The Colorado Mammoth (2-0) look to remain undefeated as they return home to host the Vancouver Stealth (1-2) on Saturday night at Pepsi Center. The West Division matchup is set for 9 p.m. ET and can be seen live on Altitude TV, WatchESPN and TSN.ca.
The Mammoth are coming off a bye week following a thrilling 17-16 overtime win at home over Calgary in Week 2. In a game where the team were forced to rally from behind late in regulation, Mammoth coach Pat Coyle emphasized this week that his roster had a lot of preparation to do in their off week, mentally and physically.
“We’re sort of all over the map…to rest and the players to get in better shape,” Coyle said. “The pace of the game is so fast that you can see guys lagging a bit maybe in the third and fourth quarters, so we emphasized that for this game.”
It leans back on the concept that Colorado struggled to put together a full 60 minutes much like 2014. Coyle added that part of it is that the indoor game has evolved so much, and that keeping pace also now means more game film and anticipation.
To Coyle, the game no longer is about how to stop a handful of players, but rather the whole roster.
“The game [to me] has become where everyone is a threat to score all the time.”
One would assume new and young talent to the NLL would hit the ground running in terms of physical and mental training. For Mammoth rookie Robert Hope, the transition has been adequate thanks to Coyle and company in the locker room.
“It’s been a great experience so far, coming out of the gate 2-0,” Hope said. “The veterans and the coaching staff really helped me out so far in this young season.”
The two teams split their 2014 matchups 2-2. In their first meeting this year, Hope and the rest of the Mammoth defense will keep an eye on the Stealth attack, especially Rhys Duch and Tyler Digby, who rank first and second on the team respectively in points so far this season.
“We know Colorado is playing well right now and have a very strong team,” said Stealth head coach Dan Perreault. “I think we match up well so it’s going to have to be 60 minutes we’ll have to play to have success against those guys.”
After three games, Duch leads the team and the NLL with 22 points (9g, 13a) and Digby is off to an impressive sophomore campaign scoring 13 points (8g, 5a) including a four-point night last week against Buffalo.
Vancouver, who sit in second place in the West Division behind Colorado, made more headlines during the week acquiring another offensive weapon in Corey Small from the Edmonton Rush.
“I’m hoping to be another offensive threat,” said Small, who recorded 217 points in 64 career games with Edmonton. “There’s a bunch of great offensive players, so hopefully I can fit with the group and provide another extra stick and scoring touch around the net and work well with the current offense.”
The Stealth will look to stay unbeaten on the road, after winning their only road game of the season when they came from behind to down the Calgary Roughnecks by a score of 18-14 on January 3. Vancouver scored 11 straight goals to quiet the lively Saddledome, and will be looking to do the same in Denver.
“The Pepsi Center is a tough place to play in,” Perreault said. “It’s loud, their fans are behind them but we welcome that challenge.”
With the injuries to Rory Smith, Chris O’Dougherty and Tyler Garrison, the Stealth had some new faces in the lineup last week with Tim Henderson, who missed last season due to U.S. military commitments and Colin Boucher, who was playing in the Canadian Lacrosse League (CLAX) before being called up.
“Sometimes you look at the roster and you’ve got good depth and all of a sudden you get hit with three injuries,” said Perreault. “You have to make adjustments; we had the opportunity to bring in Henderson and Boucher. I thought they fit in nicely for their first game.”
“It is a bit of a challenge, you want them playing together a little more,” he continued. “It’s just a matter of spending more time together, but we’re going to start to get healthy here soon.”
Story by Nick Salen (@MammothBeat) & StealthLAX.com for NLL.com.