Adam Jones has received a crash course in the unpredictability of professional sports this season.
Jones is in his second season with the Colorado Mammoth, who will host the Buffalo Bandits in Denver tonight (9 p.m., nll.com, Radio 550 AM). The former Canisius College lacrosse standout had a fabulous rookie season that featured plenty of personal and team success. But in 2013, the Mammoth have had some difficult times.
After a 2-2 start, Colorado had a five-game losing streak that sent it to the bottom of the National Lacrosse League standings. That was quite a change from last year, when the Mammoth went 11-5. It enters tonight’s game at 3-7.
“No matter what game you are watching, either team can win,” he said. “That’s good for the league. The fans aren’t going to see one team dominate. But you have to play your best game. You just can’t expect to win.”
When Colorado came into the First Niagara Center last week to play the Bandits, Jones tried to make sure that his side had a little fan support. He set up a cheering section in one end of the 300 level.
“I had a lot of family there,” Jones said. “I had a group of 16 buddies who came down to watch. So with my parents, my family and a bunch of people there, it was pretty cool.
“They told me they’d be as obnoxious as possible,” he added with a laugh.
Jones’ personal cheering section had plenty to crow about. The Mammoth scored the final eight goals to pull out a stunning 12-6 victory over Buffalo.
“It was a good relief,” he said about the win. “If we had lost, it was going to be an ever bigger hole to dig out of. I think our team played well, especially coming off a back-to-back game. It was a short turnaround from the night before, so maybe we were a little more in the game.”
Jones scored two of Colorado’s goals in the game. That improved his season total to 20, which entering the weekend put him in a tie for 11th in the league. It looks as if he can surpass last season’s total of 29, when he named the NLL’s Rookie of the Year. In other words, there’s no sign of a sophomore jinx.
“I think Adam is even better this year than last year,” Colorado coach Bob Hamley said. “The knee injury is way past him. He still wasn’t 100 percent last year. He did it on guts and excitement. He’s over that knee injury and back to the form he knew in junior and college. He’s doing a lot of the little things, setting screens and picks.”
The actual game last week was somewhat upstaged by a couple of incidents, including a 10-man brawl, in the final seconds. Such clashes have become somewhat rare in lacrosse in the past few years.
“I had a front row seat for it,” Jones said. “It was good to see us handle ourselves there. The game ended in a positive note. I didn’t expect all five of our guys to be involved, but I think we did well.
“I’ve been involved in a lot of games where that happened. In outdoor lacrosse, you don’t see that. But I’ve been part of a lot of line brawls in Junior A, Junior B. ... It’s good to see teammates sticking up for each other.”
Under the circumstances, it’s odd that teams from different divisions would happen to play each other in back-to-back weeks. It’s difficult to guess if the effects of last week’s hard feelings will carry over into tonight’s game.
It’s also difficult to guess what sort of lineups will be used. Eight players from the game have received suspensions.
However, they can be appealed and thus delayed. Two of the players – Jim Purves and Jon Sullivan – were traded before the deadline this past week.
Meanwhile, Bandits forward Luke Wiles was dropped to the practice squad on Friday, while Kevin Brownell and Hayden Smith were added to the active roster.
And just to add another element to tonight’s game, the Mammoth acquired former league MVP Casey Powell from Rochester for Sullivan and a draft choice on Monday. Powell adds an offensive threat to the Mammoth lineup, although that will cause some adjustment by the other offensive players.
“It brings something different to the game,” Jones said. “It will spice it up and make us play a slightly different style. That’s what lacrosse is all about, adapting to who you are playing with. ... We’ve got to make sure he’ll get open.”
The NLL announced Friday that it would expand its schedule from 16 games to 18 next year.