Their past few games, the Colorado Mammoth have not looked like a formidable playoff opponent, but Saturday night, the team proved why they are the second-seed in the West Division and why they will finish the season with the second-best record in the NLL in 2018.
Thanks to a tremendous offensive output which saw the home side posting 19 goals against the desperate Toronto Rock, the Mammoth capped off Fan Appreciation Night with a 19-15 win to head into their heated West Division Semi-Final matchup against the Calgary Roughnecks with a ton of confidence.
While through most of the first quarter it looked as though the Mammoth would once again be outmatched by their opponent in another April contest, the home team didn’t allow a 4-2 deficit after 15 minutes to dwindle their spirits.
Down 6-3 with nine minutes remaining in the first half, the Mammoth strung together three consecutive goals within 85 seconds to knot the game at 6-6.
Following a Tom Schreiber rebound score off his own shot for his second tally of the night and his fourth point of the first 30 minutes, the Mammoth had another run in them before the first half buzzer sounded. After goals from Ryan Benesch and Joey Cupido that were just 16 seconds apart within the last minute of the second quarter, the Mammoth were able to grab their first lead of the game and take an 8-7 lead into the half.
“We just had to stay the course,” Cupido said post-game about his team’s first-half play. “We didn’t play our best lacrosse that first 30 [minutes], but there’s a lot of belief in the room and we knew we needed to keep the momentum. The offense came alive, and we really put it to them in the second half.”
Dan Lintner and his teammates came into tonight’s game knowing they needed a win to possibly stay alive in the 2018 playoff race, and he and the team came into the second half blazing. The Mammoth extended their lead to two goals at 10-8 in the first five minutes of the second half, but the Rock answered back with four goals of their own to retake the lead 12-10.
Lintner would score three of the four Rock goals in the run giving him four tallies on the night to secure his third hat trick of the season and provide him with his second-most goals scored in a single game this season. By the night’s end, Lintner would finish with five points.
The resilient Mammoth responded to the Rock’s next run with the last three goals of the third quarter to retake the lead; they would continue that prolific stretch with the first two goals of the fourth quarter to extend their lead to 15-12.
The home side would not relinquish the lead the rest of the match in large part due to Dillon Ward who played at his best in the final frame. Ward made 15 stops in the last 15 minutes to bring his game total to 42 saves. It was the seventh time this season the defending NLL Goaltender of the Year stopped 40+ shots.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Mammoth found their success through sharing. Four Mammoth players had hat tricks including Jeremy Noble, who scored three of the team’s first four goals, Cupido, who had two of his three goals in the fourth quarter, as well as Zack Greer and Eli McLaughlin, who both completed their hat tricks in the final frame. Jacob Ruest and Ryan Benesch Also contributed two goals apiece while Robert Hope and Chris Wardle dished out three assists each. Stephen Keogh and Ruest also distributed the rock wonderfully, leading their team with four and five assists on the night respectively.
“It’s huge,” Cupido said about winning their last game of the regular season. “It’s a lot of momentum heading into next weekend. We clinched second place overall in the league…it’s a great way to finish off our season in front of the best fans in the league.”
The Mammoth now have a week to prepare for their fiercest league rivals in the Roughnecks for the first round matchup in the NLL Playoffs. The Mammoth will need to play at a similarly high level as they did Saturday night if they want to beat the Roughnecks inside the Pepsi Center at 9:00 pm EST on May 5th. The Roughnecks have had the Mammoth’s number in the playoffs over the last decade winning their last seven postseason matchups.