After Friday night’s thriller in Colorado, it seemed only fitting that the division-leading Wings and Mammoth would have to decide Sunday’s rematch in overtime.
Rookie Adam Jones sliced in front of Brandon Miller and scored the game-winning goal at 9:38 mark overtime to give Colorado a 16-15 win at the Wells Fargo Center.
The win clinched a playoff spot for Colorado (9-3), which fell 13-12 to the Wings in the closing seconds on Friday. It also denied a playoff spot for Philadelphia (7-5), which could have secured a berth with a loss by Washington later on Sunday.
The Stealth got 10 points from Rhys Duch in a 20-13 win over Minnesota.
For the second straight game, the high level of offensive talent on the floor for both Colorado and Philadelphia was on display.
Adam Jones and Gavin Prout registered hat tricks in the first half. Jones finished with four goals on the night and added five assists while Prout had four goals and four assists.
John Grant Jr. was again masterful for Colorado. He scored six goals Friday, but on Sunday, the assist was his weapon of choice, as he notched seven in the first half and totaled three goals and nine helpers for the game.
“We needed it,” Grant said. “We wanted to clinch a playoff spot. And payback – they beat us in our barn and we wanted to get back. They’re a great team and it was an awfully tough weekend. I think it took a lot out of both teams.”
The teams picked up where they left off Friday, combining for 17 first half goals. The Mammoth got the best of the Wings early on and headed into halftime with a 10-7 lead.
“It’s great lacrosse. Two aggressive, big, strong teams that can put the ball in the net. And both teams have some flashy players,” Grant said.
With the size and the skill of both offenses, there were many penalties called in the game and they resulted plenty of power-play goals. Philadelphia scored nine goals with the man advantage while Colorado posted seven.
“You look at their defense and every one of them is a giant and we have a big, strong, tough defense too. It’s tough to play lacrosse with guys that big and not draw some penalties,” added Grant Jr.
The Mammoth, aided by a high sticking major to the Wings’ Steve Holmes late in the first half, reeled off three straight power-play goals after the break to extend their lead to 13-7. But the Wings stormed right back with six straight power-play goals of their own thanks to majors to Colorado’s Jon Sullivan (cross-checking) and Jed Prossner (boarding).
“Penalties killed us, and then penalties got us back in it,” Wings coach and general manager Johnny Mouradian said.
Colorado coach Bob Hamley said the swings are enough of a part of the NLL that teams factor them into their game plan.
“It’s a one-goal league,” Hamley said. “We’ve talked about it and I am sure other teams have too. There is adversity throughout the games, there are runs throughout the games, you just got to battle through it and we’ve done that. That is why we’ve had some success.”
The teams exchanged goals from there until the Wings took a 15-14 lead with 1:57 left on a Kevin Crowley goal. The Wings’ Brodie Merrill was sent to the penalty box with 57 seconds to play in regulation and Grant made them pay by tying the game with 43.9 left.
Philadelphia was led by Drew Westervelt (three goals, three assists), who left in the fourth quarter with a rib injury, and Mike Hominuck (four goals, one assist). Merrill and Crowley each added a pair of goals.
Afterwards, in the wake of a weekend with stellar lacrosse between two solid teams, both organizations seemed to have a newfound level of respect for one another.
“They’ve done a great job over there. There are a lot of big names and great players on both sides. We are fortunate to get a split,” Hamley said.
Mouradian agreed and was encouraged by his team’s performance.
“You look at the game Friday night in Colorado – we beat them by one,” he said. “Then they come in here and beat us by one. That is a championship level game – the way both teams played.”
Could this weekend have been a preview of the Champion’s Cup? Grant isn’t so sure - at least not yet.
“I’d love to say I hope so, but we have a long way to go and so do they,” said Grant, who leads the league with 40 goals and 87 points.