Today we’re taking another deep-dive into the Colorado Mammoth of the National Lacrosse League. The Mammoth face-off against the Saskatchewan Rush this Friday.
10 Was The Magic Number
So last week, I said that the Mammoth (3-5) needed to start scoring at least 12 goals a game to make a legitimate run at the playoffs, but they went out and proved me wrong (wouldn’t be the first time). Once again, though, it was the Mammoth defense that came up big, holding the Swarm (7-4) to just 8 goals on 41 shots, and although 10 GF in a game doesn’t exactly evoke confidence, they got the job done.
The Mammoth improve their home record to 2-3 on the year and sit just 1 Game Back of the top three teams in the West (Calgary leads the pack with a lackluster record of 5-5). It bodes well for Colorado that no one in the West has asserted dominance – yet – but with ten games left to play, and the last playoff spot in hand as of this week, they’ll have to figure out how to keep their winning ways going to keep Vancouver (3-7) at bay, or push for a higher seeding.
But playoff scenarios aside, I want to take a moment to really appreciate the game Dillon Ward (10.96 GAA is 4th in the league) and the defense pitched on Saturday.
Although the shellacking at the hands of Buffalo in Week 9 may have left the Swarm a bit shell-shocked, the Mammoth D managed to hold Lyle Thompson and Randy Staats to just 3 goals between them (and Staats had a ridiculous 15 SOG).
Lyle is 1st overall in goals with 29 and Staats is tied for 6th with 20 (and both are tied for 2nd in the league in points with 62). Zed Williams and Miles Thompson both tried to pick up the slack, with 2 goals and 1 goal respectively, but those guys can get away with that because they’re not the focal points. And, granted, both Lyle and Staats were able to contribute in other ways, notching 3 assists each, but Georgia depends on them to pace the scoring, and if you effectively game plan for them, and keep their impact minimal, you’re going to have a good night; and that’s just what the Mammoth were able to do.
BONUS – Check out this recent NLL feature interview with Pat Coyle, head coach and GM of the Mammoth, for even more insight on the team:
Colorado Mammoth’s Rising Son
Eli McLaughlin has spent his entire five-year professional career with the Colorado Mammoth, and the lefty forward out of BC had his breakout year in 2017 (racking up 29 goals, 43 assists and 72 points in 18 games). He took a step back last season, managing a respectable 20 goals and 49 points, but through eight games this year, he’s already on pace to break his old goal total record and possibly match his career-high assist total.
At this point of the season, his 20 goals tie him for 6th in goals, and his 37 points tie him for 23rd in league scoring. He’s second on the Colorado Mammoth, behind Ryan Benesch’s 39 points, and could very well eclipse his teammate this coming weekend against the Rush if Benesch isn’t ready to go. Benesch had a nasty collision with Swarm goalie Mike Poulin on Saturday night and had to be stretchered off but seemed to be doing well after the game. Wishing him the best!
But, back to the numbers, Benesch and McLaughlin have been absolutely carrying the Mammoth offense this year (the next player with totals remotely close to theirs is righty Jacob Ruest with 8 goals and 24 points).
If it turns out that Benesch can’t go this Friday, McLaughlin is more than primed to fill in as the #1 lefty and presumably the quarterback of the power play (6 of his 20 goals have come on the PP). 28 of McLaughlin’s 37 points have come in the last five games, with all three of the Mammoth’s wins coming within that stretch. He’s had two straight four-goal games and three straight games of at least five points.
With the kind of production McLaughlin has been putting out, it’s surprising that he doesn’t come up more often in conversations of near-elite players, and if he can keep his game at this level for the foreseeable future, I think the Mammoth have a real stud on their hands.
Showdown in ‘Toon Town
The Colorado Mammoth visit Saskatchewan this Friday night in the first of three meetings between the two NLL squads this season. While both have had rocky starts to their campaigns, this game will be the true marker of how much progress the two division foes have made in the last few weeks. But did anyone suspect that these two squads would be sitting at 2nd and 4th in the West at this point of the season when the 2019 campaign kicked off? I highly doubt it. For the first time in a long time, the Rush seem vulnerable, and this is the perfect opportunity for the Mammoth to pounce.
The Rush have not been as dominant as they have been in the past, and even though the Mammoth offense is lacking, they’re playing solid, shutdown defense. Both teams have surprisingly similar numbers in respects to GF and GA (Rush 103 GF, 100 GA; Mammoth 86 GF, 90 GA), and records (Rush 4-4; Mammoth 3-5).
With the offensive weapons the Rush tout, you’d think they’d be up there with the likes of Buffalo (146 GF) or Georgia (128 GF), but so far the biggest offensive output they’ve had was in a 16-12 defeat of San Diego in January (they did put up 15 against Vancouver last weekend, though).
If the Colorado Mammoth can keep the Rush to around 10 goals on Friday, I think they have a chance to steal one. But, we’ll have to wait and see if the Mammoth offense can provide the goal support the defense has been waiting for all year. Both have a lot to lose (can you imagine both with a 4-5 record?), but I say the Rush take this one 13-9.