OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS FOR MAMMOTH AS DEFENDING CHAMPS COME TO PEPSI CENTER
by Tyler Perlmutter
Opportunity knocks for the Colorado Mammoth (2-5) on Saturday night, as the defending National Lacrosse League champion Rochester Knighthawks (3-5) come to HealthONE Field at Pepsi Center for the teams’ lone match-up of the year.
“Rochester is not happy where they are at and obviously we aren’t either,” said Mammoth head coach Bob Hamley. “There were a lot of positives to pull from [last week’s game] and we are going to take those positives into Saturday.”
Saturday’s game features four of the first eight players selected in the 2011 NLL Entry Draft, including three forwards who were named to last year’s All-Rookie Team: Colorado’s Adam Jones (3rd overall pick) and Rochester’s Stephen Keogh (2nd) and Johnny Powless (5th). Mammoth defenseman Dan Coates (8th overall) hopes to lead Colorado out of a three-game losing skid.
One area that has plagued the Mammoth thus far this season is inconsistent goaltending. As a result, Colorado activated Tye Belanger from the Physically Unable to Perform List and released Matt Roik on Monday. Veteran Chris Levis was released earlier this season in favor of Dan Lewis.
“Obviously [Roik] didn’t work out and we have struggled a little bit with our goals against,” said Hamley. “We just felt we had to make a move and the future for Dan Lewis and Tye Belanger is being sped up, and we look forward to seeing them perform.”
Lewis, in 70:10 of action in 2013, has impressed. The 24-year-old has a 10.26 goals-against-average and an .800 save percentage.
Rochester has relied heavily on its goaltender, Matt Vinc, who was acquired from Colorado in 2010 in a trade that brought reigning NLL MVP John Grant Jr. to the Mile High City. Vinc, who has established himself as one of the league’s best netminders, had a tough time keeping the ball out of the goal against the Mammoth in 2012. In two games against Colorado, Vinc allowed 29 goals and posted two of his three worst save percentages of the season.
The Knighthawks’ season has been up and down thus far. After losing their first three, they won three straight. Now, they’re back in a rut, having dropped their last two including a 10-8 loss to Philadelphia last weekend.
“We are looking for a little bit more consistency in our lineup,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “We have moments where we are a dynamite team and then we have pretty long lapses…”
Meanwhile, the Mammoth losing streak reached three last Sunday, falling to Philadelphia, 14-12, despite Jones’ four-goal, three-assist performance and hat tricks from Grant and Sean Pollock.
Grant was selected first overall by Rochester in the 1999 NLL Entry Draft and recorded 894 points (433 goals, 461 assists) in 10 seasons with the Knighthawks.
“I spent a decade or so playing there,” said Grant. “Every time they come to town it’s going to be exciting for me. These games are getting few and far between and I try to go out every weekend and play like it’s my last game. Hopefully I can bring some leadership and quality-play for the Mammoth this weekend and come out with a ‘W’”.
Colorado transition player Ilija Gajic was also drafted by Rochester, second overall in 2009, but was traded to the Mammoth before playing for the Knighthawks.
Game-time is 7pm MST. Tickets are on sale now at the Pepsi Center box office, all Colorado Dick’s Sporting Goods retail kiosks, online at TicketHorse.com, or by calling 303.53.HORSE.