The number is one. The Mammoth need one win to clinch a spot in the NLL playoffs. If Colorado sinks Saskatchewan this weekend, they’re in.
Last Time Out
The Mammoth are coming off a bye week after two emphatic victories on March 22 and 23 against the Vancouver Warriors.
The teams began their back-to-back weekend in Vancouver, where the Mammoth triumphed in an 11-7 win. Ryan Lee had a seven-point night with four goals and three assists. Dillon Ward denied 41 of 48 shots.
The Mammoth and Warriors played their series finale in Denver 24 hours later, on Saturday. Steve Fryer, who relieved Ward and hit 200 career minutes, made 49 saves on 53 shots. Killen, who has been dubbed the next Behind-the-Back King, tallied five goals, leading the team in that column. McLaughlin topped the points and assists columns with four goals and eight assists. In a game where multiple players could have been the first star, the Mammoth beat their Western Division rivals by their largest margin of victory this season, 14-4.
Saskatchewan also met the Vancouver Warriors in their last time out. By the end of the third quarter, the Rush had raced to a comfortable 11-5 lead. Though the Warriors launched a comeback bid with four-straight goals in the fourth quarter, the Rush had the benefit of the clock. After Jeff Shattler scored on an empty net for the Rush at 14:35, Saskatchewan sealed their 12-9 win. With Rush netminder Evan Kirk on the injured reserve list, Adam Shute saved 32 of 41 shots.
Last Time They Met
In February, Colorado kept the scoreboard close in their first contest of the season against Saskatchewan, but ultimately fell short, 9-7. Kirk, who took player of the game honors, saved 36 of 43 shots in the Rush’s win. Saskatchewan’s Shattler, a 14-year NLL veteran, was the only player on either team to net more than two markers in the game, coming away with a hat-trick. Saskatchewan was perfect on the power play in the contest, capitalizing twice on two opportunities.
More About the Power Play
The Rush have the best man-up unit in the NLL with a power play percentage of 63.4.
The Mammoth’s power play percentage is 41.0, which seems a far-cry from the Rush’s league-leading statistic. Colorado’s man-up unit has scored 25 to Saskatchewan’s 26 goals, though. The difference in percentages comes from opportunities. The disciplined Mammoth squad, who causes penalties more often than it takes them, has gained 61 advantages compared to the Rush’s 41 opportunities.
Speaking of Discipline
The Mammoth have served the least amount penalty minutes in the league this season. With 91 penalty minutes, the Mammoth are the only team who hasn't hit triple-digit minutes.
What to Watch
If the Mammoth can beat the Rush this Saturday to find a fourth-straight victory, the Mammoth can knot their series with the Rush, 1-1, making it possible for Colorado to eventually win a third Western Division series this season. The Mammoth have already clinched tiebreakers against the Roughnecks and Warriors.
If the Mammoth can clinch a playoff spot this weekend and end up taking the series versus Saskatchewan on April 27, Colorado could be looking at a third-seed spot, rather than the fourth.
Who to Watch
Saturday, in what was arguably the best game of his career, 25-year-old McLaughlin tied New England's Callum Crawford with a season-record of 12 points in a single game. He also scored his 73rd career point, which put him past his previous career-high of 72 points in the 2017 season.
McLaughlin is the one remaining Mammoth forward on a season-long, goal scoring streak. The fifth-year Mammoth lefty could extend his streak to fourteen games this Saturday.
The Wall for 100
Colorado’s home matchup with Vancouver last Saturday was Dillon Ward's 100th regular-season activation on the Mammoth's 21-man roster.
In his six seasons in the NLL and with the Mammoth, Ward has played 5,103 minutes and has amassed 45 wins. The Wall’s career-average save percentage is 0.780 after having made 3379 saves.
Though Ward was active during the Mammoth’s last contest versus the Warriors, Coyle chose to rest the 28-year-old, who played an incredible 60 minutes the previous night, and started Fryer. Now, after a bye week, Ward is coming back to the crease well-rested for his 101st game on the active roster.
The Mammoth’s series-tying showdown versus the Saskatchewan Rush is slated for 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 6 at Pepsi Center. The game is also the Mammoth’s 10th Anniversary Lacrosse Out Cancer night. Tickets are on sale now at altitudetickets.com. Altitude TV will broadcast the game locally. Bleacher Report Live will provide a live-stream of the game.