Unbelievable Game by Mammoth & Bandits Special Teams 1/6/24

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Di Miller, Colorado Mammoth Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©

Featured Image Photo Credit:  Mike Hetzel

The Colorado Mammoth (1-3) headed to Key Bank Center to face their now rivals the Buffalo Bandits (2-2) in front of 15,147 Banditland fans.  This would be the 37th meeting between the two teams with Buffalo leading the series 21-16 heading into the contest.  The Bandits hold a 13-8 win record over the Mammoth at home and tonight would be no different.  Special teams were amazing in the game with a total of 5 shorthanded goals in the second half. The Mammoth were also 1st in the league on penalty kill with the Bandits sitting 2nd on man up opportunities. Although Dillon Ward stood on his head in the first, third and fourth, Matt Vinc was just a little bit better along with the help of his offense they would take the lead in the first and even though Colorado got close in the third, Buffalo would hold on for yet another victory over Colorado.  Final Score:  Buffalo 12—Colorado 8.

The first got off to a slow start with Colorado getting a penalty shot opportunity just 4:41 in from a player interference call against Buffalo but Eli McLaughlin was unable to get the ball past Vinc.  It wouldn’t be until 7:05 into the first when one side would find twine.  Josh Byrne (3g, 4a) from out in front fired a high-to-low shot that went under the stick of Ward, and it was 1-0 Bandits.  The only other tally in the first was on the two-man game and the give-and-go when Chase Fraser (2g, 2a) fired one far side with 9.6 seconds left on the ticker for a power-play tally giving Buffalo a 2-0 lead at the end of the first.  Ward was a completely different net-minder in the first from his last performance against Vancouver.  He was seeing the ball extraordinarily well facing 16 shots while only allowing two goals.

Buffalo would dominate in the second continuing their run with another four in a row.  The teams would match for penalties two and a half in and while on the four-on-four, Fraser would pass to Dhane Smith who passed to Brad McCulley (2g, 4a) on the backdoor and his quick stick got past Ward 3-0 Bandits.   Dhane Smith would also nab his 800th career loose ball early in the second for the first milestone of the night for the Bandits.  After another missed man up opportunity by the Mammoth, Byrne came flying out of the penalty box went right down the middle, launched and dunked it over the shoulder 3:52 into the second giving them a four-goal lead.  Fraser would score his 100th career goal on the run, he fired a low-to-low quick release shot and tucked it in far post 6:06 into the second and it was 5-0.  Colorado would go man up again with 7:04 left in the half and with 48 seconds left on the power-play, Buffalo would notch their first shorthanded goal of the season.  Tehoka Nanticoke (2g) found his way to the net and with a quick catch and shoot, went high-to-low with 5:54 left in the frame and they had increased their lead 6-0.  The Mammoth would finally get a break.  Byrne was called for goal tender interference putting Colorado on yet another man up.  It took 25 seconds for Zed Williams (1g) to put one in on the backdoor with a quick stick and he found the far post to finally stop the Bandits run and get the Mammoth on the board 6-1. With 4:56 in the half, Dhane Smith (2g 5a) from the restraining line found the top left corner over the shoulder for only his second goal of the season and a second shorthanded tally for Buffalo.  It turns out that Smith was actually trying to pass to Chris Cloutier in front of the net and it went in.  After hearing from Ward during the TV timeout, he thought it was a pass and took his eye off the ball.  This gave Buffalo a 7-1 lead heading into the locker room.

Photo Credit: Mike Hetzel/NLL

The teams would combine for eight total goals in the third, which equaled the goals scored in the first half.  Colorado would outscore Buffalo 5-3 as well putting up three back-to-back-back short-handed goals in the process.  The Bandits would get it started quickly.  Off the draw, Byrne on the breakaway launched above the crease and with a twister shot went over the shoulder of Ward just 19 seconds in.  It was initially called a “no goal” and Bandits Bench Boss John Tavares threw the challenge flag.  After review, it was found that Byrne had not touched turf prior to the ball passing the plane of the goal and it was ruled “good goal” increasing their lead 8-1 also giving Byrne his hat-trick on the night.  Exactly one minute later, Connor Kelly set up on the other side of the crease, saw Eli McLaughlin (3g, 2a) on the crease, passed across the crease and McLaughlin in tight, jumped and dunked it over the shoulder of Vinc just the second goal by Colorado in the game 8-2 Buffalo.  It took Smith just under a minute into the third, he fired a bouncer shot, it took the perfect bounce and went up into the top corner 9-2 Bandits.  The Mammoth would get hit with a five-minute major 9:43 in and were absolutely stellar.  McLaughlin would score on a three-on-five 29 seconds into the man down.  Joey Cupido (2a) passed to McLauglin across the floor, and with him all alone, he caught it up top and beat Vinc with a twister shot for their first shorthanded goal 9-3.  On the ensuing face-off, Tim Edwards (1g, 1a) would break down the floor and on the crease, he jumped and put a twister shot past Vinc for their second shorthanded goal just 10 seconds later.  With 1:38 on the man down, Connor Kelly (3g, 1a) did a 360, and his shot found its way between Vinc and the inside pipe with 6:10 to go and it was 9-5.  Buffalo was not able to score on the five-minute major the same as Vancouver could not do against the Mammoth last week.  With 22 seconds left on the Colorado man down, Chase Fraser would get nabbed with an illegal body checking five-minute major with just 4:56 left in the third.  This time Buffalo would notch their own shorthanded tally and their second in the game.  In transition, McCulley would sneak his way past the slot, head faked and put it over the shoulder with 4:29 left in the frame to double up Colorado once again 10-5.  The Mammoth were able to hold off Buffalo for the remainder before scoring once more.  With 46 seconds left on the man-up and 42 seconds left in the third, McLaughlin fired a laser through traffic and found the top corner for a power-play tally 10-6 Bandits.  In total, the teams would combine for four shorthanded goals in the frame.

It was do or die for the Mammoth in Banditland with only 15 minutes to try for another amazing comeback.  Ward and Vinc were both standing on their heads in between the pipes with neither side finding the back of the net for the first half of the fourth.  The first goal would come at 7:27 in when Nanticoke on the catch and shoot, fired one around his defender high-to-low and snuck it past Ward 11-6.  Kelly would notch his second as he caught the ball, looped around the net and got it past the right arm with 7:05 to go 11-7.  He’d notch his hat-trick less than a minute later in transition on the run and went far side high-to-low 11-8 and that’s as close as Colorado could get.  Buffalo would put up one more with 1:36 to go on a crazy goal.  Smith took the shot, Ward made the save, it ricocheted off the leg of Robert Hope and right into the stick of Kyle Buchanan (1g, 1a) who made the shot sealing the deal for the home squad.  Although Colorado went with a six-on-five empty net for the remaining 1:30 and kept firing on Vinc, he would not budge.  Final Score:  Bandits 12—Mammoth 8.

Josh Byrne—Buffalo Bandits:  3g, 4a
Dhane Smith—Buffalo Bandits:  2g, 5a
Eli McLaughlin—Colorado Mammoth:  3ga, 2a

Colorado Mammoth:  57 SOG; Saves 45; Sv% .790%; FO 16-25; PP 2-6; SHG 3; PIM 13
Buffalo Bandits:  57 SOG; Saves 49; Sv% .860%; FO 9-25; PP 2-7; SHG 2; PIM 19


The Colorado Mammoth (1-3) head back home to host the San Diego Seals (2-1) on Saturday January 16, 2024, at the Loud House in Denver, game time 9:00 p.m. EST.  Fans in the USA can see the game on ESPN+.  Fans in Canada get to see the action on TSN+.

The Buffalo Bandits (2-2) will head to Blue Cross Arena on Saturday January 16, 2024, to face the Rochester Knighthawks (3-1), game time 7:00 p.m. EST.  Fans in the USA can see the game on ESPN+.  Fans in Canada get to see the action on TSN+.

Di Miller, Colorado Mammoth Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©