The Colorado Mammoth (4-7) beat the Buffalo Bandits (5-6) for the second-straight week, this time with a dramatic 16-13 home win before a crowd of 15,511 at Pepsi Center on Saturday night.
Colorado took advantage of Buffalo’s penalties, tallying nearly half the team’s points on power play goals throughout the night, five of which coming off of back-to-back five minute majors.
“We dug ourselves a hole,” said Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour. “We almost came out of it and then dug ourselves another hole and almost came out of that one. It’s hard to score six, seven goals in a row. Just got to be a little bit more disciplined.”
Three former NLL MVPs highlighted the score sheet for their respective teams in round two. John Grant, Jr. led the Mammoth once again with right points (3+5) while newcomer Casey Powell, acquired from the Rochester Knighthawks before the trade deadline, posted six points (1+5) in his Mammoth debut.
“It was amazing,” Powell said. “Just the energy of this crowd, it was crazy. I remember a lot of battles in here that’s depleted the energy out of me, but I feel like a young kid right now. So happy to be here, hopefully I contributed but it was just a great team win and hopefully I’ll add more to the team down the homestretch.”
Powell went on to admit nerves got the better of him early in the game.
“First quarter I was a little shaky,” he said. “I felt nervous and hadn’t been that nervous in a while…it was a good first run I thought but we've got a lot to work on.”
John Tavares finished with a team-high six points (1+5) for the Bandits in the team’s third straight loss. Derek Hopcroft (3+2) and Jamie Rooney (2+3) followed close behind with five points each.
Adam Jones opened the scoring early on a doorstep goal for the early lead. The Bandits would answer with two of their own before old wounds resurfaced from last week’s brawl in Buffalo.
Rory Smith and Steve Priolo dropped gloves in the following minutes, which resulted in Smith being ejected from the game for instigating the fight. The penalty box would remain busy in the second quarter with two major penalties by Buffalo. The Mammoth would take full advantage of their opportunities tallying four power play goals on nine shots on goal, but would lose anchor defenseman John Gallant to injury during the process. The Bandits kept the contest close by capitalizing on two quick scores in between penalties going into the half down 7-5 despite the circumstances.
Colorado would come out scoring, netting three in four minutes; however Buffalo would answer on a four goal run, shutting down the Mammoth offense the remainder of the quarter. In the final frame Colorado responded with a four goal run of their own before the Bandits optimized under pressure.
Jamie Rooney began another four score rally in a span of just under five minutes, pulling goaltender Kurtis Wagar on three separate possessions, but would ultimately cost them. Colorado would gain possession on defense, setting up back-to-back scores on transition and the ensuing faceoff, putting the game out of reach as the final seconds ran off the clock.
“It had a little bit of everything,” Hamley added. “We were down a couple men, Gallant we lost him early and Rory early. But the guys buckled down and Tye [Belanger] gave us a chance again and we got some timely goals. That’s what a winning formula is all about.”
Belanger, who earned the Rookie of the Week award in his first career start, followed it up by getting the nod to start a second time against Buffalo, ending the night with a .711 save percentage.
“We want to have our best play in lacrosse at the end of the season so we’re finally clicking now,” Belanger said. “We can celebrate tonight and cheer up but as soon as tomorrow rolls around we’ll be looking towards the next game.”
Anthony Cosmo, who also played a second time, finished with 30 out of 43 saves before being relieved by Wagar in the final quarter.
“When they take five-minute penalties like they did, you’ve got to take advantage," Hamley said. "We got three on the one and two on the other. So you've got to take advantage of those, I don’t know what the final numbers were but they were great tonight.
“We talked about playing well at the right time and we’re doing well right now. I’m happy with that. Some of those losses earlier, we’ve learned from them.”
In all, the Bandits appeared to outplay the Mammoth at certain times, but penalties proved to be their Achilles Heel as the second half rolled to a close.
“I thought we outplayed them,” Kilgour added. “We worked hard on the 5-on-5; we were right with them the whole game, but just kept digging holes and going to the penalty box. I thought if we stayed out of the penalty box it would have been a much different game.”
Buffalo will travel home next week to host the Edmonton Rush. Colorado meanwhile will pack their bags as they head to Alberta to take on Calgary in another crucial division game.