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 Colorado Mammoth

Colorado Closes out Back-To-Back in Saturday Night Sin City Showdown

April 13, 2024 - National Lacrosse League (NLL)
Colorado Mammoth News Release

DENVER - In quite the busy Week 20 schedule, the Mammoth are now heading east just a few short hours after hosting the Philadelphia Wings Friday night inside Ball Arena on LOUD HOUSE Appreciation Night. Falling to the Wings 16-12 during the team's hometown finale, the burgundy boys put up one hell of a fight, but between some early-game injuries to Dillon Ward, Connor Robinson and Josh Sullivan, the team was left a bit short on the personnel side of things.

That wouldn't stop Mammoth forward Eli McLaughlin from setting his new season-high points total, now up to 84 on the season after recording a team-high six points (2g, 4a) Friday night. Having met the 83-point mark in each of his past two seasons, Liger will look to extend his personal-best figures Saturday, as the team visits the Las Vegas Desert Dogs for a late-season showdown in Sin City. Both Connor Kelly (3g, 1a) and Zed Williams (3g, 0a) also enjoyed hat-trick performances, with defenseman Jalen Chaster (1g, 3a) chipping in a quality offensive effort in transition and youngster Thomas Vela getting his first goal with Colorado (1g, 2a). As the team was officially eliminated from postseason contention, it was an encouraging sign to see some of the team's younger players step up in the absence of three veterans forced to miss time.

Tyler Carlson eventually came in to spell an injured Dillon Ward in the first half, eventually stopping 31-of-43 during his 50 minutes of floor time. Unfortunately, with Robinson getting his shoulder roughed up early, the B.C. boy saw his 15-game point streak come to an end, held to no points in the effort as he spent some time in the locker room and then relegated to the bench, via his injured status. Youngsters like Sean Kriwokon and Vela saw some additional time, which could be key for their long-term development. With goaltender Nate Faccin expected to be activated Saturday with Ward also hurt, the team could be getting a glimpse of the future here as they wrap up the back-to-back weekend inside Michelob ULTRA Arena.

With the Mammoth and Wings representing the only NLL contest to take place on Friday night, the standings haven't changed since this week's first preview (other than Colorado now eliminated from postseason contention and Philadelphia now ahead of both the Mammoth and Desert Dogs in the standings, albeit also eliminated from playoff possibilities).

Set to go head-to-head with the league's No. 15-ranked squad in Las Vegas for the third time in NLL history, Colorado will look to take out some of its late-season frustrations Saturday, with the teams splitting the opening pair of contests, now 1-1 for the regular season series overall.

From a pure results standpoint, the (4-12) Dogs have plenty of room for growth in their third season of play next year. But a closer look at the team's record reveals that they have been quite competitive in a majority of their contests. So competitive, that six of the team's losses have come with just one or two-goal deficits. However, bringing a six-game losing streak into the team's final homestand of the campaign means they haven't been able to seal the deal when dire circumstances arise. Featuring a healthy mix of prospective young guns and plenty of savvy veteran talent as well, the black and white, year-two squad just hasn't been able to rely on any one scorer to constantly be an elite threat just yet. Rob Hellyer's 70 points are impressive, indeed, but they aren't team-leading-type figures. As a reminder, the Buffalo Bandits just brought two 100-plus-point producers (on the same team) into the LOUD HOUSE just two weekends ago. That said, the team as a whole has been able to produce 10-plus goals on a regular basis, which for the most part, should keep them in games.

Drawing a late-season matchup with the Desert Dogs Saturday night, Colorado brings a 1-6 road record into Michelob ULTRA Arena into what would've potentially been a battle for No. 1 overall selection rights during the 2024 NLL Entry Draft (had the Mammoth owned their pick).

Representing the fifth of seven Week 20 contests, sharing the slate spotlight with each of Rochester x Toronto, Calgary x Buffalo, San Diego x Saskatchewan and New York x Vancouver, the burgundy boys will look to regain some momentum as they prepare to finish the 2023-24 campaign on the road: First in Las Vegas and finally far east in Halifax, Nova Scotia April 20.

Saturday evening's matchup with the Desert Dogs is set to begin at 8 p.m. MT inside Michelob ULTRA Arena, thus representing Colorado's eighth road contest of the season and second-from-last game overall. Fans can catch the team's 17th showdown of the year locally on Altitude TV, stream the matchup live on ESPN+ and stay tuned to and Colorado Mammoth social media channels for game highlights, postgame recaps and beyond!

Leading the Way

As captain of an NLL, there are lot of things that may go under the radar in leading a group of 30 men. Thankfully for Mammoth fans, Robert Hope isn't looking for the credit or any accolades when it comes to making sure his guys are prepared. A win on the field is a win in his book, and when that isn't the case, he's going to be sure guys are doing all they can in order to improve. Not just for next season, either. For these last two games of the 2023-24 campaign, as he and his fellow assistant captains Joey Cupido and Eli McLaughlin understand what it means to wear the storied "M" on their chests. A constant voice in the locker room, at practice, throughout shootaround sessions and even during the week, Hope also continues to lead the team in several categories on the turf, including loose balls (118), caused turnovers (20) and blocked shots (27). Sitting in front of the entire league atop the blocked shot charge, he's soaked four more attempts than any other player in the NLL, with several coming in at 23 as things sit in Week 20. Representing the team during tough postgame press availability, doing all he can to get the most of the boys and very likely to be one of the biggest motivating voices as the team endures its toughest turnaround of the season, Hopey joins the following players in leading the charge so far, including:

Points: 85 (Eli McLaughlin)

Goals: 40 (Eli McLaughlin)

Assists: 45 (Eli McLaughlin)

Loose Balls: 118 (Robert Hope)

Caused Turnovers: 20 (Robert Hope)

Penalty Minutes: 29 (Jordan Gilles)

Blocked Shots: 27 (Robert Hope)

Faceoff Wins: 212 (Tim Edwards)

Consistency is Key

When a Mammoth legend like Eli McLaughlin records a new career-high single-season point record, you have to give him his flowers. And we WILL! Donning the assistant captain patch once again this year, the veteran has shined in almost every game this year, stepping up with Connor Kelly and friends in filling the void Ryan Lee left with his season spent on the team's Injured Reserve List. Pacing the team with six points (2g, 4a) Friday night, it took him a bit to get on the goal-scoring list, with both of his markers coming in fourth-quarter fashion, but he delivered nonetheless, eventually bringing his season total to a now-best 85 points (40g, 45a) in the same season in which he passed fellow franchise pillar John Grant Jr. for the team's all-time leading goal-scorer (now up to 266 in his career). Having recorded 83 points in each of the team's last two campaigns (44g, 39a; 38g, 45a), he's now officially tied with his 2022 season for the most assists, with 45 representing the number he will look to improve on beginning Saturday. Needing five goals in these final two games in order to beat his 44 markers from 2023, the talented finisher will look to continue to lead the way for his squad en route to joining the following players in regularly appearing on the scoresheet this season, including:

Eli McLaughlin: (2g, 3a), (1g, 2a), (2g, 2a), (3g, 2a), (3g, 3a), (2g, 4a), (5g, 5a), (0g, 3a), (2g, 3a), (3g, 3a), (4g, 5a), (3g, 1a), (2g, 0a), (4g, 3a), (2g, 2a), (2g, 4a) = 85 points (40g, 45a)

Connor Kelly: (3g, 2a), (2g, 1a), (3g, 1a), (1g, 2a), (4g, 0a), (1g, 1a), (3g, 0a), (4g, 4a), (2g, 3a), (1g, 6a), (1g, 1a), (4g, 1a), (3g, 1a) = 55 points (32g, 23a)

Zed Williams: (0g, 1a), (2g, 4a), (1g, 1a), (1g, 2a), (1g, 1a), (2g, 1a), (2g, 0a), (3g, 2a), (2g, 2a), (3g, 2a), (0g, 2a), (0g, 2a), (4g, 3a), (3g, 2a), (3g, 0a) = 52 points (27g, 25a)

Tyson Gibson: (1g, 4a), (1g, 2a), (2g, 1a), (0g, 2a), (0g, 2a), (1g, 0a), (2g, 3a), (1g, 1a), (2g, 3a), (2g, 1a), (4g, 2a), (0g, 1a), (2g, 0a), (0g, 1a), (0g, 5a), (0g, 1a) = 47 points (18g, 29a)

Evan Downey: (0g, 1a) = 1 point (0g, 1a)

Close, But No Cigar

While the Desert Dogs have been involved in their fair share of close contests this season, in the world's most talented lacrosse league, you don't get points for trying, as Colorado has also been reminded of this season. With the franchise set to enter its third season when the 2024-25 slate rolls around, they've got to pick up a win in one of their final two games in order to get back to the 5-13 record achieved during their inaugural season of play. And with the team announcing Friday afternoon that they'd be relocating their home next year from Michelob ULTRA Arena on the downtown Las Vegas strip to Lee's Family Forum in Henderson, Nevada, they'll look to find some additional attendance and performance success in year three.

This season, it's been captain Rob Hellyer leading the scoring charge once again, up to 70 points (20g, 50a) through the team's first 16 contests. Bringing a squad-high 50 assists into Saturday's showdown, the veteran has looked good as a distributer, as Jack Hannah (68 points: 24g, 44a) continues to take steps forward in his budding career while veterans in Casey Jackson (61 points: 38g, 23a) and Zack Greer (51 points: 21g, 30a) remain quality contributors. Jackson's 38 goals easily pace the team, now 14 more than Hannah as they continue to look his way in set pieces. Hannah, though, has had several big games this season, and may be regarded as the franchise's top overall talent when he's feeling himself. If the team is to take a collective leap in the right direction here, attempting to close out the season with some momentum, it will be via the efforts of Dylan Watson (34 points: 18g, 16a), who's had a slower start to his career than some may have expected, but still has plenty of time to learn and grow.

A bit experimental as of late, the team hasn't been afraid to score goals, and that's in part due to the fact that several of their regular defenseman and transition talents have either played the position or continue to contribute with an offensive mindset, with fellow forward-like figures like Jacob Ruest and Connor Kirst make the team a constant threat during transition opportunities.

In net, Landon Kells is expected to get the start, bringing a 12.10 goals-against average, .765 save percentage and 4-11 record into the Saturday night showdown. Drafted early in the 2022 NLL Expansion Draft, he continues to get the nod as the team wants him to be their guy moving forward. That said, he's performed better than his numbers look, able to keep his team in a majority of games, albeit coming up just short a few too many times. He'll be plenty busy Saturday as Eli McLaughlin, Connor Kelly and company come to town!

Get in the Game

Mammoth games can be viewed on Altitude TV and streamed live via ESPN+. Saturday's April 13 road matchup against the Las Vegas Desert Dogs can be viewed locally on Altitude TV and streamed live on ESPN+. Mammoth fans can keep an eye on the team's social media channels and for the latest news, transactions and organizational updates throughout the 2023-24 NLL season.

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