Di Miller, Colorado Mammoth Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©
Featured Image Photo Credit: Mike McGinnis
On Saturday May 28, 2022, the Colorado Mammoth (2-1) would head to Pechanga Arena to face the San Diego Seals (1-2) to determine who would win the West and head to the NLL Championship Series to face the Eastern Division Champions the Buffalo Bandits (2-0) next weekend. The 7,114 Seals fans were hoping to see their team go onto win their first title. Heading into the contest, Eli McLaughlin from the Mammoth was leading the league in goals with 12, he was third in points with 21, and fifth in assists with 9. While his teammate Connor Robinson was tied for third in goals with Dane Dobbie of the Seals with 9 apiece. Dobbie was also sitting fifth in the league in points at 17. The net-minders for each team were two of the best in the league with Frank Scigliano from San Diego sitting second in saves at 115 and fourth in save percentage at .782%; while his counterpart Dillon Ward of Colorado was fourth in the league in saves at 112 and fifth in the league in save percentage at .762%. The goal keepers were stingy in the first allowing only two goals on each side while the tables turned in the second for San Diego. But the wheels fell off once more for the Seals in the second half which also happened in the last meeting of the two teams on May 13 when the Mammoth took control completely dominating the second half. Colorado would outscore San Diego 10-4 in the second half and go on to win the game and will head back to the NLL Championship Series for the first time since 2006 for a rematch against the Buffalo Bandits. Final Score: Colorado 15—San Diego 13.
The Mammoth would score first in the contest with Erik Turner (1g) in transition scoring at 3:17 and just like the first game they’d jump out to an early lead 1-0. On a delayed penalty, the Seals would go an a 6 on 5 and Zack Greer (2g) would tie it up 1-1 at 5:25. The fans would watch multiple changes in possession and a battle of the net-minders while Dillon Ward and Frank Scigliano made amazing saves for the next eight and change. It wasn’t until there was 3:42 left on the ticker before Zed Williams (2g, 3a) with a well-placed shot, fired one far side for the go ahead tally 2-1 Colorado. But it was soon erased as Greer would get in close, fake high and come down with a low shot inside to tie it back up with 2:14 left. No one was able to find the back of the net for the remainder of the first. First quarter stats: SOG—Mammoth 10 Seals 13; Saves—Mammoth 11 Seals 8. Score at the end of one: Colorado 2—San Diego 2.
The second got off to a slow start as it would take 4:51 before a point would go up on the board. Tyson Gibson (2g, 2a) got Scigliano leaning left and put a well-placed shot on the right side for a man up tally and the go-ahead marker 3-2 for Colorado. Then the Seals barrage started as they would go on their first of two three-goal runs in the frame. Jeremy Noble (5a) sent a nice BTB feed to Wes Berg (4g, 2a) at 5:15 and he got Ward moving right to left, he dropped, and Berg put it low stick side to tie it up at 3’s. It took a little over a minute and San Diego would see Casey Jackson (1g, 1a) come around the cage, dive through the crease and with a back hand shot dunk it far side at 8:28 giving them their first lead of the contest 4-3. Only 20 seconds later, Austin Staats (2g, 2a) from the left wing fired it far side and the Seals were up 5-3. Less than a minute later the Mammoth would halt the run. McLaughlin took a shot on the cage, Connor Robinson (3g, 5a) in front, got the rebound and bounced it in as Scigliano was falling down, and it went over his right shoulder at 7:41 cutting the gap 5-4. At this point, McLaughlin and Robinson were only one goal behind Curtis Dickson and Shawn Evans 2014 record for a duo scoring goals during the playoffs. With 6:18 to go, Patrick Shoemay (1g) who had not scored a regular season goal this year and was shooting 100% (4 for 4) got the ball in transition, headed down the floor on a two on one and bounced one past Ward glove side once again keeping him at a 100% shooting percentage up to that point (5 for 5). Berg was next firing one through traffic and buried it with 4:39 left and San Diego had their biggest lead on the night 7-4. Dane Dobbie (2g, 3a) would close out the second three-goal run in the quarter with a multi-fake on Ward and he dunked it near side with 3:49 in the half 8-4. But once again McLaughlin while dragging his defender towards the crease, used his twister shot and laid out across the crease at 3:21 and it was 8-5 Seals. The second quarter would come to a close with Tre Leclaire (1g, 2a) in transition faking far side and pulling it near side getting Ward leaning to increase the lead back to four with 1:14 left. Although Colorado was down at the end of two, this same scenario played out on May 13, and they would come back to win. Second quarter stats: SOG—Mammoth 10 Seals 16; Saves—Mammoth 9 Seals 7. Score at the end of two: San Diego 9—Colorado 5.
We’d see a slow start to the third and Colorado would start it off the same as they did in the second with Gibson notching a power-play tally on the give and go, he faked far side and came back five hole at 5:21. Then at 6:01 Brett McIntyre fed the ball to Robinson and somehow he caught the ball with his back to the net and while falling down with a no look shot back handed it into the net and they had closed to the gap to two 9-7. With 6:59 in the third, and three on the shot clock, McLaughlin with a step-down shot fired it down low far side 9-8. That goal combined with Robinson’s totaled 25 goals for the pair which surpassed the 2014 record of Dickson and Evans in 2014 for most goals scored by a duo during the playoffs. Ward continued standing on his head in between the pipes while the Seals offense had gone flat and unable to put together any momentum with their shots off target. The Mammoth would go onto shut out San Diego for the rest of the frame. Third quarter stats: SOG—Mammoth 14 Seals 11; Saves—Mammoth 11 Seals 11. Score at the end of three: San Diego 9—Colorado 8.
Colorado would continue their hot streak into the fourth with Robinson notching his hat-trick at 2:46 with a missile from the outside under the armpit stick side to tie it at 9 apiece. The next goal was a “Sports Center” goal and probably the best goal of the year. Joey Cupido (1g) on the break and a one-on-one headed to the cage, spun around his defender and while falling down on the doorstep with a twister BTB shot put it in past Scigliano at 3:50 for the go ahead tally and the Mammoth first lead since there was 3:42 left in the first 10-9 Colorado. McLaughlin would notch his hat-trick at 5:23, he’d snap his wrist and score on the twister shot 11-9. At that point Seals Bench Boss Patrick Merrill would pull Scigliano and put in Christopher Origlieri for a few to let him regroup. It helped a bit as Berg would score on the man up finding an opening at the 6:37 mark and their first goal in 22 minutes and 41 seconds 11-10 Mammoth. But on the ensuing face-off Tim Edwards (2a, 19-32 FO) would feed it to Jalen Chaster (1g) and he’d fly down the floor and dunk it over the shoulder of Origlieri just 7 seconds later giving the rookie his first career NLL playoff goal 12-10 Colorado. Williams would score next spinning around his defender he fired it down low and get it past the foot of Scigliano who had returned to the game with 6:34 left and it was 13-10. On the TV timeout, the Seals would be awarded with a penalty shot and Dobbie was the player chosen to shoot. He would successfully fake Ward and find a tiny opening over the right shoulder 13-11 and the arena went crazy. Staats was next up with 4:00 on the ticker. Eli Gobrecht (1g) in transition would fire it to Staats on the run and he’d go five-hole 13-12. Berg had scored what the Seals bench and the fans thought to be a goal. The officials thought otherwise and the ruling on the floor was “no goal”. Play continued and McLaughlin on the doorstep would get the backhand flip from Robinson, he faked and dunked it over the left shoulder with 3:00 on the clock. Before the ball had crossed the plane of the goal, Patrick Merrill had thrown the challenge flag on the Berg goal. It was reviewed but the evidence was inconclusive which was a good call and therefore, the McLaughlin goal stood, and it was 14-12 instead of tied at 12 apiece. The Seals would go with a 6 on 5 in the hopes to put up two more in the last minute but it didn’t pay off. Colorado got possession and as McLaughlin was heading down the floor Origlieri who has more speed than Scigliano had to head back to the net and as he was trying to get set to block the shot, McLaughlin would use his twister shot, dove through the crease and bounced it under the arm for the icing on the cake with 59.7 left 15-12 Colorado. San Diego would get more before the buzzer. Berg would flip a BTB shot down low on the inside the pipe with 45 seconds left in the season. The Mammoth would get the ensuing draw and Edwards would hold possession long enough to keep the Seals from setting up any play and it would end their season. Final Score: Colorado 15—Seals 13.
Stars of the Game:
Colorado Mammoth—Eli McLaughlin (5g, 7a)
Colorado Mammoth—Connor Robinson (3g, 5a)
San Diego Seals—Wes Berg (4g, 2a)
Colorado Mammoth—SOG 49; Saves 42; Face-offs 19-33; Assists 23; LB 57; PP 2-2
San Diego Seals—SOG 55; Saves 34; Face-offs 14-33; Assists 19; LB 71; PP 1-2
The Colorado Mammoth will head to New York to face the Buffalo Bandits at Key Bank Center on Saturday June 4, 2022, game time 7:30 p.m. EST. Fans in the USA can see the game on ESPN+. Fans in Canada can see the action on TSN.ca or the TSN app.
As we know this is the first time in 16 years that the Mammoth have been to the NLL Championship and the last time was against Buffalo in 2006 when they defeated them by the score of 16-9. At that time, it was a “one and done”. This time we will see a Best of Three Series.
The Bandits have been to the Championships three other times since then. In 2008 when they defeated the Portland Lumberjax 14-13; in 2016 when they were defeated by the Edmonton Rush in the Best of Three Series and were 0-2 in the series; and in 2019 when they were defeated by the Calgary Roughnecks also in the Best of Three Series and were also 0-2 in the series.
Colorado has the momentum having just come off a stellar win. Buffalo has had an extra week to rest. So who has the upper hand? We shall see next Saturday night.
Di Miller, Colorado Mammoth Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©