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LEAGUE’S HOTTEST TEAMS SQUARE OFF ON SATURDAY

Winners of five straight games, the West-Division-leading Edmonton Rush is the hottest team in the National Lacrosse League. The Colorado Mammoth isn’t far behind, having won three of its last four. The teams square off at Rexall Place on Saturday night at 7pm MT.

“We’re happy with our play of late, but obviously we can always improve,” said Mammoth head coach Bob Hamley. “We’re playing against a very good Edmonton team…”

A team that doubled up Hamley’s squad, 14-7, at Pepsi Center in February.

But the Rush is not the same team at home as it is elsewhere. Edmonton boasts a league-best 7-1 road mark, but has won only once in five home games this year.

“In my four years at Edmonton, we have never been a good home team,” said Rush head coach and general manager Derek Keenan. “We need to fix that. We just need to really focus in on the process of having success and I think our guys now have a better understanding of what that is.”

Historically, Colorado has been a thorn in Edmonton’s side at Rexall Place, winning in six of its eight visits overall.

For the Mammoth, the focus must be on the here and now. Colorado scored at a blistering pace in the first half of last Saturday’s home game against the Philadelphia Wings, taking a 10-4 lead into intermission. In the final 30 minutes, the Mammoth didn’t find the back of the net once, and held on to win, 10-9.

“It was a weird game and a strange way to get a victory,” said Mammoth transition player Richard Morgan. “But a win is a win.”

That’s exactly what Colorado looks for on Saturday night in Edmonton to continue its playoff push.

The Mammoth defense, thanks in large part to the emergence of goaltender Tye Belanger as a bona fide starter, has been stingy during the team’s current streak, allowing just 10 goals per game. In Colorado’s first nine games this season, the defense was giving up 13.78 goals against.

Belanger could have his hands full against the Rush, a team that scores 13.15 goals per game, second-most in the league. Edmonton has outscored opponents, 52-26, in first quarters thus far; it is the greatest disparity for any team in any period. Mark Matthews has 35 goals, 15 more than any other rookie. Tack on two NLL Rookie of the Month awards and his five-goal, one-assist performance against the Mammoth in February. But that was before Belanger was healthy and got the nod between the pipes. It’s his chance on Saturday to stymie Matthews and the Rush.

The game will be broadcast live on the NLL Network on YouTube and will be replayed on Altitude Sports on Sunday, April 7 at 10:00 pm MT.

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