The Colorado Mammoth begin the East Coast leg of their three-game road stretch in a cross-divisional contest against the Buffalo Bandits this Saturday.
Saturday is Buffalo’s sixth-annual “Tucker Out Lymphoma” night. The night honors Tucker Williams, the son of former Bandits forward and current Mammoth offensive coordinator Shawn Williams. Tucker passed away in Dec. 2014 after a courageous 11-month battle with Burkitt lymphoma.
During their game on Saturday, both Bandits and Mammoth players will wear “Braver Than Brave” jerseys designed by Tucker’s brother, Dyson Williams. The jerseys are currently being pre-auctioned online here until Monday, Feb. 4. Bidders do not have to be present at the game to win. The Bandits will ship jerseys to Mammoth fans in Colorado, if they place winning bids. Proceeds will go toward pediatric cancer care centers.
Last Time Out
Last Saturday, in their first road game of the season, the Mammoth led the Vancouver Warriors for four quarters before falling 11-10 in overtime. With goals by six Colorado scorers, the Mammoth led 7-4 after a dominant first half. Through the second half, the Mammoth maintained their lead, but underestimated their opponents’ tenacity and let the Warriors back in the game. The final frame ended with the teams tied at 10. Forty-four seconds into the extra stanza, Logan Schuss scored the game-winner for the Warriors.
On a back-to-back road trip, the Bandits lost to the Rochester Knighthawks on Saturday before traveling to the Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday and dismantling the New England Black Wolves in a 15-5 win. Corey Small, a ten-year veteran forward acquired by the Bandits from the Warriors in November, played his best game of the season, scoring a game-high of seven points (four goals, three assists) for the Bandits. Goalie Matt Vinc saved 39 of 44 shots in the Bandits’ win.
What To Watch
Start Strong In Both Halves
One reason for the Bandits’ 18-13 defeat last Saturday was that the Rochester Knighthawks took the turf with as much intensity and battle-readiness in the second half as they did at the start of the game. The Knighthawks led the game 9-6 by the end of the first half, but they hadn't won yet; a three-goal game is anyone's game. At the start of the final half, the ‘Hawks scored first at 4:08 on a power play. They allowed two-straight Buffalo goals after that, so they definitely weren’t perfect, but they did carry their battle-readiness and hunger from the first half to the second half, answering Buffalo's pair of goals with their own sixth-goal run. By 1:50 in the fourth frame, the K-hawks were up 16-8. Buffalo would tie Rochester in goals scored through the fourth quarter (5-5), and even tallied the game’s final three markers, but the team's strong finish wasn't enough to make up for a sluggish start in both halves.
Last Saturday, if the Mammoth had started strong in both halves against the Warriors, as the Knighthawks did against the Bandits, they almost certainly would have routed their West Division opponents. And the Mammoth did show up to the contest fast and loose, but in the final stanzas, they didn’t fully turn up. If Colorado course corrects in Buffalo, starting strong in both halves, their East Coast trip could begin with a tally in the win column.
Who To Watch
The 34-year-old Mammoth forward just celebrated a birthday this week and could celebrate making the league’s top-ten all-time points list this Saturday. The Kitchener, ON native needs a five-point game to beat Lewis Ratcliff (959 points) for sole possession of 10th place on the list.
Reaching this achievement in Buffalo would add something extra for Benesch, who was a Bandit for four seasons before the Mammoth acquired him in a trade, prior to the 2018 season.
Saturday's East-West showdown could come down to which goaltender performs better in-net; Buffalo’s Matt Vinc, a six-time NLL Goaltender of the Year, or Colorado’s Dillon Ward, named NLL Goaltender of the Year in 2017.
Currently, Vince has the second-best save percentage in the league (.796) after seven appearances, only trailing league-leading Frank Scigliano by one one-thousandth of a single percent (.797).
The Mammoth’s game versus the Bandits at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, NY is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 2 at 5:30 p.m. MST.