Familiar foes set to clash in West Division Final
The West Division Final between the Calgary Roughnecks and the Colorado Mammoth is the game not many would have expected to see at this stage of the NLL Playoffs, but it’s fitting that it’s these two clubs that will battle it out for the right to play in the NLL Cup.
Remarkably, this will be the 11th time that these bitter rivals will face-off against each other in the postseason in the last 15 years. Even more remarkably, the Roughnecks are 9-1 including 5-0 under Curt Malawsky against the Mammoth in the playoffs.
However, following the Mammoth’s triumphant 11-10 OT win against the Saskatchewan Rush last weekend, the lopsided record between these two clubs is for all intents and purposes, meaningless. Even more, of a reason to believe that those postseason results should be nullified is that the Mammoth won the season-series against these Roughnecks 2-1 in 2019.
To get passed the Roughnecks on their home floor, the Mammoth will need to contain their opposition’s two offensive weapons, Dane Dobbie and Curtis Dickson. During the regular season those two combined for 196 points (Dobbie 115, Dickson 81) and in their West Division Semi-Finals match against the San Diego Seals, the pair each had seven points.
The Mammoth showed they could contain dominant scorers last week versus the Rush. Forwards Robert Church and Mark Matthews were held to a combined three goals and three assists.
There’s no debating that goaltending will be a factor in this game. Dillon Ward was brilliant last week against the Rush totalling 44 saves and only allowing ten goals while in between the pipes on the other side of the floor will be Christian Del Bianco who continues to prove why he is the predominant young goaltender in the NLL.
While Del Bianco has been electrifying over the past two seasons, he is still yet to have a commanding performance in net in the postseason, albeit this will only be his fourth playoff start. In his previous three starts he allowed at least 11 goals which might sound knit-picky to complain about, but against the Mammoth’s strong defence 11 goals allowed might send the Roughnecks home.
We can’t forget the addition of Jesse King, who we’ve featured here. Since being inserted into the lineup three games ago, the Roughnecks are undefeated, and when they’re clicking on all cylinders, they have one of the most potent offences in the league.
The Mammoth do have budding stars that have proven they can go toe to toe with the likes of Dobbie, Dickson and King. Ryan Lee and Eli McLaughlin were essential parts of the Mammoth’s victory last week with six and five points respectively. And it has been a welcomed sight to see Jeremy Noble get into some kind of rhythm on offence. After positing a career-low five goals and 31 points in 2019, he has had four goals in his last two games.
These teams are extraordinarily familiar with each other, and it’s always a hard-fought, aggressive battle. Friday night should be no different.