It was a night of celebration, emotions and thrill in Denver on Sunday as the Colorado Mammoth (7-5) doubled up the Vancouver Stealth (4-7) by a score of 12-6 on the night the team retired former captain Gavin Prout’s No. 9 jersey into the rafters of Pepsi Center.
“We talked about it before the game, it was special for Gavin for the franchise to have someone like that up in the rafters,” said Mammoth coach Chris Gill. “We had to follow it up with a win and play a full 60 (minutes).”
Alex Buque appeared in his first career NLL start tonight, recording the win and 49 saves, earning the First Star of the game. It is the second time this season a Mammoth player has earned the honor in his first start (Jeremy Noble).
“it was a great time, I finally got to get my feet wet playing in the Big Show,” Buque said. “I’m glad this opportunity was welcomed, not a lot of people are able to do it in their lifetime, and I’m happy to be one of them.”
“We trust both our goalies. We know what Alex can bring to the table,” Gill added. “He told us in training camp he was good under pressure, and he showed it tonight.”
Offensively John Grant, Jr. (3+4) and Eli McLaughlin (2+4) highlighted the night. Jeremy Noble (2+3) brought up the rear, filling in for Adam Jones on offense with Grant and Drew Westervelt, after Jones was scratched for tonight’s game.
Tyler Digby (3+0) was one of four Stealth players to register a goal on the night, the lowest offensive showing by Vancouver this season.
“Disappointing, disappointing loss,” Stealth head coach Dan Perreault commented. “Six goals on offense…we had a lot of shots, but a lot of ones that weren’t on net.”
Vancouver registered 55 shots on goal versus 47 by Colorado.
Buque made a handful of spectacular saves in the opening minutes of the game to kick off his first start between the pipes. But a five-minute major high sticking penalty by Westervelt would set up back-to-back power play goals by Digby for an early 2-0 lead for the Stealth.
Westervelt made up for his sin bin blunder with a power play goal for the Mammoth on a 5-on-3 advantage. Moments later, McLaughlin would tie things up with Alex Turner following up to give Colorado the lead late in the opening stanza.
Grant tallied Colorado’s fourth power play goal of the evening in the opening minute of the second; additional goals by Turner and Vancouver’s Corey Small made it a 5-3 contest at the half.
Colorado increased their lead with three scores in the third, while keeping Vancouver off the scoreboard until the final two minutes of the quarter, when Digby and Rhys Duch tallied to narrow the gap to 8-5.
The teams exchanged goals early in the fourth before Colorado put the game away for good with a four score quarter. Penalties often contributed to the Mammoth’s lead, going 5 of 6 on the power play.
“We know they have a very good power play. We took some undisciplined penalties and we paid for it,” Perreault added. “We can’t have games where the offense is going well and the defense is struggling [or vise versa]…we just have to find ways to get it together for 60 minutes offensively and defenseively.”
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Alex Buque
2) John Grant Jr.
3) Tyler Digby
By Nick Salen (@MammothBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Michael Martin.