When the Edmonton Rush debuted in the National Lacrosse League in 2006, the team struggled as many expansion franchises do. For the Colorado Mammoth, a match-up against the Rush in Edmonton’s early-days typically meant an easy win. Not the case anymore. In the teams’ last 11 games dating back to the 2010 season, Colorado owns a 6-5 advantage. And in those games, the teams have scored the exact same number of goals – 117 apiece.
“I feel that teams have to beat each other in order for them to be considered rivals,” said Mammoth head coach Bob Hamley. “Since I’ve been here, Colorado and Edmonton have done just that. And in each other’s building, nonetheless.”
The Rush has won four of its last six trips to Pepsi Center. The Mammoth has been the victor four of its last five times to Rexall Place.
On Saturday night, the teams open the 2014 NLL season on HealthONE Field at Pepsi Center at 7pm MT. It’s a game loaded with talent!
Colorado’s roster includes two-time MVP John Grant Jr., who was named team captain for the first time in his career earlier this week. The Mammoth also boasts 2012 NLL Rookie of the Year Adam Jones, and 2013 NLL All-Rookie Team honoree Joey Cupido.
Meanwhile, Edmonton’s offensive threat is University of Denver alumnus Mark Matthews, the league’s reigning Rookie of the Year. Kyle Rubisch commands the back-end, and was the NLL’s Defensive Player of the Year a season ago. The Rush is coming off a season in which it was number-two in scoring and goals-against-average.
“That’s a very good team we’ll be facing on Saturday night,” said Hamley. “I expect the game to be a hard-fought affair for 60 minutes.”
Hamley’s squad includes newcomers Drew Westervelt and Bob Snider, among others. Westervelt has scored 30 or more goals in four of the last five seasons. Snider is a dominant face-off man, something the Mammoth has lacked for years.
Goaltender Tye Belanger enters the season as the starter, marking the first time in his young career that he’ll play in the opener. After spending the first half of 2013 on the Physically Unable to Perform List, the netminder compiled a 5-2 record and a 10.77 goals-against-average. His .776 save percentage was fourth-best in the NLL.
“Everyone loves scoring, and for good reason,” continued Hamley. “But, the reality is that a solid goaltender oftentimes beats a strong offense.”
Such was the case in the team’s last meeting, Belanger’s only career game against Edmonton, when he stymied the Rush offense in the Mammoth’s 9-7 win.
On Saturday, the rivalry is renewed. Hamley is ready.
“There’s always something special about Opening Night!”