ALL-TIME GREATS HIGHLIGHT MAMMOTH’S WEEKEND DOUBLEHEADER
In the 27-year history of the National Lacrosse League, the 1,000-point-club is one of the most exclusive. Only six players make up the fraternity. With road match-ups against the Toronto Rock (6-3) and Buffalo Bandits (5-4) on tap this weekend for the Colorado Mammoth (2-5), five of the six in the club will be in action.
Friday’s contest features the Rock’s Colin Doyle (1,225 points) and Josh Sanderson (1,119), second and fifth on the scoring list. The NLL’s all-time leader, Bandits forward John Tavares (1,650 points), and teammate Shawn Williams (1,080), who’s sixth on the list, are Colorado’s opposition on Saturday. Mammoth forward John Grant Jr. (1,139) will likely surpass Gary Gait for third-all time later this season.
Then there’s Colorado captain Gavin Prout (919, seventh all-time), who tallied his 300th career goal this past Saturday. He, and the other five who will play this weekend, have combined for an astonishing 7,132 points.
“All are great players and have great careers,” said Mammoth head coach Bob Hamley. “They all do it differently and I have been fortunate to coach a few of those guys.”
A season ago, the Mammoth defeated Toronto, 19-12, in Denver. Colorado’s power-play was a perfect 5-5 that night.
“Our power play has been decent again this year, but we would like a little bit more consistency,” said Hamley. “It has certainly been one of our strengths and we trust our power-play. One thing we would like to do is create more [man-up opportunities].”
It would undoubtedly come in handy for Colorado on Friday, as the Mammoth will attempt to keep up with Garrett Billings and the Rock offense. Billings is the team’s leading scorer (59 points) and the NLL’s reigning Player of the Month, having registered 30 points (12g, 18a) in four February games.
“[Billings] is doing good for us, but he is just a part of the puzzle,” said Rock general manager Terry Sanderson. “He is a guy we rely on and we are certainly pleased with what he is doing for us.”
Billings’ and Grant’s 2012 late-season drama came down to the fourth quarter of the final day of the regular season, as the two battled for the single-season points record. On April 28th, 2012, the Mammoth was in Minnesota to face the Swarm and the Rock were in Edmonton to take on the Rush. Grant entered action with 110 points, Billings with 106. Needing six points to set the league’s all-time, single-season scoring record, Grant tallied two goals and four assists to surpass Tavares. A new benchmark in place, all eyes turned to Alberta. Billings had an impressive night, totaling eight points – two shy of Grant’s record.
Toronto has impressed thus far this season, posting the best record in the NLL. But after winning five of their first six, the Rock have dropped two of three, including a 15-13 home loss to the Bandits.
“It was one of our worst outings and we weren’t very good,” said Sanderson. “It was a very tough loss for us on how we handled that entire game, and in order for us to move forward we are going to have to be so much better…”
Meanwhile, Colorado’s losing skid reached four after a 12-11 defeat at the hands of the defending champion Rochester Knighthawks last Saturday. Victory is on the mind of Mammoth transition player Cam Holding.
“Going into Toronto is huge for me personally [being] from Toronto; I grew up there and went to Rock games my whole life,” said Holding. “We’re coming off of four losses and we are hungry to get that win. It will be a great way to kick off the weekend with a win in Toronto.”
The following night, the Mammoth faces Tavares, a three-time NLL MVP. Last March, it was Tavares’ counterpart, Grant, who led the way with four goals and five assists in Colorado’s 16-13 win over Buffalo.
“We did a good job there last year and I know our team is going to come in focused this weekend,” said Holding. “You really need to increase communication…in that atmosphere.”
For the past few seasons, the Mammoth’s home attendance has been second in the NLL. Only the Bandits have drawn more fans.
“We had some success there last year and it is a really tough place to play,” said Hamley. “I played there back in the day and it holds a special place in my heart.”
After beating the Rock last Thursday, Buffalo’s hope of a weekend sweep was spoiled by the Philadelphia Wings. With just 3.7 seconds remaining in regulation, Wings transition player Jordan Hall found twine to tie the game and send it to overtime. Philadelphia forward Drew Westervelt scored the game-winner in the extra frame.
“Overall, still a good weekend and we come out over .500,” said Bandits assistant coach Rich Kilgour. “We’ve got Colorado coming up and I’m sure they are desperate for a win. We’ve got to be ready and hopefully the guys will be.”
Friday’s game will be broadcast live on ESPN3 at 5:30pm MST and will be replayed on Altitude Sports on Sunday, March 10 at 10pm. Saturday’s game will air live at 5:30pm MST on the NLL Network on YouTube, and will be broadcast on Altitude Sports on Monday, March 11 at 11:30pm.