Di Miller, Correspondent Colorado Mammoth
Lacrosse is Awesome©
The Colorado Mammoth, the No. 4 Seed in the West, headed to Saskatchewan to face the Rush, the No. 1 Seed for the First Round of the Western Division Semi-Finals. The Rush had 11,358 fans on hand to watch their team head to Round Two. Colorado had just come off an embarrassing loss to the Rush in the last weekend of the regular season by the score of 13-8 after being down 11-1 at the end of the first half. Heading into the contest, Saskatchewan was number one in the league in power-play opportunities while Colorado sat in sixth on penalty kills. The Mammoth have not defeated the Rush in a playoff game in their last two meetings, however tonight would be different as Colorado would have the upset of the year defeating the Rush in overtime. Final Score OT: Colorado 11—Saskatchewan 10.
The Rush would start it off with Jeff Shattler (2G, 3A) getting his 35th of the year with a nice shot through the screen as he split the defenders to score far side low at the 6:05 mark. It took only 15 seconds for Colorado to tie it up off the face off win by Tim Edwards allowing Jacob Ruest (3G, 2A) to score his 15th of the year in transition with a low shot far side to find the back of the net for a quick goal to tie the game. The Mammoth would rattle off two more in the next two and half, the first from Chris Wardle (1G, 1A) in tight with a good look pick and roll; he’d take it hard to the net giving them the lead. Ryan Lee (3G, 3A) would close out the three goal run taking the pass off the pick and roll and in one motion would catch and shoot putting them up 3-1. The Rush would close out the frame off a shot from Curtis Knight (2G, 1A), with a little hesitation, he gave Dillon Ward the hard sell and faked him out hitting net short side. Ward and the Mammoth defense looked extremely strong in the first 12 minutes catching the Rush offense off guard. At the end of one, shots on goal were tied at 12 apiece. Score at the end of one: Mammoth 3—Rush 2.
Saskatchewan would win the second outscoring Colorado 2-1. Mark Matthews would get it going with an overhand crank shot over the head of Cupido and through the legs of Ward to tie it up at three. Jeremy Noble would score the lone goal for the Mammoth 26 seconds later with a quick stick shot getting Evan Kirk to go low early, he’d send it far side top corner again going ahead 4-3. The fans would see 10 minutes of scoreless lacrosse, and stellar defense until the Rush broke the silence on a short-handed goal by Robert Church at 12:22. This goal had a bit of trickery, as a shot went behind the net drawing Ward out of the cage, McIntosh got the loose ball, passed to Church who was wide open in front of the crease tying the game at four apiece. There would be eight different goal scorers in the first half; and shots on goal still favored Colorado 23-22. Score at the end of two: Colorado 4—Saskatchewan 4.
It was all Saskatchewan in the third as they would shut out the Mammoth 3-0. McIntosh would start it off with a sleeper play over the shoulder of Ward; he was the last man off the bench with 12 seconds on the shot clock and used the screen to shoot through the defenders hip high far side. Shots on goal had turned to the favor of the Rush at 36-29 (the Rush were 8-3 when they outshoot their opponents). Again, the fans sat through nine seconds of scoreless lacrosse as the net-minders made spectacular save after save. Until the 11:34 mark when Ward made a beautiful save on a hard shot pulling him to the left side, he’d leave the right side wide open and Knight (unassisted) would get a second chance from behind the net with a wraparound highlight reel goal to put them up by two. On the man up situation, Church got the quick stick goal on the inside for the quick finish giving him both a short-handed and power-play goal in the game. The Rush had taken the lead in shots on goal outshooting the Mammoth 38-28 holding Colorado to five SOG in the third. Score at the end of three: Rush 7—Mammoth 4.
Fifteen minutes left in the season for the loser and another 60 for the victor. Colorado would start it off at the 13:57 mark, just before the power went out with Eli McLaughlin (2G, 3A) getting the first of two on the night. Shattler would score in transition off a long bomb from Chris Corbeil and stayed out of the crease as he dove in front of the net to score with a quick motion catch and shoot, putting them back up by three 8-5. The Mammoth got that spark and went on a four-goal run with Ruest starting and ending the run. His first using the defenders as a screen, he sent a skipper far side top corner; Lee slipped passed his defender, rushed the crease and hit top corner; and McLaughlin would tie it up at 8 apiece getting around Brett Mydske on the outside with the help of Corey Vitarelli setting the pick allowing McLaughlin to get open. Ruest would notch his hat-trick in tight when he took it strong to the cage, went airborne hitting five-hole on Kirk for the lead. But once more, Saskatchewan would tie it up with McIntosh alone he made the hard sell on Ward and with the dip and dunk got Ward falling into the net for the open shot to tie it up at nine. A couple minutes ticked off the timer before the tie was broken with the backhander down low off a well-executed pick and roll, Lee would go right and shoot left with the crease dive goal (hat-trick) and another Mammoth lead 10-9. This would be the first time this season that Colorado would have a double digit lead against the Rush. With just under 60 seconds in regulation, McIntosh would score a strange goal. Shattler would make the shot on goal, Ward would make the save; Shattler got out of the crease and Ward couldn’t control the ball as it was loose in the crease, McIntosh scooped the loose ball to dunk it in past Ward with 41.2 seconds left and yet another tie. Would the Rush do what they did in the last meeting and get that final goal? Colorado would win the ensuing face-off with 23.3 seconds left and called a time out. The ball would go up and down the field and with .09 seconds the ball went into the Mammoth bench. Each side would let the time tick off in favor of over-time. Shots on goal at the end of regulation: Saskatchewan 50—Colorado 40. Score at the end of regulation: Colorado 10—Saskatchewan 10.
Heading into overtime, the battle at the face-off dot was brutal and took 39 seconds with the Rush winning the war. Saskatchewan would see four shots on goal, with Colorado having one and that one was huge. Joey Cupido gets the turnover on the far end, and on the breakaway, headed down the field with the Rush in chase and sent the shot past Kirk for the win. Final Score: Mammoth 11—Rush 10.
Colorado pulls off the upset and will head into Round Two for the Western Division Finals and face either the No. 2 Seed San Diego Seals or the No. 3 Seed Calgary Roughnecks. The Mammoth have had a rough time with San Diego during the regular season going 0-3 against the Seals; and they haven’t fared well against the Roughnecks in the playoffs and haven’t won a playoff game against them since 2006 when they won the Champions Cup. They are 0-7 in the postseason against Calgary since that championship season.
The Mammoth have some great momentum to take them into next weekend’s playoff contest, but will history get the best of them?
Colorado heads to San Diego…or they head to Calgary next weekend for the Western Division Finals. Game time TBD.
Di Miller, Correspondent Colorado Mammoth
Lacrosse is Awesome©