Di Miller, Colorado Mammoth Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©
Featured Image Photo Credit: Michael Hetzel
The Colorado Mammoth (0-1) headed to New York to face the Buffalo Bandits (1-0) for Game One of the NLL Championship Series. The 14,274 Bandits fans would be treated to a non-stop back and forth high scoring game where their team came out on top in the end. Heading into the contest, Eli McLaughlin was sitting atop the league in points with 33, first in goals with 17, and second in assists with 16. Connor Robinson and Josh Byrne were tied for second in points with 23, while Robinson was in second in goals with 12 and Byrne was in third with assists at 15. On the net-minder side, Dillon Ward was sitting first in the league in saves with 154. Matt Vinc and Dillon Ward were tied with wins at 3 apiece. Matt Vinc would also become the first goalie in league history to play 2,000 career post season minutes as the clock hit zero at the end of the first quarter. The teams were the Best of the Best in the league and heading into the game everyone knew it wouldn’t be an easy task for either squad. There would be a total of seven hat-tricks in the contest and the game would be tied three times in the fourth. But in the end, a turnover in the last 60 seconds would turn out to be the demise of Colorado as Ian Mackay would feed to Nick Weiss for the last goal of the game. Final Score: Bandits 15—Mammoth 14.
The game started off quickly with the Colorado Mammoth drawing first blood 55 seconds in. Tyson Gibson (2a) set the pick which allowed Brett McIntyre (3g, 2a) to fire a low-to-low shot inside pipe to get things going 1-0. The Buffalo Bandits Josh Byrne (3g, 4a) dodged his defender, and from close up jumped and with the twister shot put one in top corner for the equalizer 1-1 at 2:14. Neither team could put any offense together for the next five and change until the Bandits went man up. Byrne fed to Dhane Smith (3g, 4a) and with the quick stick release he hit far side for a power-play tally with 7:31 left in the first 2-1 Buffalo. The scoring stalled once again before the Bandits would put up two quick markers. Connor Fields (1g, 2a) used a BTB shot and put it through the wickets of Ward with 48.3 left in the first 3-1. On the ensuing draw, Kyle Buchanan (3a) dished the ball to Smith and from the restraining line, he fired a skip shot on the inside pipe to close out the frame with 43.9 on the ticker. At the end of the first, Matt Vinc would become the first goal tender in NLL history to play 2,000 career post season minutes. First quarter stats: SOG—Colorado 11 Buffalo 12; Saves—Colorado 8 Buffalo 10; Face-offs Colorado 3-6 Buffalo 3-6. Score at the end of one: Bandits 4—Mammoth 1.
The Bandits would open up the scoring in the second. Chase Fraser (1g, 1a) sent a low-to-low shot under the glove of Ward at the 1:43 mark increasing the lead to 5-1. Connor Robinson (3g, 6a) would finally halt the run when he unloaded a long range shot over the top at 2:27 and it was 5-2 still in favor of Buffalo. Once again, we’d see the offenses struggle while both Ward and Vinc were blocking the shots they were faced with. It took over five minutes before the Mammoth would notch another. It started off with Joey Cupido causing the turnover on the other end of the floor. Zed Williams (4g, 4a) would get the feed used his defender as a screen and with the step-down shot hit far pipe at the 7:19 mark closing the gap getting them to within two 5-3. But it only took 23 seconds before Tehoka Nanticoke (5g, 2a) got Ward to drop to one knee, and he fired a twister shot over the right shoulder 6-3 Bandits. The scoring would go non-stop for the remainder of the frame. Eli McLaughlin (3g, 5a) would get the cross-field pass, dive across the crease and dunk it far side with 6:52 left 6-4. Smith would notch his hat-trick on the run with a pump fake and fired it far side with 6:10 left 7-4 Bandits. Nanticoke answered again off the draw and fired it right down the pipe with 5:56 left and it was 8-4 Bandits. The Mammoth would go on a run of their own. Williams with the shot clock winding down, spin, shoot and score down low at 5:15 and it was 8-5. Buffalo would get hit with their first penalty of the game; a holding call with 4:58 left in the half. It took only nine seconds for Colorado to score. Robinson set the pick, and McLaughlin right out in front fired it through traffic glove side 8-6 for a power-play tally for the Mammoth. They’d score another only 30 seconds later off a quick stick by McIntyre on the top corner at 4:19 and it was 8-7. But the Bandits weren’t done yet as Nanticoke would notch his hat-trick off a fluke of a goal. He’d fire a shot that went off the glass, it hit the back of Ward and it rolled into the net giving him a hat-trick with 3:11 left in the half 9-7 Buffalo. With a little over two minutes in the half, Robinson would unload and squeak it in five-hole on Vinc 9-8 still in favor of Buffalo. There was one more “almost” goal in the second. Connor Fields was all alone and in tight faked far side high and went near side low. It looked like the ball snuck past Ward with 1:06 in the second. Mammoth Bench Boss Pat Coyle through the challenge flag. After review, it was obvious that the ball had not rolled over the plane of the goal therefore, the call on the floor was overturned keeping the game a one-goal game heading into the half. Second quarter stats: SOG—Colorado 13 Buffalo 12; Saves—Colorado 7 Buffalo 6; Face-offs Colorado 6-13 Buffalo 7-13. Score at the end of two: Bandits 9—Mammoth 8.
The third quarter would start out with Nanticoke notching back-to-back goals for Buffalo. He’d score the first at 4:30 on the run, come around the crease, jump and with a nice twister shot dunk it over the right shoulder 10-8. He’d score again at 5:30 fighting off the check, past his defenders, throw multiple fakes and on the doorstep bury it low stick side 11-8. Just like the first two quarters, the scoring would stall, this time for almost six minutes. With 4:48 left in the third, McLaughlin was left wide open in tight and on the front door he dunked it past Vinc 11-9. But Buffalo would answer back with a laser BTB shot from Byrne out in front through traffic he caught Ward off guard with 3:26 left and the lead was back to three 12-9. However, Colorado would tally the final two in the closing minutes. McIntyre with 2:59 in the frame, faked left and went right catching the far pipe for his first career NLL hat-trick in his rookie season 12-10 Bandits. The last point came off the feed from Gibson who fed the ball to Chris Wardle (1g, 3a) who was all alone in tight, he faked left and brought it back right closing the gap to one with 1:53 in the third. Third quarter stats: SOG—Colorado 16 Buffalo 18; Saves—Colorado 15 Buffalo 13; Face-offs Colorado 2-7 Buffalo 5-7. Score at the end of three: Bandits 12—Mammoth 11.
With 15 to go, it was anyone’s game at this point. Robinson would notch the equalizer with the high heat top right corner 2:19 in for the first tie of the game 12-12 since it was 1-1 at the 2:14 mark in the first. But it didn’t last as Chris Cloutier (1g, 2a) could come around the back of the net, go airborne, wrap it around far side and with the one-handed shot put it past Ward for the go-ahead tally at 5:57 and it was 13-12. It took about three minutes before Williams would tally his hat-trick. He’d fight through three defenders, spin and dunk it far side past Vinc with 6:37 in the contest and we were tied at 13’s. The score would remain unchanged for about three before Byrne with the quick stick shot from out deep would put Buffalo back up 14-13 with 3:24 to go. Once again, Colorado would fight back. Williams would come around from the back side of the cage, spin around back up on his man and fire it past Vinc with 1:57 left and it was all knotted back up 14-14. Colorado would gain possession on the ensuing draw but would turn it over. Ian MacKay would dish the ball to Nick Weiss (1g), he’d head down the floor all alone on the fast break, throw a couple of fakes and bury it stick side under the arm of Ward with 51.0 seconds on the clock 15-14 Bandits. The Mammoth would win the ensuing draw and call a time-out with 46 seconds on the clock and go with the EA. They’d lose possession with 29.8 on the ticker and the Bandits would control the ball for the remainder of the game giving them the win. Final Score: Bandits 15—Mammoth 14.
Colorado Mammoth—SOG 54; Saves 40; Face-offs 14-33; PP 1-2; Assists 25; LB 62
Buffalo Bandits—SOG 55; Saves 40; Face-offs 19-33; PP 1-3; Assists 24; LB 77
The Colorado Mammoth (0-1) return home to Denver to host the Buffalo Bandits (1-0) on Saturday June 11, 2022, game time 9:30 p.m. EST for Game Two of the NLL Championship Series. Fans in the USA can catch the game on ESPN+. Fans in Canada can see the action on TSN.ca or the TSN app.
This is a “Must Win” for the Mammoth if they want to head back to Buffalo for Game Three. If the Bandits win, they will take home their first NLL Champions Cup since 2008.
We’ll be there for the game next weekend on the floor shooting the game so watch for not only our Photo Gallery by our recap as well.
Di Miller, Colorado Mammoth Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©