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Mammoth storm by Swarm in season finale, clinch playoff spot

04/20/2013, 10:30pm EDT
By Jace Frederick, Swarm beat writer for NLL.com

Grant, Jr. and Jones key Colorado's 16-14 win over Minnesota

The Colorado Mammoth (7-9) clinched a playoff berth with a 16-14 road win over the Minnesota Swarm (7-9) before a season-high crowd of 12,243 at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night.

“I’m proud of my guys. I’m happy for them,” said Mammoth head coach Bob Hamley. “A lot of people counted them out and they battled and gave us a chance to get into the playoffs.”

The Mammoth were led by second-year forward Adam Jones, who recorded eight points (5+3) in the victory.

“The kid’s unreal,” said Colorado forward Sean Pollock. “You watch him and you wonder how he does it sometimes. He’s got some of the best hands I’ve ever seen. He doesn’t miss when he has a shot.”

John Grant, Jr. also contributed five points (3+2), including two goals in the decisive fourth quarter.

“That’s what he is – a Hall of Famer,” Hamley said. “We’re so proud of him. He just keeps battling. He’s a winner.”

The win comes a week after the Swarm beat Colorado in Denver to clinch Minnesota’s playoff spot. Colorado’s spot was officially clinched earlier in the night, when Rochester defeated Buffalo, though the team did not follow that game’s results, Hamley said.

“We were here to win the game and that’s what we did,” he said. “Our compete level was really good.”

Colorado finished the season on a 5-2 stretch to get into the playoffs after starting just 2-7.

“We just stayed with the program,” Hamley said. “We love our team and we’re getting some goaltending now from [goalie Tye Belanger].”

The Mammoth got off to a hot start, building a 5-2 lead on goals from five different players.

Minnesota crawled back in the second, outscoring Colorado 5-3 and trailing just 8-7 at the half. The game was tied 9-9 after three quarters.

“It shows that we can keep it together and fight back when we’re down,” said Swarm forward Callum Crawford. “It shows the heart that this team holds, that we’re never going to give up and we’re going to keep fighting.”

With their season on the line, the Mammoth responded with a 5-1 run to open the final quarter. They held on despite a Swarm rally late to punch their ticket.

“You’ve got 15 minutes. You win a quarter and you’re in,” Pollock said. “It was great. Our offense, we’ve been struggling most of the season and we got us that win there.”

Once down and out earlier this season, Colorado believes they can make some noise in the postseason, starting with a visit to Calgary next weekend in the first round.

“For us, I think it’s getting off to good starts and not getting caught in lulls,” Pollock said. “Just play with a lot of intensity, play confident and I think we can do pretty well.”

 The Swarm were led by Callum Crawford, who finished with 6 points (2+4) while Ryan Benesch netted a hat trick in the losing effort.

Crawford’s six-point effort ended his streak of six-straight games with eight or more points.

“He should be the MVP of the league in my opinion,” said Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan. “There’s a lot of confidence going out the front door on our team and he’s a big reason why that is.”

With the loss, the Swarm will now crossover as the fourth seed in the East division for the playoffs. They travel to Toronto next Sunday to take on the Rock in the first round.

Minnesota’s youth provides a wildcard mentality moving forward.

“Whenever you play a young team, it’s always a threat,” Sullivan said.

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