The Colorado Mammoth (1-0) stole the show in the final quarter on the road against the Minnesota Swarm (0-1) in front of a crowd of 8,974 for the home opener at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night. The Swarm held the lead for the majority of the game, but the Mammoth swooped in with a dominant finish to win the game, 20-13.
Mammoth forward Adam Jones, who posted a game-high five goals and seven points (5+2), took the lead on offense for Colorado, scoring five goals while forward John Grant, Jr. (4+5) scored four goals of his own with five assists. Goalie Dillon Ward stood guard for the Mammoth in net with 32 saves as his strong play from his rookie year last season seemed to carry over into this year.
The Swarm took charge of the game early on, not giving up their lead until the third quarter, and seemed to bear the play of a team ready to give it all they’ve got. Goalie Brodie MacDonald stood strong behind an energized Swarm team well into the second half, and went on to make 33 saves in the game.
“The goaltending looked great early on when we were able to limit the shots and dictate where they were coming from,” said Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan. “There was a real cohesiveness on both the offense and the defense.”
In contribution to the productive first half, Swarm forward Shayne Jackson (3+4) snagged a hat trick for the opening night at “The Hive”. The third-year pro was quick to give the credit to his teammates and their cohesive play.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” said Jackson. “Suits made a great pass to me in the first one and ‘OC’ [Ethan O’Connor] made a great pass in the second one.”
Unfortunately for Minnesota, the Mammoth stepped in to disrupt midway through the third quarter and went on to outscore the Swarm by eight in the fourth quarter. A re-focus at the halftime is what put Colorado in the position to start pressing in on offense.
“We talked at halftime and the guys changed their game a bit,” said Mammoth coach Dan Stroup. “They came together as a team when it was important, they started to bury the ball when they had to.”
Adam Jones and John Grant Jr. both had impressive performances on the night and took the charge on offense in Colorado’s comeback finale, which included four shorthanded goals. The boost in performance is credited to an adjustment in strategy that the Swarm could not defend.
“We were always ahead of them on shots but a lot of our shots from the first half were from the outside,” said Jones. “We worked on getting on the inside in the second half so it was a little tougher for Brodie to stop it.”
Despite the loss, Swarm rookie forward Miles Thompson (3+1) came out with a hat trick in his NLL debut and was moved by the amazing reception he received from the adoring home crowd in Minnesota.
“Playing in front of a crowd like that, it’s always a good feeling,” said Thompson. “You just get chills from coming in to play.”
Thompson, who was the third overall pick in the 2014 NLL draft, was also enthused and motivated by the welcome he received from his teammates.
“These guys gave me a warm welcome,” he said. “That means a lot coming into a program. From training camp on, our chemistry just became close.”
Week 1 is complete for Minnesota and Colorado, but neither team will dwell or revel on the night. Both teams have their shoes on, eyes forward and sticks up.
“I’m not going to hang my head over a loss,” said Thompson. “I’m gonna think of our next game, learn from these mistakes and try not to do them next game.”
“It’s good to get the season started by we need to have a short memory and start focusing on next week’s game against Calgary,” said Jones.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Adam Jones
2) John Grant, Jr.
3) Shayne Jackson
Both teams are back in action on Saturday, January 10th at 9 p.m. ET. The Mammoth will take on the Calgary Roughnecks at home at Pepsi Center while Minnesota will head to Edmonton to face off at Rexall Place.
Story by Maria Jollie (@SwarmBeat) for NLL.com. Photo courtesy of Scott Pierson.