2022-2023 Record: 9-9, 4th place in the West Division, lost to Buffalo 2-1 in best-of-three NLL Finals
New Faces: Connor Kelly, Paul Dawson, Connor Watson, Bryce Tolmie, Nate Wade, Ethan Woods, Ben McDonald, Sean Kriwokon
Key Losses: John Lintz, Ryan Lee
The offseason for the Colorado Mammoth might best be described as bittersweet. The majority of the bitter portion comes from their performance in Game 3 of the 2023 NLL Finals. They were held to just four total goals as Buffalo put on a defensive show for the ages in avenging the outcome of the 2022 Finals, when the Mammoth hoisted the NLL Cup on the Bandits’ turf for the first time since 2006. The bitter taste intensified this week with the announcement that forward Ryan Lee underwent surgery in the offseason. The recent procedure addressed complications from a previous surgery that forced him to miss the Mammoth’s 2022 Championship playoff run, and limited him to just six games this past year.
The sweet side of the equation saw General Manager Brad Self and Head Coach Pat Coyle retain all but one player from the 2023 roster. Colorado also acquired a solid replacement for Lee, and several defensive pieces, both young and experienced. Factor in the return of defensive stalwarts Josh Sullivan and Joey Cupido from season-ending injuries, and a long-term contract extension for elite goaltender Dillon Ward, and the Mammoth appear ready for a third straight Finals run and a second title in three years in 2024.
The left side of the offense showcases one of the best duos in the league, with Eli McLaughlin (44g, 39a) and Connor Robinson (35g, 36a). Chris Wardle, Dylan Kinnear, and Ty Thompson also return, with 2023 draft pick Declan Fitzpatrick competing for a spot. On the right side, the loss of Lee is tempered by the draft day acquisition of Connor Kelly (35g, 32a with the Albany FireWolves last year). He joins Zed Williams (37g, 34a), Tyson Gibson, and Brett McIntyre, all of whom contributed to the 2022 run to the Cup. Free agent signings Connor Watson, George Downey (brother of Mammoth defenseman Evan), and 2023 draftee Ben McDonald are also in the mix.
On the back end, the Mammoth re-signed goaltenders Tyler Carlson and Nate Faccin, along with free agent Ethan Woods to battle for the backup spot behind Ward. Captain Robert Hope was also signed for another two years. Colorado then bolstered their already robust defense by signing several big bodies, including Nate Wade, Bryce Tolmie, and surprisingly, future Hall-of-Famer Paul Dawson. Tolmie’s game has steadily improved since his last NLL stint with the New York Riptide, including winning Most Outstanding Defenseman at this year’s Aleš Hřebeský Memorial Tournament in Prague, Czech Republic. Dawson provides proven leadership and championship mentality, while Wade brings a level of enforcement the Mammoth have not seen in quite a number of years.
The transition game should thrive with Cupido returning to complement Jordan Gilles, Anthony Joaquim, and Evan Downey. Additionally, Tim Edwards continues his upward trend at the X, having posted the fourth-highest faceoff wins and third-highest win percentage last season. Draft picks Owen Down and Sean Kriwokon will compete for roster spots, and the Mammoth have a wild card: they still hold the rights to another imposing defender in Matt Dunn, who spent last season on the Protected Player list. No matter how the roster shapes up next month, all signs point to another deep run for the burgundy, black, and white in 2024.
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“Muffler” Mike Kostiuk was formally introduced to box lacrosse when he attended a New England Black Wolves game on a whim in 2016. Instantly hooked, he has since become an avid follower of the National Lacrosse League. Following the postponement of the 2019-2020 NLL season, he was offered the chance to share his wealth of statistical knowledge and unique insights with the lacrosse community at large. He cheerfully accepted, and currently serves as Edge of Philly’s correspondent for both the Albany FireWolves and New York Riptide.