The New England Black Wolves (2-4) travel back home to face the Colorado Mammoth (3-3) at Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET. Watch on UniversalSports.com in the U.S. and TSN GO in Canada.
The Mammoth are on a three-game skid, while the Black Wolves are now at four-straight losses, and are sure to put up a fight as frustration continues to mount during the losing streak. The result of this game could right the ship for one of these two teams.
“I think they are a very talented team,” said Black Wolves head coach Blane Harrison. “They’ve got a tremendous amount of firepower on the offense, both right side and left side. It’s going to create quite an issue for us to matchup and sort out. They can score the ball. They can score from both sides and they can score in transition. I don’t necessarily look at their record, or any team’s record. These guys are a legitimate force to be reckoned with.”
“There’s always pressure to win,” stated Black Wolves transition player Ryan Hotaling. “They’ve got a lot of veteran leadership all over the floor. After the weekend that they’re coming off, they’re going to be hungry and ready to go. We need to match that intensity. If we show up and play for a hard, full 60 minutes, I think that we can compete with anybody.”
The Black Wolves and Mammoth are fighting for a chance make up for disappointing losses and get back to the hot streaks that started their seasons. The Mammoth have the slight advantage as they only have one game this weekend while the Black Wolves face the Toronto Rock less than 48 hours beforehand.
“We are taking it one game at a time,” noted Harrison. “We’ll go into Toronto and put our best foot forward. Come out of that and reassess ourselves. From an injury perspective, if we’re pretty banged up, that kind of thing. The nice thing is we have a day in between to travel and kind of decompress coming back.”
The lack of rest and the even matchup will force the Black Wolves to really pull something together. Possible injuries and their current offensive struggles aside, this game could come down to a single face-off. Though Hotaling has won a modest 49.6% of face-offs for New England this year, his opponent has had a bit more success. So far this season, Mammoth transition player Bob Snider has won 55.9% of face-offs.
“In terms of preparation for me, I really just watch a lot of tape,” Hotaling said. “Trying to pick apart what he’s trying to do, and come up with a little bit of a defensive game plan against that. If I can execute that I’ll be successful; but at the end of the day, you have to get out there and battle and give it 110% at all times. Hopefully the ball will roll our way once or twice.”
After the team’s first doubleheader weekend of the season started with a 13-12 overtime loss on Friday night against the Toronto Rock on the road, the Black Wolves will need to shake the slump at home to continue its fight for the East Division. A roster full of untapped potential and the possible return of Quinn Powless in the next few weeks shines a light on the rest of the season for the Black Wolves.
“We just have to come out and play a full 60 from the start,” Hotaling added. “We do that, we know we can compete. If we don’t, it could be a long night. They’re a very good team. If we want to win, we have to compete for all 60 minutes.”
Colorado began their 2015 campaign as an offensive powerhouse, averaging 19 goals per game and remained as the last NLL team to stay undefeated. Nearly a month later, it has been a complete reversal of fortune for the Mammoth. In its last three outings, the team has mustered an average of nine goals per game, fallen from the top of the West Division and now flirt with a sub-.500 record that has haunted the franchise in recent years.
On the plus side, players and coaches were all on the same page for the Mammoth this week leading up to the matchup, including the necessity of keeping consistent in all elements on the floor.
“We weren’t perfect at the start, but we seemed to get those three wins, and we knew we had to clean things up. The last three games we struggled,” said Mammoth defenseman Robert Hope. “We know what we need to do.”
The writing is on the wall of the locker room, urgency is present, but no enough to be reaching for the panic button according to Mammoth coach Pat Coyle.
“I’d be lying if I said no and said we’re just ok with the way things are. In my opinion, we have a sense of urgency every game in this league,” said Coyle. “I’d like to say there’s a sense of urgency, but not a sense of panic.”
Colorado dropped both games to Edmonton in their home-and-home series in Week 8, where the highest scoring offense in the NLL could only register seven goals in each game. They hope to change that against New England, who will be on the back end of a two-game weekend come Sunday, and currently post a 13.40 GAA.
“I’d be lying if I said we weren’t disappointed with the way our weekend went,” Coyle added. “I think where we can learn the most often is not necessarily from our successes, but our failures. The positive is that this weekend gave us a lot to learn.
“We know what New England is like…it’s not like they are an unknown commodity. We know we have to be better than last weekend if we hope to be successful, or they’re going to run us out of the rink.”
The Mammoth’s top three goal scorers are of no surprise: John Grant Jr. (14), Adam Jones (15) and Drew Westervelt (10), and have combined for 11 during the team’s current losing skid.
On defense, Hope has been an important cog on offense thus far alongside Joey Cupido and Creighton Reid. In net, Dillon Ward continues to shine despite what the scoreboard has boasted. Much like in his rookie year, Ward has come up big at times to make pivotal saves. Currently, he is allowing 12.6 goals per game and comes into Sunday’s game with a .743 save percentage. He is expected to start again for Colorado, and has a chance to see former teammate Tye Belanger play opposite for the Black Wolves.
By Alyssa McLaughlin (@BlackWolvesBeat) & Nick Salen (@MammothBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Larry Palumbo.