The first round of the NLL playoffs begins on Saturday and in the West Division, the first place Calgary Roughnecks (9-7) will host the fourth-place Colorado Mammoth (7-9).
The Roughnecks won the season series against the Mammoth two-games-to-one and were 8-4 against division rivals. The Mammoth were only 4-6 within the West Division, but they won five of their last seven games and their last two wins of the season did come against West competition.
The Mammoth finished tied for the fourth-most goals allowed, with 202, however, they did much better during those final seven games, giving up just 11.1 goals per game in that stretch. Conversely, Colorado’s scoring improved by almost a goal per game in their final seven contests, to 12.3 goals per game.
Colorado’s weakness at the start of the year was goaltending, which they addressed by dumping both Chris Levis and Matt Roik and suiting up Tye Belanger and Dan Lewis. Belanger in particular, made the most of the opportunity, winning five games and posting an excellent 10.77 goals against average.
John Grant Jr. once again led the way for the Mammoth. His 43 goals were second in the NLL and his 91 points were fourth.
Along with Adam Jones (72 points) and Casey Powell (32 points in six games), Grant Jr. and company set up as a difficult squad to keep under control.
Calgary averaged 13.9 goals per game, tops in the NLL. However, they were also tied for tops in goals allowed at 13.2.
The Roughnecks’ problem was discipline. They faced 107 shorthanded situations over the course of the season, the most in the league, and it cost them 59 goals against, also the most in the league.
In games where they’ve been able to keep their emotions under control, they’ve been in great shape and have given goaltender Mike Poulin plenty of opportunities to keep them in games. When they take a lot of penalties, they are in tough.
Shawn Evans won the scoring title in the NLL this season. His 112 points were the fifth best total in league history and his 80 assists were the second most all-time.
Curtis Dickson finished the year with 42 goals and Dane Dobbie scored 40 goals in just 13 games. Jeff Shattler added 74 points.
Dobbie left Calgary’s Week 15 game with a knee injury and missed their Week 16 matchup against the Edmonton Rush. If he still isn’t ready to go on Saturday, it will leave a big hole in the Roughnecks’ offense.
Daryl Veltman did an outstanding job of filling that hole last weekend, scoring five times and adding three assists for a season-high eight points. With Dobbie a question mark, Veltman will be called upon to step up one more time.
The semi-final matchup gets underway at 7:00 MDT.