Di Miller, NLL Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©
On Sunday January 6, 2019, the Colorado Mammoth (0-2) would host their Western Division rivals, the Calgary Roughnecks (3-1) for the rescheduled game from December 1, 2018 when the NLL and the PLPA were still in CBA negotiations. The 11,378 fans were pumped and ready to see their Mammoth open 2019; get the first win of the season; and see some great lacrosse. This was the 100th career game for Team Captain Defenseman Danny Coates who sat out the 2017-18 season with an injury. Unfortunately for the Colorado fans, the Mammoth performance was less than stellar and they would come away with their second loss of the season. Final Score: Calgary 11—Colorado 8.
Since 2003, the Mammoth win-loss record against the Roughnecks is 23-20. The teams have met 43 times; 19 games have been decided by one point; 10 of those have been decided in overtime; and the Mammoth have beaten the Roughnecks in every overtime decision but one. During the 2017-18 regular season Colorado was victorious in two of three games, one on the road and one at home.
The scoreboard certainly did not tell the tale of the game with lopsided statistics for the victor. Calgary would only win six of 23 face offs as opposed to Colorado’s 17 for 23; and the Mammoth would lead in shots on goal 49-39 over Calgary.
The offense on both sides looked disheveled for the first quarter with Calgary scoring twice in the first both from Rhys Duch (4G, 2A) at 5:24 as he came across the front of the crease, went right to left on Dillon Ward catching the inside corner glove side. Mammoth defenseman Taylor Stuart (1G) would score his lone goal of the game unassisted at 7:55 as Jeremy Noble set the pick allowing Stuart to pump fake scoring on Christian Del Bianco tying the game. Duch would do it again at 9:37 scoring through the screen top shelf (assist Dane Dobbie and Riley Loewen). With two penalties on Calgary at 13:39 (holding stick) and 14:09 (illegal cross check), the Mammoth had the chance to tie the game with a five on three man-up situation. But the Riggers defense was invincible and they kept the Mammoth at bay not allowing them any quality shots on goal while Del Bianco protected the net blocking shot after shot. After 15 of very little offense, sloppy shots and shots off the teams would head to the break with Calgary leading 2-1.
Colorado’s would take the five on three into the second with 39 seconds left on the first penalty and still couldn’t find twine. Calgary held strong though the remaining 60 seconds on the second penalty denying the Mammoth a golden opportunity. Colorado would outscore the Roughnecks 4-3 in the second giving the fans a treat and attempted to take that momentum into the locker room. 5:34 would tick off the clock before the first point went up in the frame. Eli McLaughlin would tie the game 2-2 off a pass from Noble cross crease hitting Del Bianco glove side at 5:34. But the celebration would not last as the Mammoth would go man down for the second time in the quarter and Calgary would capitalize. Joey Cupido would be nailed for holding allowing Chris Boushy (1G, 2A) to score on the power-play hitting the five-hole on Ward (assist Dan Taylor and Loewen) at 7:16. Colorado found a bit of momentum as forward Ryan Lee (1G, 1A) would tie the game with an unbelievable goal as he split the defenders getting Del Bianco to go left hitting the right post as the ball ricocheted around the cage at 8:06. Ryan Benesch (2G, 1A) would nail the go ahead goal on the front door as he faked right then left glove side giving the Mammoth their only lead of the game at 8:24. Just as quick as Colorado got their game, the Roughnecks had the first of several beautiful goals. Ryan Martel with the over the shoulder pass hit Dan Taylor (2G, 2A) coming across the crease faking right then left on Ward at 10:02 tying the game a four apiece. Del Bianco would send an outlet pass downfield to Duch on the break faking left, then right skipping it past Ward glove side giving him the hat-trick at 12:48. The Mammoth would answer right back with the breakaway pass from Cupido to Benesch to tie the game at five. With 34.9 on the clock, Chad Cummings would head to the box for a two minute slashing call giving the Mammoth another opportunity for a man-up goal for the second time to close out the frame. Colorado would lead again in SOG 24-20. Score at the end of two: Calgary 5—Colorado 5.
Calgary would start off the third with back-to-back goals. Loewen (1G, 2A) would get the cross field pass on the door step faking right then left at 1:55; and Boushy would hit Martel (1G, 1A) as he dove across the crease firing a behind-the-back shot on Ward which was a thing of beauty at 2:27 putting Calgary up 7-5. Colorado would score their first of two as Stephen Keogh
would get his first of the season at 4:52 with a nice shot through the screen faking out Del Bianco through the five hole following it up with his signature “picking up the basket” celebration. But just as quickly as the celebration started, it only took 20 seconds for the Riggers to take the wind out of the sails of the Mammoth. Boushy sent a pass to Duch coming from behind the crease glove side on Ward and found a way to squeeze the shot in between the pipes and the “Wall” Ward at 5:12 putting Calgary up 8-6. Chris Wardle would come back for Colorado notching his first of the season as he split the defenders and dove towards the cage as the ball crossed the plane sending both himself and Del Bianco to the carpet at 8:56. But again, just as quickly as the Mammoth got to within one, Calgary would strike back. Zach Currier on the breakaway would blow down the field and from the outside hit Ward as he came across right shooting left again catching Ward off guard. Del Bianco was like a Mack truck in between the pipes as he fought off shot after shot and the Mammoth could not find a way to move the rig. The Roughnecks would close out the frame with the lead: 9-7.
The fourth was all defense and the fans would see the final 15 a mirror of the first with Calgary outscoring Colorado 2-1. Dan Taylor would get his second on the night after almost five and a half minutes of scoreless lacrosse. Another crease dive as he blew it past Ward at 5:18. Colorado continued to play sloppy lacrosse; with high and wide shots on goal; missed passes and numerous turnovers. Calgary found a way to overcome the obstacles and issues early enough in the contest. The Mammoth didn’t find their groove until the final seven and it was too late.
Brad Self would get his 100th career goal, unassisted as he tip toed down the field and sent a soft shot over the left shoulder of Del Bianco at 8:08. In a last ditch effort, Colorado would pull Ward in favor of the extra attacker, but a costly turnover allowed the Riggers to put the final point on the frame with an empty-netter by Shane Simpson (assist Currier) with 45.3 seconds on the clock. With less than 45 seconds in the game, the Mammoth attack fired bullet after bullet on Del Bianco and amazingly he stopped them all. Final Score: Roughnecks 11—Mammoth 8.
The rivalry continues as the two teams will meet again twice more this season, again here in Denver for another Sunday afternoon contest on January 20; and the final time during the regular season in Calgary on Saturday March 16.
Calgary—39 SOG; 21 SOFF; 58 LB; 6-23 FO; PPG 1-2 Calgary is tied for fourth in the league in power play opportunities at 45.83% (11-24) while allowing six PPGA.
Colorado—49 SOG; 24 SOFF; 69 LF; 17-23 FO; PPG 0-3. Colorado is ninth in the league in power play opportunities .20% (1-5) while allowing three PPGA.
The Calgary Roughnecks (3-1) head home and will host the New England Black Wolves (1-1) on Saturday January 12, game time 9:00 EST.
Colorado (0-2) will host the Toronto Rock (2-1) for their third home game at the Pepsi Center in Downtown Denver also on Saturday January 12, game time 9:00 EST.
Di Miller, NLL Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©