The Colorado Mammoth and Saskatchewan Rush go head-to-head on Saturday night at the Pepsi Center in Denver for a West Division matchup with potential playoff implications.
With only four games remaining on their schedule and three coming against West Division teams ahead of them in NLL Playoff hunt, every game is critical for the Mammoth. Currently sitting in the last playoff spot in the West Division, the Mammoth have needed to win every game, and, in the nick of time, the team has rattled off three straight victories to position themselves for a playoff push.
However, according to Mammoth head coach Pat Coyle, perspective cannot be lost on who those three wins came against: a Calgary Roughnecks team struggling to find consistency since their hot 3-1 start and a Vancouver Warriors squad that has looked outmatched over their last three games.
“To be honest,” said Coyle. “We played a good team in Calgary a couple of weeks back and then we beat Vancouver, who is last in the Division with us. It feels nice to win and it’s different than what was going on at the beginning of the season, but we really haven’t accomplished a whole lot yet.
“Every game is important for us to keep establishing how we’re going to play when we get to the playoffs, so we can start the playoffs on the right foot.”
There have been many reasons for the team’s success of late, including outstanding goaltending, solid defence and a flourishing young offence, but dictating possession has allowed each of those aspects to flow more comfortably on the turf. The Mammoth’s main face-off man, Tim Edwards, has been exceptional at the X over his last two games. While he has a season win-average of 55%, that has skyrocketed to 75% in that span.
Coyle has been very pleased with Edwards’ face-off production but states that he has done far more for this team than just win the ball.
“He’s gotten a little better at face-offs since he’s joined our team, but he’s gotten a lot better as a defenseman,” said Coyle. “It’s great if we can score a goal off that face-off win, but he’s become a really reliable defender.”
While Edwards has been gaining possession for the Mammoth on face-offs of late, the Rush’s counterpart, Jeremy Thompson, was equally impressive in his last game for his team. Thompson won 19-24 (79%) of his draws when facing the Warriors last week.
Aside from Thompson trying to help bring a victory back to Saskatoon, two other Rush players could reach important milestones. Forward Robert Church, who had four goals in the first half of last week’s game against the Warriors, is only five goals shy of 200 for his career. And, with just one point on the evening, the 14-year veteran, Jeff Shattler, would hit 800 career points.
The Mammoth will try their best not to make Saturday night a special one for the Rush. Depending on who wins, there could be a shift in the West Division standings in the Mammoth’s favour. Two games remain against each other for these two clubs with the season-series up for grabs. The Rush won the first matchup, 9-7, but the Mammoth is a different team than they were back during the late February affair. A win for the Mammoth would bring them within a half of a game to the Rush in the West Division standings.
Because the Mammoth have only begun to surge since mid-March, there doesn’t seem to be much fear about facing the club, something Coyle actually likes.
“If teams keep underestimating us, that’s a good thing for us,” said Coyle. “If they keep thinking that we’re not a threat, that’s a good thing for us. We know in our locker room who we are and that’s what really matters.”
If Coyle’s Mammoth can squeak out a win this weekend, they will clinch a playoff spot, officially knocking the Warriors out of contention. There are so many reasons to keep your eyes glued to this West Division tilt on Saturday, you won’t want to miss a minute, and you won’t have to. The game will be featured on B/R Live at 9:00 pm EST.