After winning eight straight regular-season games plus a two-game sweep in a 2017 playoff series, the Saskatchewan Rush certainly seemed to have the Colorado Mammoth’s number.
All of a sudden, though, the Mammoth have changed things up and left the Rush with nothing but a dial tone.
Colorado topped Saskatchewan in surprising fashion in last season’s West Division Semifinal and then won on a second straight visit to Saskatoon two weeks ago with a 12-6 verdict. The two teams meet for the final time during the 2019-20 regular-season this Saturday with the season-series split and a whole lot of momentum at stake. The Rush (3-2) can stay on top of the West Division with a win and take further advantage of having four games in-hand on the Mammoth. Meanwhile, the Mammoth (4-5), having lost two in a row since beating the Rush, sit a game back of Saskatchewan in the standings but can really send a message with back-to-back road wins in hostile territory.
“We’ve certainly under performed as a team and as individuals, but our guys haven’t just turned into bad players,” Rush GM/Head Coach Derek Keenan told SaskRush.com. “We know what kind of talent we have on this team, but obviously right now we’re struggling to score goals and that’s the bottom line.”
The Rush are currently ranked 12th in the NLL with an average of just 9.2 goals scored per game. In their two home-turf losses, they have managed just 14 total goals, while they have hit double-digits in two of their three road victories. On the flipside, the Rush once again have one of the best defenses in the league. Saskatchewan sits second in the NLL at just 9.0 goals allowed per game, former Defensive Player of the Year Ryan Dilks is tops in the NLL with 15 caused turnovers, and netminder Evan Kirk is fourth with a 9.09 goals-against average.
Once the Rush find their stroke on offense, they’ll be a tough team to deal with. As Keenan noted, the talent is there with the likes of former league MVP Mark Matthews, 2018 NLL Cup MVP Jeff Shattler, and perennial All-Pros Ben McIntosh and Robert Church. McIntosh seems to busting out of his early slump with six goals over the past two games.
The Mammoth have not won a season-series from the Rush since 2012, and have been swept three times since then (2019, 2018 and 2015). They have a serious opportunity to do some damage to the Rush by beating them twice on their own turf in the span of three weeks. Colorado received some standout individual performances in their win over the Rush, particularly from Chris Wardle, who scored five goals, and Dillon Ward, who managed 54 saves. Since that win, though, the Mammoth have taken two tumbles. They lost to Buffalo in overtime and then fell last Saturday against San Diego in the NLL’s first-ever visit to Las Vegas. The Mammoth didn’t do in those games what they did do in beating Saskatchewan.
“We didn’t display the characteristics that you need in to in order to be a winning team,” Colorado Defensive Coordinator Andrew McBride told NLL.com. “We need to be able to respond and prove that we’re worthy of playing in this league night and night out.”