Mammoth Defense Sparks Comeback 1/5/20

Logos Property of National League Lacrosse

Ron Schell, Correspondent Vancouver Warriors
Lacrosse is Awesome©

Featured Image Photo Credit: Di Miller

When the Vancouver Warriors (1-3) arrived at the Pepsi Center on Saturday night January 4, 2020 to meet the (3-1) Mammoth, they had in hand a well-developed game plan. The Warriors were familiar with their West Division rival. Last year, it was the Mammoth who destroyed any chance that the Warriors had at making the playoffs. The success of this season would have to begin with beating Colorado at home. The goal then would be to win tonight, even up the season record and beat them again next time at Rogers Place. Final Score:  Colorado 13—Vancouver 9.

The Warriors opened the game on fire. They came out aggressive and driven. The offence, set up wider and deeper than usual, was continuously moving. Keegan Bal opened the scoring, catching Dillon Ward off his mark and Jordan McBride replied 38 seconds later with an amazing athletic dip and dunk power move. The offensive plan, getting the acrobatic Ward moving from side to side and off-balance, immediately put Vancouver in the lead. The third Vancouver goal was fired from outside by Logan Schuss and McBride scored his second with a power move from the top of the crease. The Mammoth coach called a time out to gather his troops.

At 9:24 of the first quarter, this amazing Vancouver plan was working. The offence looked like a well-oiled machine firing on all cylinders. Having watched all three previous games this season, my heart said to keep this onslaught coming. This Colorado goalie, who is certainly an all-star, was often the only difference between Vancouver winning. My brain was thinking otherwise, it wondered when the tide would turn.

Mammoth coach, Pat Coyle, put the blame on himself, explaining that he hadn’t prepared his team for the match. He wisely reminded the strong defensive team to step up and get back into the game. The offence wasn’t clicking; they were being aggressively kept outside by the tough Vancouver defence. The heart of the Colorado offence, Eli McLaughlin, had been absent from the roster for the last two games. He was back but miscommunication and rust slowed their offensive threat.

The turnaround happened with a huge hit by Colorado’s Jordan Gilles. The Mammoth defence picked up their game and began to dominate gaining loose balls. Colorado broke open the scoring when rookie Will Malcolm blasted an outside shot past Penney. The result was an awakened crowd at the “Loud” House. The crowd exploded again only 14 seconds later with Eli McLaughlin scoring his first goal of the season. The Mammoth appeared to be taking control when Vancouver’s captain Matt Beers scored a transition goal with just 30 seconds remaining in the first. Had he stopped the bleeding?

An important move by the Warriors this season was to bring back face-off specialist Bobby Snider. His veteran experience makes watching face offs exciting without automatically giving away possession. Schuss scored the Warriors sixth goal cutting across with a no look shot. Mammoth goalie was replaced momentarily. This coaching move sent a message to his team and the response was validated. Ward was sent back in net.

The turnaround, from a defensive team, began with the defence. Dan Coates scored the third goal in transition.  Next, on a Vancouver power play Joey Cupido took a long direct downfield pass from the goalie Ward and buried the short-handed goal. Gilles scored Colorado’s sixth goal with a perfect Cupido breakaway pass. The three quick, fierce and dominating goals came from speed, hard work and heart. At the half, the score stood 6-5 Vancouver.

Bal scored with an incredible toe drag move and Chris Wardle scored while moving and firing across the front of the net. Malcolm brought Colorado even, at 7-7, with a slick back door move. As the game moved on, the crowd was provided with close checking, hard battles for face-offs and clashes for loose balls. Both Ward and Penney made spectacular saves and kept the game close. “Lightning” Cupido scored his second short-handed goal bringing the crowd to their feet. Schuss then scored his third goal on a Vancouver power play. The third quarter ended with the score tied at 8. At this point, it appeared to be anyone’s game.

To begin the final quarter, Ryan Lee put Colorado in the lead at 9-8. McLaughlin scored a 10th goal with a wicked outside shot. Vancouver responded with Mitch Jones scoring on a power play. The final three goals were scored by Colorado by Jeff Wittig; Cupido with his third; and Jacob Ruest. It seemed that the plan that worked so well for Vancouver in the beginning, eventually was met by a veteran goalie that seemed to regain his composure. The Mammoth made both key offensive and defensive adjustments. Vancouver seemed to run out of steam at the end of the fourth quarter in this Mile High City.  Final Score:  Colorado 13—Vancouver 9.

Overall, this game was filled with many ebbs and flows. Vancouver dominated early. Colorado fought its way back into the game with key defensive plays. Gradually, the Mammoth and Warriors battled evenly back and forth. The game finally was taken over by Colorado’s offence. The best part of this loss for Vancouver, and its fans, is that they’ll be able to enjoy a rematch back at home at Rogers Place on January 17th. Perhaps, a new plan will be prepared.

NEXT UP:

The Vancouver Warriors (1-3) head east to face the red hot Philadelphia Wings (2-1) on Friday January 10, game time 7:00 p.m. EST.

The Colorado Mammoth (3-1) head to Nova Scotia to face the Halifax Thunderbirds (3-0) on Saturday January 11, game time 6:00 p.m. EST.  Will the Mammoth be the first team to give the Thunderbirds their first loss? Or will Halifax continue on their red hot run.

Ron Schell, Correspondent Vancouver Warriors
Lacrosse is Awesome©

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