The Colorado Mammoth (2-2) secured their first home win of the 2013 NLL season with a 15-9 win over the Minnesota Swarm (1-3) before a crowd of 16,321 at Pepsi Center on Saturday night.
The win helps erase memories of a poorly-played home loss last weekend as the Mammoth improved to .500 on the year. Colorado showed drastic improvement in all areas of their game, highlighted by a strong defensive performance and a 4-for-5 performance on the power play.
“I challenged the guys after the game last week to dedicate themselves this week and the rest of the season to get where we want to be,” said Mammoth head coach Bob Hamley. “Everybody worked hard tonight.”
John Grant, Jr. led Colorado’s attack once again with five goals and 11 points (5+6) in the game while Mammoth captain Gavin Prout had five points (1+4) in the win.
“We made a point on how terrible we played last week holding the ball, and I was one of the biggest culprits,” Grant, Jr. said. “This week, I focused on just trying to feed the ball and if I was getting some shots, hopefully I would put them in.”
Colorado’s Jordan McBride opened the scoring in the first two minutes of the game. Minnesota quickly responded with three unanswered goals before the Mammoth fired back on a five-goal run which extended into the second quarter. The Swarm stalled offensively prior to the half ending, adding one goal to their opening frame performance.
Minnesota would start to buzz back in the third, tallying three goals to pull them within two. Colorado’s sticks cooled off meanwhile, with a lone goal in the waning minutes of the quarter courtesy of Sean Pollock.
Heading into the final fifteen minutes, the teams would exchange goals, but back-to-back power play goals by Colorado would give them a five-goal lead, enough to hold onto a victory, but not without controversy.
With six and a half minutes remaining in the contest, Mammoth goaltender Matt Roik was given a two-minute penalty and a game misconduct for an illegal equipment violation. After officials determined that he had modified one of his gloves, Roik was ejected from the game and finished with 35 saves on 43 shots for the night.
“I noticed that he had what I deemed to be an 'add-on' to his right glove,” said Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan. “The league provides brand new gloves every year and that looked like it was an older glove. We typically wouldn’t make that call but we were down by five [goals]. We were on the power play so worst-case scenario, if I lost the challenge, we would go 4-on-4.”
“I didn’t agree with it but we will see what happens this week with the league,” Hamley said about the decision. “It was a tough call. Fortunately, it didn’t hurt us.”
The Swarm came into Saturday’s game without veteran Callum Crawford, who was scratched from the lineup due to injury. Sullivan noted that his absence was noticeable as Colorado was quick to adjust defensively.
“It puts a lot of pressure on everybody else on the floor,” Sullivan said. “[Crawford] draws a lot of checkers, he sees the floor well and he can score. When he is not there, it’s one less big-time player that Colorado had to plan on, so it makes it tough for guys like Ryan Benesch.”
Benesch, a frequent headache for the Mammoth, recoreded three points (1+2) while rookie Shayne Jackson led the Swarm with five points (1+4) on the night.
Next weekend, Minnesota will travel home on Friday, Feb. 8 to host the Toronto Rock at Xcel Energy Center at 8:30 p.m. ET for their second meeting this season. Colorado will look to take their momentum on the road and try to avenge an earlier loss when they visit the Washington Stealth at Comcast Arena on Saturday, Feb. 9 at 10 p.m. ET.