The Colorado Mammoth are arguably coming off their most successful weekend of the 2018 season beating the Georgia Swarm and Buffalo Bandits on back-to-back nights. This weekend, the team will need to build on their achievements if they want to win the critical series-deciding match against the Calgary Roughnecks on Saturday at the Pepsi Center.
“I’d definitely put this game down as one of the biggest so far,” Said Mammoth forward Ryan Benesch. “We obviously want to win this one. If it comes down to the tie-breaker, we want to have that advantage.”
During their first clash at the end of December, Benesch tallied five goals and three assists – five goals scored is currently his season-high. Mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward also played brilliantly stopping 40 of the 47 Roughnecks shots in route the team’s 11-7 victory.
In their second meeting last month, it was Roughnecks goaltender Christian Del Bianco who shined as the brightest star. He made 51 saves off the Mammoth’s 60 shots that night including a few acrobatic stops that frustrated the Mammoth and helped to defeat them 13-9.
“We’re watching a little bit more film on Del Bianco,” Benesch said ahead of the team’s second meeting with Del Bianco as the Roughnecks starter. “Seeing him for the first time last game was a bit of a changeup for a lot of us. You’ve got to give him a lot of credit. He played an outstanding game and stole that one for them.” This time around, the Mammoth left-hander says the team is trying to focus on the game film that exposes the spots in which Del Bianco has given up the most goals so they can put a few more past him.
It seems as though the Mammoth are better prepared for this third and final regular-season matchup with their West Division rivals from the Prairies. The team has won three straight coming off of that Roughnecks loss that Mammoth head coach Pat Coyle considered one of their worst losses of the season. Defensively, Colorado is holding their opponents to 9.33 goals per game over those last three contests.
For Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky, he says his team needs to look at this game the way they have looked at their last few matches. “[The game plan] is not going to change from what we’ve been doing over the last four or five weeks which is focusing on our system and what we do,” Malawsky said. “Obviously, we’re going to game plan for them, we’ll have our schemes and things that we think we can chart extensively, but it all comes back to remembering who we are and what our mantra has been the last five weeks.”
Both coaching staffs have been looking at each game one at a time this season, not looking ahead at the consequences of each game or games in the future. Malawsky stated, “If you start looking at this one as a big game, a West Division game, a season series-deciding game, I think all that is going to do is add pressure, and I don’t think the added pressure is productive for our group.”
A win for the Mammoth could be significant regarding increasing their chances to potentially overtake the Saskatchewan Rush as the West Division leaders, and it would most assuredly lock them in as the second-seed in the West ahead of the Roughnecks. Sitting only team games back of the Rush with a game still to be played against them next month, the Mammoth still have a shot to win the West if they continue to win. The win would put them four games ahead of Calgary with the tie-breaker in their back pocket.
However, Benesch believes that focusing on this weekend’s clash is the most important task at hand before looking towards taking down the Rush. “We want to win. That’s the focus to win each game at a time,” He said. “When it comes to playing Saskatchewan again, if we’re in a position to overtake them for first place, we’ll go from there. We’re not too worried about finishing first right now; we’re focusing on winning every game right now.”
Aside from taking a win away from this weekend, a few Mammoth players will be trying to reach personal milestones in their careers. Benesch is five points away from recording the 900th of his career, Robert Hope is one caused turnover away from 100 on his career just as he was last week, and Joey Cupido is two points away from hitting the century mark in points for his career.
Saturday’s game will also be part of KSE’s Military Appreciation Weekend presented by Caliber Collision and Budweiser. The Mammoth will honor Military personnel and will include Military personnel in-game presentation from the game’s open to close. To catch this key West Division matchup, make sure to head to NLLTV.com on Saturday