ALBERTA ROAD-TRIP AWAITS
For the fourth time in five seasons, the Colorado Mammoth (1-1) will play in Calgary and Edmonton on consecutive nights. The Mammoth visits the arch-rival Roughnecks (0-1) on Friday at 7pm MT at Scotiabank Saddledome – a place where Colorado has won as many regular-season games as it’s lost in team history.
Entering the first road games of the team’s season, a question surrounds the goaltending position. Starter Tye Belanger has been pulled in both games thus far this year.
“We are going to make that decision when we get up to Calgary,” said Colorado coach Bob Hamley. “We are confident in both guys. Pulling Tye on Saturday against Vancouver was more of a momentum-thing than it was Tye playing bad(ly), so we are very happy with both young guys.”
Dillon Ward, the third-overall pick in the 2013 NLL Entry Draft, has appeared in both games thus far. He’s played nearly 60 minutes of game-action, making 40 saves on 50 shots-on-goal. Against the Stealth, he earned his first-career win.
“Coach Hamley will decide to switch things up just to try to revamp the energy on the bench, and I think so far it’s worked both times,” said the 22-year-old.
Momentum has also played in the Mammoth’s favor in both games thanks in large part to the success of off-season acquisition Bob Snider. Through two games, he’s won 63-percent of his face-offs. That said, Friday night presents a new challenge against an old personal rival of his: Snider’s older brother, Geoff. Widely-regarded as the best face-off man the game has ever known, Geoff has won nearly three out of every four draws he’s taken in his seven-plus NLL seasons. Bob has won more than two out of three.
“It’s going to be a great test for us, playing a Mammoth team that’s got two games under (its) belt,” said Geoff. “Very-well coached and a very-veteran team.”
The match-up features the last three NLL Most Valuable Players (Calgary’s Jeff Shattler in 2011, Colorado’s John Grant Jr. in 2012, and Calgary’s Shawn Evans in 2013). The Mammoth defense will attempt to contain Evans - who led the NLL in points (112) a season ago - and Shattler – whose 33 goals tied for eighth-most in 2013. Fellow Roughnecks Curtis Dickson and Dane Dobbie finished in the top-five in goals.
Calgary is coming off a road loss to Toronto. Friday’s contest is the Roughnecks’ home-opener. The following night, the Rush (1-0) makes it 2014 home-debut. Edmonton defeated Colorado at Pepsi Center in the season-opener on Dec. 28.
Teams typically boast a better home-record than they do than road-record. However, for the Rush, the home-turf was unkind in 2013. Edmonton won just two games at Rexall Place, while touting the league’s best road mark (7-1).
“We’ve had our struggles at home and we need to change that,” said Rush coach Derek Keenan. “(There’s) no better time and place than this weekend – that’s for sure!”
Since 2010, Colorado has won four of five at Rexall Place. Despite the home loss to the Rush on Dec. 28, the Mammoth can take pride in holding 2013 NLL Rookie of the Year Mark Matthews without a goal for the first time in his professional career.
Conversely, Colorado forward Adam Jones, the NLL’s 2012 Rookie of the Year, has flourished through two games this season. In an unbalanced league schedule, the 24-year-old leads the NLL with seven goals.
Grant, who’s scored four goals this season, is one point shy of 300 in his Mammoth career. He’s also just seven points away from 1,200 overall.
Both games will be broadcast live on the NLL Network on YouTube. They will also air on tape-delay on Altitude Sports.