Despite scratching two of their top players, the Colorado Mammoth (8-10) inched a win out over the Philadelphia Wings (6-12) by a score of 13-12 to close out the 2014 NLL regular season at Wells Fargo Center.
Lacking the offensive power of the Mammoth’s Drew Westervelt and John Grant Jr., Philly still fell victim to the Mammoth offense, highlighting the five goals of Adam Jones.
“Well this is the story of the season with another one-goal game and again that we let one go,” Wings head coach Blane Harrison said. “But we'll figure it out and we’ll assess the situation from the top down. I'm sure the owners will assess the coaching staff and the coaches will assess the players and we'll see where we go from here.”
Despite the loss and the disappointment from being cut from playoff contention this season, the Wings took several positives out of their showing younger players such as defender John Ranagan and forward Garrett Thul.
“There’s a lot of question marks about whether or not I'm going to come back here next year,” Thul said in reference to his obligation to serve in the military after graduating from West Point. “Obviously if I have the opportunity to play, then I'll back here but to be quite honest, my service and my military commitment— that comes first.”
However with the season’s end, Harrison is looking forward. “I think we need a lefty or righty offense of guy first and foremost,” Harrison said. “We have some offensive guys who may or may not be back next year, Garrett may not be back next year, so we still have to make sure we solidify both left side and the right side.”
Only seconds after the game-start whistle, the crowd erupted as Wings forward Pat Saunders fired one from the center into the net of Mammoth’s Dillon Ward, to give Philly the early lead on Fan Appreciation Day.
But it was forward Jordan Hall who came out on fire for the Wings, scoring two goals early in the first. Captain Brodie Merrill’s assist on Hall’s first goal earned him his 350th career regular season point.
However, with Mammoth on the power play, forward Sean Pollock hammered one into the net of Kevin Croswell— playing in place of Evan Kirk who was out due to a foodborne illness that has left him 25 pounds lighter in just one week— putting Colorado up on the scoreboard in the first.
“It’s not a good situation,” Harrison said in regards to the health of Kirk. “We surely missed him but we wish him well and a speedy recovery.”
But even with Philly’s promising start, Mammoth powerhouse Cameron Holding snuck the ball into the net with just 13 seconds to go in the first, making it 3-2.
The start of the second quarter belonged to Colorado this time, with forward Adam Jones sneaking past Croswell twice to score two goals within seconds of each other, giving his team the lead for the first time in the game.
The Mammoth continued to dominate the game until a quick momentum change with nine minutes to go in the second, that gave forwards Kyle Buchanan and Thul one goal apiece to command back the lead— but only momentarily.
Colorado forwards Joel Dalgarno earned himself a goal to tie up the game, followed right away by Jones— scoring his third goal of the night in the second quarter to regain the lead for the Mammoth— a lead they were able to hold until half-time with a strong defensive core.
Philadelphia found themselves recording another milestone before half-time as transition player Kyle Sweeney recorded his 700th career, regular season loose ball.
Having been silent in the game thus far, it only took forward Kevin Crowley a minute and four seconds into the third to score one for the Wings to tie up the game 6-6.
But in continuation with the back-and-forth pattern of the game, Dalgarno racked in another point with goal so quick, Croswell didn’t even have time to move for it, giving Colorado the lead once again. However, it still wasn’t enough to give Colorado the winning momentum, as Buchanan answered right back, powering one past Ward to make it 7-7.
The third quarter played dead-even between the two opponent— that is until forward Bill McGlone found the net with 1.5 seconds left on the clock to give the Wings the lead to start the fourth 8-7. Starting off with a great save from Croswell, Buchanan earned a hatrick to give the Wings a two-goal lead— a lead that lasted for all about five seconds as Mammoth’s Bob Snider answered right back, assisted by Jones.
“Jordan asked me right before we were going out: ‘when’s the last time you played' and I said 'two years’ so was kind of emotional for me,” McGlone said. “It’s been kind of a long climb back for me but I hung in there it was important for me to be able to do this. It was an honor and I came out there and just tried to do my best and help the team win.”
Colorado didn’t finish there, tying up the game once again with a goal from Dalgarno, giving him a hat trick.
With Jones and Dalgarno sporting hat tricks for Colorado, Jones one-upped his teammate with goal number 10.
But the Mammoth didn’t hold their lead for long as Thul took a hatrick of his own, powering out two goals within seconds of each other to give the Wings the lead late in the fourth.
“I wish I could've started the season off the way (I’ve been playing) in the last half,” Thul. “For me personally, I took a whole new skill set away. As a field player I'm pretty much a dodger and haven’t been that feeder kind of guy but box lacrosse isn’t all about dodging and taking your shot. It’s been really great to incorporate myself into the team’s offense.
This has been kind of a training session for me for team USA—that’s been my whole goal for this year and I really expanded my game to another level so I'm really happy, personally I think I’ve grown as a lacrosse player and hopefully I can take that stuff down to the field.”
It remained anyone’s game as the power continued to flip-flop. Jones rose to the occasion once again, obtaining his fifth goal to tie-up the game once again. This was followed by a goalie change, taking out Ward- who had 52 saves- for the fresh body of Tye Belanger to finish out the game.
But with a 4x4 play, it was the Mammoth who came out on top, following Hall’s slashing penalty during a Wings power play, as former Wing Athan Iannucci scored a goal. Of course, it didn’t hold up as Saunders threw the ball into the Mammoth net with a diving goal to tie up the game at 12-12 with a little over two minutes to go.
Moments later, much to the crowd’s dismay— Iannucci, the record holder of the most goals scored in one season during his time with the Wings— assisted forward Jamie Shewchuk to seal the deal for Colorado.
“It's kind of the story of our season,” McGlone said. “We've had a lot of close games where we just couldn't come out on top.” But next year the Wings are hoping to change that.
The Wings played hard until the last second, completing a full four quarters, but falling short of one last win despite a continuous power shift that left the game up for grabs until the last minute of play.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Adam Jones
2) Joel Dalgarno
3) Kyle Buchanan
Colorado will now head to Calgary to face the Roughnecks in a single-game elimination first-round playoff match up next Saturday.