Western Division Finals Game 1 Preview; Colorado vs. Saskatchewan

Mammoth return to division finals for first time since 2006.


Tonight the Colorado Mammoth will host the Saskatchewan Rush in game one of the western division finals. This is a two game series, with the possibility of a 10 minute mini-game. Game two is in Saskatchewan next Saturday. Should each team win a game, the mini-game will take place five minutes after the conclusion of the second game.

The Mammoth advanced to the division finals for the first time since winning the Champion’s Cup back in 2006. The Mammoth defeated Vancouver 13-12 last week.

For the two-time defending champions Saskatchewan Rush, they come into this round off a bye week as they clinched first place during the regular season.

The teams faced each other four times this season with Saskatchewan going 3-1 in the series, winning both games at home and splitting the two games in Colorado. In all three of the victories, the Rush won by a single goal, and the lone Mammoth win was by three back on March 25.

Both these teams are evenly matched with only a difference of 1.61 goals for per game separating them in favour of the Rush. In goals against, the Mammoth dominated with the goaltending of Dillon Ward. As a team, Colorado only allowed 11.02 goals against, as the Rush allowed 11.78. The power play is very strong as well for both squads, while the penalty kill ranks in the lower half of the league.

The main match up will be between Callum Crawford (36G/62A) for Colorado and Mark Matthews (40G/73A) for Saskatchewan. But it’s the other participants you have to look out for.

Saskatchewan has three other players that have registered 25-plus goals during the regular season, while the Mammoth have only one.

When there is a power play, the Rush will be looking at Drexel alumni Robert Church. Church has scored 21 of his 35 goals on the man-advantage, while Mark Matthews has recorded 29 assists. Church also had two shorthanded goals as well.

For the Mammoth, Callum Crawford, Eli McLaughlin and Zack Greer have all tallied nine goals each on the man-advantage, and when shorthanded its Joey Cupido with three short handed goals this season.

Key to this game is which goalie has the better game. Last year Dillon Ward was runner up to the goaltender of the year, and this season he has done nothing short of being considered for the honour again. Ward has stolen a few victories with his outstanding play and stellar saves.

At the other end, Aaron Bold, who is always in the conversation for goaltender of the year, has anchored the Rush to consecutive championships and a very strong chance for a third consecutive title. Bold is also very capable of carrying the team on his back to victory.

Catch game one at 9 p.m. on www.nlltv.com.

Prediction: Even though this game will be in the “Loud House”, with Colorado coming off a hard fought win over Vancouver, Saskatchewan will steal this game from the Mammoth.