Di Miller, Correspondent Colorado Mammoth
Lacrosse is Awesome©
Featured Image Photo Credit: Di Miller
On Saturday February 8, the Colorado Mammoth (4-6) headed to Saskatoon to face their West Division rivals the Saskatchewan Rush (4-2) in front of 11,982 faithful Rush fans. This game would determine the winner of the series and solidify first place in the division. It was 80’s Night at Sasktel Centre and the fans were ready to see some great lacrosse. What they got to see was some of the best net-minding of what some would say could very well be the best this season and possibly all year. Both Dillon Ward and Evan Kirk were spot on, both making some crazy saves throughout the contest and denying numerous scoring opportunities on both ends of the floor. If not for that, the score would have been in the high double digits. The Rush had not won a game at home this season; and the Mammoth were coming off a two-game losing streak so this game was extremely important for both teams. But in the end, the Rush would hold on with their fourth quarter surge and would win the contest and the series 2-1. Final Score: Rush 9—Mammoth 7.
The Mammoth would win the opening draw and take the ball down the floor making several attempts to put the ball into the back of the net. At the buzzer, with Chris Corbeil all over him, Jacob Ruest (1g, 1a) would swim dodge and find an opening to hit far side on a stunned Evan Kirk at the 33 second mark to get Colorado on the board first. The Rush would fire back on a transition goal with Corbeil (1g) all alone and he’d fire one home low stick side on Dillon Ward for the equalizer 6:47 in. It took almost four minutes before another point would go up on the board. Mammoth Forward Chris Wardle (1g, 1a) found the open lane and with the side arm release went low to high off the screen and fired one at Kirk. He got a piece of it, but it trickled in for the go-ahead goal with 4:41 left on the ticker. Neither net-minder allowed another goal in the frame. Shots on goal favored the Rush 12-10; they also led in loose balls 22-12. In the face-off category the teams were tied 2-4; and Colorado held the lead in saves 11-8. Score at the end of one: Mammoth 2—Rush 1.
The second quarter got off to a slow start with the first goal coming at the 4:59 mark. The Rush would start it off and would outscore the Mammoth 3-1. Jeff Shattler (2g) would notch the equalizer when he slipped one through the five-hole on Ward right after the Mammoth penalty had expired and the score was even at twos. Once again, goals were at a premium but Saskatchewan would hit next. Jeff Cornwall (1g) coming out of the box somehow caught up to the loosie; and with the scoop and shoot dunked it stick side on the door step for their first lead of the game 3-2 at the 8:51 mark. Colorado would go on their first man up and would score the only power-play goal in the contest. Eli McLaughlin (3g, 2a) with the overhand shot would hit net far side for the equalizer at 9:43 for his 12th goal of the season tying the game 3-3. For the next five minutes neither offense could penetrate the defensive barriers that the net-minders had put up. Both Ward and Kirk were making uncanny saves. It wasn’t until there was only 18 seconds left in the half that Ryan Keenan (2g) with two seconds left on the shot clock would find the hole, stick it high and go airborne on Ward for the go ahead goal just before the half. On the ensuing face-off Jeremy Thompson would be called for a penalty when the ball got stuck in his stick giving the Mammoth the final possession. Once again the Mammoth would get the last possession before the end of the half. They set up the perfect play but Kirk denied the Mammoth and the score held. At the end of the first half Dillon Ward had an astounding .862 Sv%; and Evan Kirk had a .824 Sv%. Shots on goal still favored the Rush 29-17; the Rush still led in loose balls 49-26; they also led in face-offs 5-9. The Mammoth led in saves 25-14. Score at the end of two: Rush 4—Mammoth 3.
The Rush would score first in the third and would score only once. At 1:53 in, Ben McIntosh (2g, 2a) got Ward to dip and found the top corner on a snipe shot under the post for the first two goal lead by either team 5-3 Rush. Once again the net-minders stood tall not allowing a goal for almost five minutes and it would be Colorado to break the silence. Ryan Lee notched his 17th on the season coming off the pick, he used the screen and fired it short side cutting the lead to one at the 6:43 mark. It took another six minutes of scoreless lacrosse and a track meet of sorts before the Mammoth would score the final goal in the frame. On a Rush turnover, Cornwall missed the pass and Josh Sullivan grabbed the loose ball flipped it to Joey Cupido (1g) on the breakaway and he fired it over the shoulder of Kirk for the equalizer with 2:23 left on the clock. Once again, the Rush led in shots on goal 39-27; and loose balls 68-50. The Mammoth took the lead in face-offs 7-13; and still held the lead in saves 10-8. Score at the end of three: Mammoth 5—Rush 5.
With the final 15 to go, it was still anyone’s game. Whoever scored most and last would win the contest and that’s exactly what happened. Matt Hossack (1g), the “Birthday Boy” was celebrating his 26th birthday today and would score his first goal of the 2019-20 season at the 2:33 mark in stellar fashion. Mark Messenger would send the cross field pass to Hossack in transition and he was all alone and fired it short side for the go ahead goal. The teams would score twice more in the next 15 seconds. In a defensive breakdown by the Rush, Eli McLaughlin was left wide open in the middle of the floor and off the flip toss from Will Malcolm, came right down Main Street and went up and over the shoulder of Kirk to tie it back up at 3:06. The Rush answered back 15 seconds later with Keenan on the corkscrew short-side off the assist from Mark Matthews (his first in the game) when they got Ward to move left to right for the opening at 3:21 and once again Saskatchewan took the lead 7-6. A couple minutes later Shattler in tight would score five-hole on Ward at 5:46 giving them a two goal lead once more. With 5:52 left in the game, McLaughlin would score a highlight reel goal. Off the feed from Dylan Kinnear, McLaughlin coming across in front of the crease, with a no look behind-the-back shot, scored on a sick bounce shot that hit top corner far side to get Colorado within one. It took 50 seconds for the final point to go on the board and it would come from Rush Forward McIntosh. He backed his way in and with inside jelly roll hit net hip high far side with 5:02 remaining in the contest. Neither team could score in the last five minutes as the track meet ensued with each team firing on cage on the breakaways; and the net-minders making stellar saves. Final Score: Rush 9—Mammoth 7.
In the contest, the scoring chances were through the roof but both goal tenders were making some crazy saves. If it hadn’t been for that, the score on both sides of the board would have been in the double digits. The Rush have the lowest scoring offense in the league and tonight’s contest showed that they are still having problems especially when Mark Matthews was kept out of the net and only put up two assists on the night. On the other end, the Mammoth offensive end needs to find a way to put points on the board as well. Dillon Ward has been absolutely amazing in between the pipes, but when your offense only puts up a total of 14 goals in two weeks, something has got to give.
The Rush have the better part of the season ahead of them so they have time to get ahead of the rest of the division. But the Mammoth have already played the first half of the season and so they don’t have that luxury and now every game is key as the season winds down.
Colorado: 40 SOG; 16 SOFF; 66 LB; 9-20 FO; 1-2 PP; 8 PIM
Saskatchewan: 54 SOG; 28 SOFF; 85 LB; 11-20 FO; 0-4 PP; 4 PIM
Colorado Dillon Ward: 54 SOG; 45 Saves; 9 GA; .833 Sv%
Saskatchewan Evan Kirk: 40 SOG: 33 Saves; 7 GA; .825 Sv%
The Colorado Mammoth (4-6) will host the San Diego Seals (3-5) at the Pepsi Center on Saturday February 15, game time 9:30 p.m. EST. The Mammoth have not defeated the Seals since they came into the league and in each of the contests, Dillon Ward has been replaced in the game. If Ward can put together the type of game he had against the Rush and his offense can produce, you may see Colorado get their first “W” against San Diego.
The Saskatchewan Rush (4-2) will head east to face the Halifax Thunderbirds (6-1) on Saturday February 15, game time 6:00 p.m. EST. Both teams are currently sitting in first place in their division. However, if Buffalo (6-1) can defeat Toronto (4-2) on Sunday February 9, they will move into first place in the North Division.
Di Miller, Correspondent Colorado Mammoth
Lacrosse is Awesome©