The Colorado Mammoth overcame a shaky first quarter, throttling the Vancouver Stealth the rest of the way, scoring a season-opening 15-8 victory.
The Stealth led 5-3 with 30 seconds to play in the first quarter but goals eight seconds apart from Chris Wardle and Tim Edwards pulled them even and they used a 4-0 second quarter to never look back on Friday night at the Langley Events Centre, in the National Lacrosse League season-opener for both squads.
“We just settled into our defense. We knew they were going to come out flying and they did,” said Mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward. “We just bared down after that first quarter and I thought we played great defense.”
Ward finished with 48 saves as his team was outshot 56-46.
“You could tell we were playing pretty tight defense and making them settle for outside shots and when those stopped dropping with them, they seemed pretty frustrated,” he said. Stealth coach Jamie Batley said despite the coaching staff’s instructions, the players veered from the game plan.
“Our offence has to look themselves in the mirror and wonder why they shot from outside all night when we told them you can’t do that against Ward, he’s a big goalie, he is a great angle goalie, he is one of the best in the world,” he said. “We didn’t make him move and this is what ended up happening.”
Another huge difference in the game was special teams play. Vancouver went 0-for-3 on the power play and even worse than not scoring, they allowed short-handed goals from Jordan Gillies and Joey Cupido early in the second quarter and the Mammoth never looked back. “I think if they don’t get any on the power (play) and we get two short (handed), that is a big swing,” said Mammoth coach Pat Coyle. The coach said his team seemed nervous those opening 15 minutes, especially since this group has only scrimmaged together and not played an actual game.
But once they settled down, the Mammoth stuck to the game plan and did a good job of keeping Vancouver’s shooters to the outside and away from the middle of the floor. He also credited his team for taking are of the ball and a good transition game.
The goaltending was not the only reason Vancouver lost, but it did play a factor. “I am not going to blame it all on our goaltending but 62 per cent is not going to win you anything, it is going to get you last place,” Batley said, referencing Tye Belanger’s save percentage after allowing 14 goals on 37 shots.
Brodie MacDonald came in late in the fourth quarter and allowed one goal on seven shots. “(Colorado was) 86 per cent, to me that was part of the difference in the outcome.”
Vancouver also lacked an offensive attack. “Offensively, only three of the seven (forwards) scored — we are not going to win when we do that.”
Joel McCready and Logan Schuss each had two goals up front while Evan Messenger had one. The duo of Corey Small and Rhys Duch — who combined to lead the Stealth with 84 goals and 205 points last season — finished with zero goals on 19 shots and three assists total. Justin Salt, Brandon Goodwin and Travis Cornwall had the other Vancouver goals.
Colorado was led by four goals and five points from Wardle and big nights from both Ryan Benesch (two goals, eight points) and Jeremy Noble (two goals, five points). Ryan Lee (two goals, two assists), Eli McLaughlin (one goal, three assists) and Bryce Sweeting (one goal) also found the back of the net.
The Stealth were also hurt by the loss of their captain Matt Beers in the second quarter to what appeared to be an upper body or head injury. Vancouver is back in action on Dec. 15 in Calgary while Colorado is off next week and hosts the Georgia Swarm on Dec. 23.