The Colorado Mammoth (1-1) defeated the Vancouver Stealth (0-1) with a thrilling 13-12 home win before a crowd of 15,101 at Pepsi Center on Saturday night. Fans who watched the game live on TSN2 in Canada or on ESPN3 and Altitude in the United States saw some of the best action that the sport has to offer.
An offensive burst late in the second half was key in Colorado’s victory, scoring nine goals in an effort led by Adam Jones (3g, 1a) and Drew Westervelt (3g, 2a).
“A win’s a win’s a win in this league, it’s a grind. I thought we showed a lot of resilience,” said Mammoth head coach Bob Hamley. “We got off to a good start which we wanted, we had a little low, but Dillon Ward held the fort for us. Offense got going, transition got going; I thought our ‘D’ did a good job too. It’s a one-goal league and we’re happy to be on the right side of it.”
Ward picked up the win in a relief effort for Tye Belanger, recording 30 saves on 38 shots.
“Just to see the team battle back and stay the course like that, we stuck to our game plan, bared down a little bit and we just gutted one out,” said Ward.
Westervelt kicked off the Mammoth offense with back-to-back goals just 50 seconds apart. Cameron Holding would add one more for the home team in the opening frame, while Rhys Duch tallied the lone score for the Stealth.
Vancouver captain Kyle Sorensen was ejected and assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct at the 3:24 mark of the first quarter for a high sticking call involving Colorado’s Westervelt. The Stealth would kill off the penalty and in return would swing momentum in their favor, tallying five in the quarter, including one by Tyler Digby, his first career goal, while simultaneously holding Colorado to a lone score and holding a 6-4 lead at half.
The Mammoth came storming back late in the third quarter, scoring five in a span of 5:55, three of which came in the final minute, to take a 10-9 lead heading into the final 15 minutes. Jones led the charge for Colorado in the fourth, contributing two key goals late in the quarter to secure the team’s first home win of the season.
“It’s a game of runs, it was good to be on the other side of that tonight,” Jones quickly chimed.
Duch (4g, 2a) led all runners in scoring for the game, while Digby (3g, 3a) and Alex Gajic (1g, 7a) impressed Stealth head coach Chris Hall in their performances.
“They got on a bit of a roll and we gave up a couple goals,” Hall said. “We made some mistakes late in the game. We turned the ball over twice at center which was bad fundamentals…It didn’t help either playing with 15 runners most of the game.”
From a player’s perspective, Duch simply said a game can swing either way, especially if a team does not execute adequately for a full game.
“I think it was a classic case of playing 50 minutes of good lacrosse and played terribly for 10, and they took full advantage of it…momentum swings like that are costly in this league," Duch added.
Tyler Richards played the full 60 minutes for Vancouver in net, stopping 34 of 47. Belanger was pulled in the second quarter after a 9 for 13 effort in favor of Ward to finish for the Mammoth.
The Mammoth earned their first win of the season and only the team’s second win in their last 13 matchups with the Stealth on Star Wars Night. Colorado wore special Stormtrooper decals on their helmets to join in on the festivities.
Vancouver will look to earn their first win during their home opener at Langley Events Centre on Saturday, Jan. 11 against the Minnesota Swarm (0-1). Meanwhile, Colorado will travel to Alberta that night to take on the Calgary Roughnecks (0-1) for their first road game of the 2014 NLL season.
The Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Adam Jones
2) Rhys Duch
3) Drew Westervelt