In a rare meeting between the two teams, the first-place Toronto Rock (9-1) kept up its winning ways and improved the team’s league-best record by downing the Colorado Mammoth (4-5) on the road by a score of 17-9 before a crowd of 14,116 on Friday night.
The game was only the fifth all-time regular season matchup between the two clubs and the first time Toronto has walked away victorious in the Mile High City.
NLL Player of the Month Rob Hellyer’s 11 points (3+8) and Stephan Leblanc’s eight points (4+4) highlighted the Rock offense on the night.
“We wanted to come here and get the two points,” Leblanc said. “We proved we are willing to do the little things that other teams aren’t necessarily willing to do.”
Colorado’s “Big 3” on offense was kept relatively quiet during the game, with young gun Adam Jones (2+1) held to two early scores, and John Grant Jr. (0+4) and Drew Westervelt (1a) kept off the scoreboard entirely.
Shutting down the three main cogs for the Mammoth offensively was a critical game plan that greatly contributed to Toronto’s sixth-straight win.
“It’s an intimidating building. It’s good experience for some of our guys to play here,” said Rock head coach John Lovell. “I thought we played a pretty good team here tonight. We were ready and I like how that team plays.”
The home team didn’t agree. Transition player Joey Cupido in particular echoed much of what has been spurted already this year: inconsistency wrapped around a talented squad.
“It’s frustrating and embarrassing losing like this at home,” he said. “I thought we competed in the first half, let the game get away from us in the third quarter and just came out flat in the fourth. We need a better effort…we got to put it together for a full 60.
“It’s a team game, we can’t be pointing fingers, we need to point thumbs. Everybody needs to look in the mirror and ask ‘what can they do better?’”
The teams exchanged several possessions before Toronto’s Bill Greer opened the game with his first goal of the season, followed by a score by Hellyer moments later. Colorado responded with back-to-back goals by Jones and Sean Pollock to gain a 3-2 lead after the opening stanza.
Toronto’s deficit was short lived, as the visitors tallied six goals in the second quarter, including three on the power play and a shorthanded goal by Brodie Merrill. Colorado kept the game close with two of their own, tying the game both times, before the Rock gained an 8-5 advantage at halftime.
Third quarter woes reared their ugly heads once again for Colorado, who despite getting 15 shots on goal, managed only one score, coming from Cupido on a short-handed chance. The Rock meanwhile connected three additional times, setting up a well-padded lead going into the fourth, and never looked back.
Nick Rose stood tall frequently in the win, stopping 46 of Colorado’s 55 shots, and played a major role in stonewalling the potent Mammoth shooters.
“That was one of the keys going into this game. It was one of our better defensive efforts this year,” added Lovell.
Dillon Ward played just over 53 minutes in the game before being relieved from net late in the fourth. He finished with 36 saves on 51 shots. Alex Buque stepped in for Ward and made one stop on two shots.
One positive area for Colorado was the faceoff circle, where Bob Snider dominated the Rock by winning 25 out of 31.
The game was the third consecutive against an East Division team for Colorado, and that trend will continue next weekend when the Mammoth host the Minnesota Swarm. Toronto meanwhile will hit the road to square off against Buffalo to start a home-and-home weekend in Week 11.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Rob Hellyer
2) Nick Rose
3) Stephan Leblanc
By Nick Salen (@MammothBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Jack Dempsey.