The Calgary Roughnecks (3-9) will face off against the Colorado Mammoth (7-5) in a weekend home-and-home doubleheader series. On Friday, the teams will meet in Colorado for a 9 p.m. ET game at Pepsi Center before heading to Calgary on Saturday for the rematch at Scotiabank Saddledome at 9 p.m. ET. Watch Friday’s game live on WatchESPN (U.S.) and TSN GO (Canada) while Saturday’s game airs on NLL LIVE and TSN GO.
Colorado has an added incentive to play dominant this weekend against their longtime West Division rivals: playoffs. One win this weekend against the Riggers will clinch a postseason berth for the burgundy squad.
But that’s easier said than done based off the two teams’ Week 2 matchup. Colorado walked away from the Saddledome after a late rally to force overtime, before ultimately winning in overtime, 17-16. Momentum is on Colorado’s side coming into Friday on a three-game winning streak, but will ram heads with a hungry Calgary team fresh off a 12-10 loss to Toronto.
Speaking of fresh, another new face will be on the floor for the Mammoth this weekend; another local and familiar face. Colorado acquired University of Denver alum Cam Flint from Minnesota for two picks in next year’s NLL Draft. The trade fit like a perfect puzzle piece according to the Mammoth staff because of Flint’s Team Canada ties (now the seventh national team member on roster), as well as proven chemistry with another newcomer in Jeremy Noble.
“It was a no brainer for us, it gives us some depth on the right side, and another guy who’s living locally which helps with chemistry,” said Mammoth coach Pat Coyle.
Colorado appeared to control nearly every aspect of their 12-6 win against Vancouver last Sunday. Even more so, it showed a squad that is getting closer and closer to the team’s season long goal: play a full game.
“I think we’re starting to come together as a team,” said Mammoth transition player Joey Cupido. “As you saw last week, that was the best 60 minutes we’ve played all year. Transition has been a big part all year, whether we’re getting breaks on the back end or getting some bench assist for our offense.”
That game also included the first career start for Alex Buque. Despite a surprised Mammoth crowd expecting to see Dillon Ward between the pipes in a major West Division matchup, Buque did not disappoint in a 49-save performance, with only six goals allowed to boot.
“We were really happy with how Alex played, happy for him too,” Coyle added. “He’s behind Dillon Ward, it’s not like he’s going to a get a lot of opportunities because of how good Dillon is. He’s quietly been taking a lot of shots at practice and doing his job on the bench.”
With a back-to-back weekend ahead of them, it’s plausible both Ward and Buque will see action against Calgary. Adam Jones meanwhile will be back in the lineup this weekend after missing the Stealth matchup.
After playing its last three games against teams outside of its division, the Roughnecks are looking forward to playing its next five of six within the division to gain some ground in the West.
“We’ve played five games outside our division… and we’ve had some real tough goes,” said Roughencks head coach Curt Malawsky. “Now we get five of our last six within our division. It seems to me that it’s attainable for us to grab a playoff spot.”
“Obviously we’re excited to be able to play some teams in our division, and to play a team that were chasing in the standings, that’s what you want to be able to do at this time,” added Roughnecks captain Andrew McBride.
After losing its last contest to the Mammoth 17-16 in OT in Week 2 of the regular season, Calgary’s coaching staff knows that this weekend’s series will be a tough one.
“We’re not looking too much what happened in the past, we’re looking forward to this weekend,” Malawsky stated. “I think the Mammoth are playing really good lacrosse, 3-0 their last three games. We know we’re going to have our work cut out for us… I think going forward that both defenses have tightened up since the second game of the season, so I’d imagine it’s going to be a real tight one again.”
McBride agrees with his coach, the Mammoth are sitting second in the Western standings and will be hungry for a win. Just one win for the Mammoth this weekend will clinch them a playoff spot.
“Colorado is a great team, it’s a tough environment to play in.” McBride said. “They do a lot of things well, they’re very well coached. We have to be ready to play when we come in here. It’s going to be an exciting test.”
The NLL’s trade deadline was March 31, and the Roughnecks only made one deal with forward Matthew Dinsdale traded to the Edmonton Rush in exchange for a third-round draft pick. After signing Sean Pollock to a one-year contract three weeks ago, the coaching staff had to make room for him.
“That was kind of our deadline deal to bring in Sean, and it unfortunately took Marty’s (Matthew Dinsdale’s) spot,” Malawsky admitted. “We wish him all the best, and he’s got some great lacrosse IQ… So that was a tough move for us.”
Pollock has proven to be an asset to the Riggers, he has scored three goals for the ‘Necks in just two games. He will be playing against the Mammoth for the first time after his release and is sure to be fired up to compete in Colorado.
“He’s put the ball in there a couple of times for us and he’s very, very, responsible,” Malawsky said. “He knows when to attack the net and when to be on his way to the bench. We’ve had a lot of second possessions lately and that’s a lot to do with Sean Pollock and Shawn Evans battling in there…he’s fit right in with us.”
“I’m sure he’s going to be excited to play down in Denver he’s spent a lot of time there,” he added. “I know he’s got a lot of great admiration for the organization and the city, so he’ll be jacked up.”
By Laura Bates (@RoughnecksBeat) & Nick Salen (@MammothBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Jack Dempsey.