CALGARY, AB — There’s no love lost between these two teams.
Playing on February 13th, it’s safe to say that neither team will be sending Valentine’s cards to one another the next day.
The Calgary Roughnecks will host the Colorado Mammoth at the Rough House in this season’s first instalment of the Rocky Mountain Rivalry.
The Mammoth will start their weekend early with a game at home against the Saskatchewan Rush on Thursday, February 11th. Colorado (4-2) and Saskatchewan (3-1) are currently tied for first place in the West Division, one game ahead of the Roughnecks.
Depending on how the game unfolds, the Mammoth could be riding an emotional high or low into Saturday’s contest. Should it be the latter, the Roughnecks would be in a position to jump into second place in the division.
Colorado is limping into this two-game weekend after being dismantled 15-7 by the Vancouver Stealth. That was the Mammoth’s second straight loss as they were beaten 12-10 a week earlier by the Rush.
“They came out flying and we came out flat. It was an exact opposite of two weeks ago,” Mammoth coach Dan Stroup told NLL.com. “It is frustrating. But they were fired up, they owed one to their crowd. I can’t take anything away from them but on the other hand, we didn’t show up.”
Despite the two losses, Colorado still boasts some fantastic pieces and will be a big test for the Roughnecks.
The Mammoth have three of the top four scorers in the NLL right now. Former Roughneck Callum Crawford sits second in the league with 36 points (16g, 21a), while 17-year veteran John Grant Jr. (14g, 21a) and 51-goal scorer from a year ago, Adam Jones (17g, 17a) sit third and fourth, respectively.
That trio could be a headache for Calgary’s defence.
Speaking of that defence, after allowing on average 10.25 goals-per-game through the first four weeks of the season, they have allowed 30 goals in the last two games. That is largely due to the 19-goal fiasco against the Rush.
If the Roughnecks can shore up their back-end and get back to playing like they did in the first few weeks of the season, it will be a very entertaining battle against the Mammoth offence.
One member of Calgary’s defence will be exceptionally excited to play against Colorado this weekend – former Mammoth Bobby Snider. The face-off specialist spent two seasons in Denver where he won 473 face-offs, including quite a few against his big brother Geoff.
Snider got to experience playing at Scotiabank Saddledome for the first time as a member of the Roughnecks last weekend.
“It was awesome,” Snider said through a smile. “Playing in front of the home crowd, I got a big cheer. First off, fans are outstanding. Probably the best group of fans in the league. Getting to go out and compete with the boys and get a win at home is pretty special.”
Should Snider get the nod against his former club, he will be a force on the draw for Calgary. The Mammoth face-off men – lead by captain Dan Coates – have combined for 59 wins in 134 attempts, which is a 44 percent rating. Snider alone has 30 face-off wins in three games played this season and is winning them at a 63 percent rate.
Having Snider in the line-up could represent a distinct advantage in the face-off circle for the Roughnecks which could help with possessions and momentum.
Momentum was huge for the Roughnecks last weekend as they climbed their way back into the game. One important factor in keeping that momentum was the fact that Calgary had only one second half penalty, in comparison to the three in the first half.
Staying out of the penalty box will be important for the Riggers.
It is doubly important because the Mammoth boast one of the better power play units in the league. They are currently operating at 57.14 percent with 14 PPG scored by the trio of Grant Jr., Eli McLaughlin, and Jones.
Their success does not bode well for a Roughnecks penalty kill that has been under-performing lately. In their past three games, the unit has allowed 12 goals in 22 opportunities. That comes after surrendering only four power play goals in 12 chances (33%) to start the season.
If Calgary’s defence can keep the Mammoth in check the way that they did the last time they played – the West Division Semi-Final – it could be another lights out performance for the Roughnecks.