It may be surprising that the matchup between the 3-9 Edmonton Rush and the 2-8 Colorado Mammoth is the biggest and most intriguing NLL series of the weekend.
While Colorado and Edmonton have struggled to find consistency and win this season, one of these teams will make the postseason as the final seed from the Western Division.
Last week, Edmonton defeated Minnesota 14-13 for their third win of the year, but Colorado kept pace with the Rush as the Mammoth defeated the Boston Blazers 9-8 in overtime to end a seven game losing streak and pick up their first home win since 2009.
Even though the National Lacrosse League doesn’t have three game series’ in the playoffs, the Mammoth and the Rush might as well be in one to close out the regular season as the two squads will face each other three times in the final four weeks of the season, including twice this weekend.
This weekend’s series will be the first time that the Mammoth and the Rush will face each other this year, and the team that wins two out of the three games down the home stretch of the season will likely pick up a berth in the postseason.
“The scheduler couldn’t have drawn it up any better,” said Edmonton head coach Derek Keenan. “A lot of lacrosse traditionalists have been screaming for years for a three-game playoff series which is pretty difficult to do in our league, but this is what we have with Colorado.
“We have had similar types of seasons and I think we are both hitting our stride. I think it is going to be a great weekend with a lot of great lacrosse and with a lot on the line.”
Last weekend, both team’s had big contribution from recently acquired players at the trade deadline as Colorado’s Joel Dalgarno, who was traded from Washington, finished with three goals while Edmonton’s Zack Greer, who was traded from Minnesota, finished with five goals and two assists, including the game winning goal with four seconds left in the game against his former club.
During Wednesday’s league conference call, both Keenan and Colorado head coach Bob Hamley said that Greer and Dalgarno are better fits with their organizations then they were with their previous teams.
“Joel came in with a lack of opportunity as Washington’s offense on the left side is pretty deep and their offense as a whole is pretty deep,” Hamley said of Dalgarno. “He wasn’t getting the same opportunity as he would get in Colorado.”
Keenan agrees in regards to Greer.
“I think he’s been different since he has been with us,” Keenan said of Greer. “I think the main reason is that he has been given an opportunity. I can understand why it might not have been there in Minnesota given their depth on the left side and this is probably just a better fit as he is going to get the opportunity to have the ball in his stick more.”
This weekend will also mark the first time that the Mammoth’s Gavin Prout will play against his former team after he was traded to Colorado from Edmonton at the trade deadline.
Prout spent the last year and a half with Edmonton and said that he might be more prepared for the Rush because of his knowledge of the club.
“I’ve been in that dressing room for a year and a half, I know there game plans pretty well, I know what they stress,” Prout said after Saturday’s game. “So does the rest of the league as well, but being in the dressing room, being in with the players and being in and understanding their whole system gives me a little bit of an advantage. However, if we don’t execute, it doesn’t make a difference.”
The Mammoth and the Rush will begin their battle for a playoff berth on Friday at 9 p.m. EDT at Rexall Place in Edmonton before the series moves to the Pepsi Center in Denver on Saturday at 9 p.m. EDT.
Colorado and Edmonton will play again next weekend when the Rush host the Mammoth on Saturday Apr. 9.
Now here is a look at the other six games in week 13 of the National Lacrosse League season.
Calgary Roughnecks vs. Minnesota Swarm – Friday Apr. 1, 9:30 p.m. EDT in Calgary – Saturday Apr. 2, 7 p.m. EDT in St. Paul, Minn.
The Calgary Roughnecks and the Minnesota Swarm will meet in a home-and-home series this weekend with playoff implications on the line for both teams.
With one win, Calgary can lock up the top seed from the Western Division in the postseason while Minnesota can be the third team from the West to secure a playoff berth.
It appears as Calgary and Minnesota are going in opposite directions as the Swarm have lost two games in a row while the Roughnecks are the hottest team in the league, winning five straight.
Yet, Calgary head coach Dave Pym said his team is not overlooking a struggling Minnesota squad.
“We are not going to get ahead of ourselves,” Pym said in terms of the postseason. “The teams in this league are too good and any team can win any night.”
The Roughnecks and the Swarm will begin their weekend series on Friday at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary before playing at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., on Saturday.
Washington Stealth at Toronto Rock – Friday Apr. 1, 7:30 p.m. EDT
It will be a rematch of last season’s championship game and maybe a preview of this year’s one.
The Toronto Rock have been atop the Eastern Division standings all season while the Washington Stealth have had a rollercoaster year in the West.
Although Washington sits second in the West with a 6-6 record, the Stealth’s offense is one of the best in the league, and if the team can find more balance with their offense and defense, they may be playing for another championships this season.
“We need to find some consistency,” said Washington head coach Chris Hall. “Our offense has been playing extremely well. We put up nine against Boston, but it was a goaltender battle between [Anthony] Cosmo and [Tyler] Richards. Both goalies were superb all night long.”
While Washington last week won a close game over Boston, Toronto lost only their third game of the season, this time to the Calgary Roughnecks.
Rock general manager and assistant coach Terry Sanderson wasn’t pleased with his team’s play in the Calgary game as he repeatedly said how his squad was schooled in all facets of the game during Wednesday’s league conference call.
Friday’s game will be the first of two contests this weekend for both teams as Washington will play at Buffalo on Saturday while Toronto will play at Philadelphia.
Friday’s game will be broadcasted live for Canadian viewers on TSN while U.S. audiences can watch the game live on the NLL Network at NLL.com. The game will also air on VERSUS on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Toronto Rock at Philadelphia Wings – Saturday Apr. 2, 7 p.m. EDT
The Philadelphia Wings may be in last place in the Eastern Division, but with three of their four remaining games against division opponents, they control their own destiny.
Philadelphia will host the East leading Rock on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center in a game the Wings need to win if they want to keep pace with Boston for the final playoff spot.
“We know Toronto is going to be tough and we haven’t played well against them this season, but if we continue to get better, I think we will be a very dangerous team if we can get into the playoffs,” said Philadelphia head coach John Tucker.
The Rock will be looking for the season sweep of the Wings as they’ve won the two previous games this season, winning 16-13 on Feb. 26 in Philadelphia and 15-10 on Mar. 4 in Toronto.
However, Toronto will likely be playing with tired legs as they’ll play at home versus Washington the night before.
Washington Stealth at Buffalo Bandits – Saturday Apr. 2, 7:30 p.m. EDT
After playing at Toronto on Friday, the Washington Stealth’s Eastern road trip doesn’t get any easier on Saturday.
The Stealth will play the hottest team in the East, the Buffalo Bandits, who are on a four game winning streak.
Washington has already secured a postseason berth in the Western Division, and head coach Chris Hall said he is excited for the road trip out East.
“You always look forward to playing great teams, and we will be playing the two best teams in the East in their buildings,” Hall said. “The crowds will be large and electric.”
Buffalo sits a half game behind Toronto for first place in the East, and if the Rock lose both of their games this weekend, the Bandits could take the top spot in the division. Even if Toronto doesn’t lose one or two this weekend, Buffalo will still hold an edge in the final three weeks as the Rock will play twice in that time while the Bandits will play four times, giving Buffalo plenty of opportunities to catch up with Toronto.
Rochester Knighthawks at Boston Blazers – Saturday Apr. 2, 7:30 p.m. EDT
The Rochester Knighthawks will have a chance to clinch a spot in the postseason if they can beat the struggling Boston Blazers on Saturday.
Rochester hasn’t played great this season, but they have been consistent enough to possibly earn the Eastern Division’s third playoff berth in Week 13 of the season.
Boston’s season has been anything but consistent, as they’ve seen winning streaks of two and four games and losing streaks of three and four games. The Blazers are currently on a four game losing streak.
“Ultimately it comes down to consistency,” said Boston head coach Matt Sawyer. “Much like the game of lacrosse, the season has been full of ups and downs and momentum swings.”
If the season ended today, Boston would be in the postseason, but they only have three games left while fifth place Philadelphia has four games. The Blazers and Wings will meet in Boston next weekend.
All eight Week 13 National Lacrosse League games will be broadcasted live on the NLL Network at NLL.com.