The Colorado Mammoth defeated the Minnesota Swarm 10-7 in NLL preseason action Friday night at Pepsi Center. The game was Colorado's final preseason tune-up as the team closes in on the regular season opener on January 9.
Colorado Mammoth rookie Ilija Gajic (left, midair) netted a third period goal Friday night as the Mammoth defeated the Minnesota Swarm 10-7 in a preseason game at Pepsi Center against the Minnesota Swarm.
DENVER - In their first real game atmosphere as members of the Colorado Mammoth, newcomers Cory Conway and Alex Gajic didn't disappoint.
Conway netted four goals while Gajic found the back of the net three times as the Colorado Mammoth defeated the Minnesota Swarm 10-7 on Friday night in front of 7,431 in attendance at Pepsi Center in a preseason game.
"We made some good steps today," Conway said. "We weren't quite as productive offensively last week. We were putting the ball away a little more and our defense was definitely giving us a chance to do so."
In a closed scrimmage last week, Colorado fell 17-8 to Minnesota, and Friday's game looked like it was heading towards a similar result early on.
The Swarm took an early 3-0 lead in the first quarter after two goals by Callum Crawford and another by Ryan Benesch. Both players would finish with four points in the game with Crawford finishing with two goals and two assists, while Benesch added three assists to his one goal.
Even though Colorado was down early, head coach Bob McMahon said he thought his team stayed composed throughout the early going.
"I don't think we lost our composure; go get one, get two, get three, and you're right back into it," McMahon said. "It's going to happen throughout the course of the year, it's just how we handle it week-to-week."
The Mammoth wouldn't be down 3-0 for long as they would answer back three minutes later after Conway slipped the ball past Minnesota goalie Kevin Croswell to get Colorado on the board. The goal would begin a 5-0 run for the Mammoth and would give them a two goal lead going into the half.
Conway scored all four of his goals in the run and later added an assist in the game.
"The guys were finding me on the swing, and the middle was open and the ball was going in for me," Conway said. "It was kind of a lucky night that way, I wish it would have continued in the second half, but the other guys stepped up and made the job a little easier."
One of those guys that stepped up was Gajic, who netted two second half goals to release some of the nerves he had in his first real NLL game after playing at the University of Denver last spring.
"Getting a few goals will obviously take away some of my nerves," Gajic said. "It lets me know that I can play in this league and have a good time out there."
Gajic finished the game with five points, adding two assists to his three goals.
Minnesota looked like they would come back and tie the game as they cut the lead to two in the fourth quarter with goals from Zack Greer at 3:14 and Sean Pollock with 7:57 left in regulation.
Both players had multi-goal nights as Greer finished with two goals while Pollock finished with two goals and added an assist.
Colorado's defense would hold strong for the remainder of the game though, as goalie Andrew Leyshon would stop eight fourth quarter shots en route to the three goal victory. Leyshon finished the game with 15 saves while Curtis Palidwor, who played the first half in net for the Mammoth, stopped 20 shots.
Colorado outshot Minnesota in the game 45-42.
The Swarm did get the better of the Mammoth in the special teams department, capitalizing on two of their six power play chances while Colorado went 0-for-2 on the power play.
McMahon said he doesn't mind that his team takes penalties, as long as they don't take dumb ones.
"We want to be aggressive," McMahon said. "You're going to take penalties; you just have to make sure that they're smart ones."
The Mammoth will now have two weeks off for the holiday season before they hit the floor again for the season opener on Jan. 9 against the Washington Stealth at Comcast Arena in Washington.
"I thought we worked real hard through camp for three weeks, so we'll shut it down for the next two weeks," McMahon said. "Hopefully Santa Claus is good to everyone."
Minnesota opens its 2010 schedule on Jan. 10 at Pengrowth Saddledome to take on the reigning champion Calgary Roughnecks.
--Ron Knabenbauer, NLL.com