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Tap The Rockies: Roughnecks Dig In For Mammoth Opener

The next chapter in a heated rivalry between the Colorado Mammoth (1-0) and Calgary Roughnecks (0-1) will be written on Saturday night at Pepsi Center in Denver. Watch live on WatchESPN & Altitude (U.S.) and TSN GO (Canada) starting at 9 p.m. ET.

Whether it is regular or postseason, revenge or redemption often is the case between these West Division foes. While both teams saw issues in their Week 1 outings, one cannot dwell on the past for too long.

In fact, it should not matter at all according to Mammoth coach Chris Gill, who made the team’s mentality clear in this week’s media call when asked about the team’s first-round playoff loss to Calgary in overtime.

“It’s a clean slate, no one likes to lose,” he said. “We’re just going to play in the moment, stick to our systems and our principles and try and dictate the pace.”

Those systems seemed ridged in certain areas in Colorado’s win against Minnesota in Week 1. While an 11-goal fourth quarter propelled the Mammoth to a win, the quick paced contest mirrored some of Colorado’s struggles from 2014.

“We were happy at the end of the game with the win in Minnesota, but there’s a lot of things that we need to tidy up,” Gill added. “It might have been one of the fastest games that I’ve been a part of, it was up and down the floor so fast, so much. I think it got us out of rhythm in the first half, but we made some adjustments in the second half and played more of our system.”

Mammoth veteran John Grant, Jr. seemed to concur with his coach’s assessment of their performance on the floor, citing imbalance on offense and being forceful on transition.

“We didn’t score in the first quarter, we were able to find some rhythm in the second, I think we were still shaky in the third and obviously we erupted in the fourth,” noted Grant. “Consistency is the big thing on offense that we need to keep the ball moving and the bodies moving.”

All in all, cleaning up the little things will be a factor in Colorado’s home opener. But home field advantage has not been on their side the last few seasons, where the Mammoth hold a 15-20 home record since 2010. It is an ‘X’ factor Junior hopes the team can revive sooner rather than later.

“In the last few years, we haven’t taken that to our advantage,” Grant said. “We’ve been giving up a tremendous amount of losses at home…they come in expecting a loud crowd, a great city and rabid fan base. Sometimes that gets the other team fired up…maybe we take it for granted how great the fans are, but the fans are great for both teams in a respect. We just have to make Pepsi Center a tough place to play like it used to be, and I think that’s one of our goals.”

Grant and Adam Jones meanwhile led the team in offense against the Swarm, recording nine (4+5) and seven (5+2) points respectively. Combined, the offensive pair were responsible for 23 of Colorado’s shots on goal. On defense, Dillon picked up his first win of the season, stopping 35 of 48 shots, and will now seek to pick up his third win against the Riggers between the pipes.

For the Roughnecks, the team did not get the start they wanted last weekend losing to the Vancouver Stealth 18-14 at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary head coach Curt Malawsky was less than happy with what he saw out of his team in their home opener.

“I don’t think we had very good floor balance on offense,” said Malawsky. “I think we took some ill-advised shots, forced a lot of things in transition and from watching the tape, getting on and off the floor was atrocious.”

There is some good news for the Roughnecks as Jeff Shattler, Curtis Dickson and Dane Dobbie all recorded three goals in the game. However, Malawsky says it’s the little things that matter most.

“From a systems perspective, we just got to clean up those little things,” remarked Malawsky. “We got to pay the price, and in a one-goal league for the most part if you don’t do those little things, you’re going to end up on the short end… All the little things need to be cleaned up or you’re going to get the same result the following week.”

Roughnecks transition Geoff Snider played, who had three points (1+2) in Week 1, also didn’t like the way his team performed and says that’s going to change.

“From an accountability standpoint, we didn’t follow the game plan to the level that was expected of us,” he said. “That’s going to change for us moving into Colorado.”

The Mammoth are coming off a big win last weekend against the Minnesota Swarm and Malawsky knows Colorado is going to ride that momentum into this weekend.

“They had a great game last weekend against Minnesota,” he said. “It’s always tough to play down there, they’re a very loud crowd and the players feed off their crowd.”

“They have a great offense and they got a world-class goaltender in net that’s been playing with a lot of confidence.”

Snider couldn’t agree more with his coach saying the boys know exactly what lies ahead for them in Denver.

“They’re a team coming off a big win,” he said. “They’re incredibly talented, very well coached, excellent goaltending and we’re going to have our hands full. We’re looking forward to the weekend and obviously going to make some adjustments internally moving into Saturday night.”

The ‘Necks and Mammoth faced off three times during the regular season last year, with the Riggers winning two of the three meetings. Calgary also barely slid by Colorado in the playoffs beating them in overtime in an exciting semi-final match-up.

The two teams have a lot of history and Malawsky fully understands what it’s going to take to win this game.

“We’re going to have to stick to our ideology, our principles and play a clean possession game,” said Malawsky. “Hopefully we can hang around until the end of the fourth quarter.”

Snider also knows what it is going to take to get that first win of the season on the road, and says him and his teammates are up for the challenge.

“We’ll be prepared,” he said. “Our coaching staff always has a rock solid game plan and I think that’s the adjustment that we’ll make as players.”

“The best part about the NLL is you get to get right back at it next weekend,” he added. “Every game’s important and it’s always exciting coming into the Pepsi Center and playing. I know that we’re excited, ready to go. Feeling a lot of positive pressure and looking forward to the weekend.”

Story by Nick Salen (@MammothBeat) & Kassidy Collins (@RoughnecksBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Jack Dempsey.