel like as a group we played well enough. Dillon Ward needs to play a better game. I just feel like we need to impose our will better than we did.” Ward allowed 15 goals on 50 shots in the January 13th matchup.
As Coyle mentioned, Ward will need to have an outing that is more in line with what the team is used to from him when they face Vancouver in a couple of days.
In his first three games of 2018, Ward was proving that he should be considered the top goaltender in the league, stopping 82.8% of the shots he faced and had a pair of 40+ save games including a 48-stop outing, coincidentally against the Stealth. Last season, Ward allowed 15+ goal only once in a 21-13 loss on the road in Georgia against the Swarm.
Defenseman Robert Hope who was named team captain following the season-ending injuries to Dan Coates and Cam Holding over the summer knows that the defense needs to pick up the slack after the outing against the Rush.
“Saskatchewan is a good team,” Hope admitted. “Obviously it wasn’t the outcome that we wanted. We had some breakdowns in certain areas, but with the players that we have and the coaches that we have, hopefully, we can identify and learn from that. We need to make sure that the mistakes we made last game, let’s learn from them, get better, and hope it doesn’t happen again further down the road.”
Both Hope and Coyle believe that the Mammoth’s familiarity with the Stealth will go a long way to helping them get back into the win column on Friday. “We’re pretty used to [Vancouver] obviously playing against them in the West, being familiar with them from last year’s playoffs, and it seems like we always have to go through them, battling one another throughout the year for playoff positions in the West.”
Coyle added, “We’ve played them so many times, we know their personnel so well that we have a pretty good grasp of them. But, I really think our focus of this weekend has to be on us; has to be on how we’re going to play and how we’re really going to try and correct the mistakes we made against Saskatchewan.”
A third of the way through this NLL season, the games are starting to hold more weight, and this Western Conference clash is no different. “I think we all know how important it is.” Coyle said of this weekend’s matchup, “If we lose and Vancouver wins, it really changes the division again, fast.”
A win for the Mammoth would put them tied again atop the West with the Rush at 4-1 a week before those two teams have a rematch of their game earlier this month. A Mammoth loss would put even more pressure on them to win against the Rush for fear of falling too far behind them in the conference.
Subsequently, a Stealth win would put Vancouver back into the playoff discussion, regardless of what the Calgary Roughnecks do in their game -although a Roughnecks loss would temporarily put the Stealth in that third and final playoff spot in the West.
The energy in the arena is expected to be palpable for this Western Conference clash especially with the Mammoth and their fans wearing the new “Blackout Jerseys” that the team will be showcasing for the first time on Friday night.
To catch the new jerseys and what should be an exciting game at the Pepsi Center between these West rivals, make sure to catch the game on Altitude if you’re local, or, as always, on NLLTV.com this Friday at 9:30 pm EST.