First place in reach for NLL’s Mammoth

Mammoth Look to Win First Division Title since 2007

Buffalo Bandits vs. Colorado Mammoth at Pepsi Center, Saturday, March 3, 2018, in Denver. (Photo by Jack Dempsey for the Colorado Mammoth)

This past weekend the Colorado Mammoth not only picked up two very important wins but also stayed in the hunt to win the NLL’s Western Division.

After a hard fought victory over the Swarm 11-10, the Mammoth returned home and faced a rested Bandits team. Head Coach Pat Coyle turned to back-up goaltender Steve Fryer for the start to give Dillon Ward a chance to rest. It was Fryer’s first career start.

Fryer was drafted in the fourth round (28th overall) in 2011 by the Philadelphia Wings. He also spent time with Toronto before landing in Colorado. Prior to his arrival in Colorado, Fryer had seen a total of 61 minutes and 45 seconds of playing time and stopped 20 of 27 shots faced. This season he had seen six minutes and 36 seconds and stopped two of three shots faced.

Of course, some around the NLL had to wonder why Coyle would put Fryer into such a big game. But if there is one thing that is definite, it’s that Steve Fryer has made himself to be known as one of the hardest working players in the league. He knows what his role is on the team, but also knows that he must stay razor sharp because at any moment he can be called upon to step in between the pipes, whether in relief, injury or in this case, to start a game. It’s not surprising he shone when needed.

Fryer faced 52 shots against the Bandits and stopped 45, with some of the saves being highlight-reel worthy. With the help of his defense, he held Buffalo to only seven goals. Three came from Dhane Smith and one from rookie of the year candidate Josh Byrne. Recently acquired Shawn Evans was held without a goal.

Currently, the Mammoth are in second place with a 7-3 record, while the Saskatchewan Rush are 10-2. A main factor here is that the Mammoth have two games in hand, and a win in both of those games would bring them within a game of the division lead. It’s all but certain they will make the playoffs as they hold a six-game lead over fourth place Vancouver. A win or a Vancouver loss in any of the remaining games will clinch them a playoff berth. The also hold a three-game lead over Calgary for second. They will face each other this weekend in Colorado, with the winner holding the tie-breaker as they will win the season series.

The Rush are off this weekend, so this is a big chance to make up some ground with the next two weeks being the most important of the season. Colorado will have a home-and-home with Vancouver on March 16th and 24th. Meanwhile, the Rush will travel to Buffalo (3/17) and then face Rochester (3/24) – two of the east’s hottest teams, and both of whom have already beaten the Rush this season.

On the last weekend of March the Rush are off and the Mammoth will have the pressure on them as they will be on the road in Toronto, then in Rochester the following night.

April 7th will see the Mammoth travel to Saskatchewan. The Rush already have won the season series as they defeated the Mammoth the first two times they played, but a victory for the Mammoth could be huge, both morally and also in pushing the Mammoth just that much closer to the Rush for first place.

During the last two weeks of the season the Mammoth will be at home as they host New England on the 13th and Toronto on the 28th.  The Rush will be in Vancouver on the 13th and host Georgia on the 14th before finishing the regular season at home against Calgary on the 28th.

It won’t be an easy road for the Mammoth. They’ll need to take care of business against the teams below them in the standings, keep the foot on the pedal and go. With the offense starting to click and Zack Greer getting rid of the rust after returning from injury the Mammoth are looking to go on a roll. The final eight games for Colorado shouldn’t be anything less then exciting.

Should the Mammoth overtake the Rush, it would be their first regular season title since 2007. The last three out of four years they finished in third place.