While LSU quickly caused people to turn away from the college football playoffs with their dismantling of Oklahoma, at Harrah’s Cherokee Field at Infinite Energy Arena a more compelling and competitive contest was getting ready to get started as the Colorado Mammoth and their suffocating defense invaded Duluth, Ga to take on the Georgia Swarm in what was expected to be a physical contest with goals being hard to come by.
Sometimes things don’t go as you would expect, and tonight’s tilt between the Swarm and Mammoth was one of those events. Instead of a defensive stalemate, the teams combined to put 24 goals on the board in an exciting contest that saw the Swarm seem to have a handle on things for three quarters before a dominating fourth quarter by Colorado propelled them to a 13-11 victory.
While Colorado busting out for 13 goals was a surprise to many, the Swarm came into the match-up with one of the most explosive offenses in the league, and that explosiveness, like has happened so many times this season, lit up the scoreboard early in the quarter. Shayne Jackson fed Myles Thompson just :23 into the game and the Swarm went up 1-0.
Colorado appeared to counter with captain Dan Coates on a breakaway, however the goal was waved off. A second would-be goal was also waved off due to a crease violation just a few moments later, helping the Swarm maintain their 1-0 advantage. Coates’ making his presence felt early set the tone for the Mammoth, as the veteran defenseman was making his season debut after being on the injured reserve for the first month of the season.
Finally, just over eight minutes into the game, Chris Wardle got the Mammoth on the board with his third goal of the season, an unassisted individual effort, and knotted the score at one a piece.
From this point, both offenses seemed to find their footing as they traded goals over the next minute of gameplay. First Zed Williams put the Swarm back on top, only for Wardle to respond with his second goal of the game’s opening frame.
After stopping the Mammoth offense, the Swarm employed an extra attacker on their next possession and Shayne Jackson fired a shot from the right slot that put the Swarm back ahead 3-2.
With the shot clock turned off on their final possession of the quarter, the Swarm once again elicited the use of an extra attacker. This time however the Mammoth defense stayed contained and prevented an open look, denying the Swarm a chance to increase their lead.
As the second quarter began the Mammoth faced the challenge of preventing another early period goal, something the Swarm have been exceptionally proficient at doing thus far in the season.
And like the Knighthawks and Wings before them, and themselves in the first quarter tonight, the Mammoth defense could not prevent the Swarm from putting one in the back of the net in the opening minute of a quarter, as Bryan Cole picked up his third goal in as many games.
The Mammoth however refused to let the game get away from them, and leading scorer Jacob Ruest scored for the sixth time this year to get the game back within a single score.
Colorado incurred a penalty on the following face off, giving the Swarm a man advantage. The Mammoth defense was up to the challenge, marking just the fourth time in ten power play opportunities this year that the Swarm were denied a goal.
Colorado continued to keep pace with the Swarm, tying the game at 4 on Ruest’s second goal of the night, and then in the final two of minutes of the half Ryan Lee answered Zed Williams’s second goal with one of his own, tying the game back up at 5.
A Swarm offense that had been scoring 13 goals-per-game coming into tonight was, as expected, slowed by a very good Colorado defense. The 5-5 halftime score was right where Colorado wanted the game, and Swarm coach Ed Comeau lamented his team’s inability to take advantage of the scoring opportunities presented to them in the first half. “We have to do a better job of taking advantage of chances”, he said at the half.
As the second half began, something odd happened; The Swarm did not score in the opening minute of the quarter. Colorado however, after playing great defense to start the period, committed a penalty a couple of minutes into the half. After the Tim Edwards penalty for holding, they weren’t denying the Swarm on the man advantage for a second time as a brilliant over the shoulder pass from Randy Staats to Myles Thompson led to a go-ahead goal. Then, less than :30 later, the Swarm added yet another goal, this time it was Bryan Cole doing the scoring.
Colorado again would not back down, and again it was Ryan Lee and Jacob Ruest coming up with the answers for the Mammoth. Four goals in under ninety seconds turned the 5-5 defensive struggle into a bit more of an offensive show as the score was 7-7 with still more than 11:00 to play in the third quarter.
The uptick in offensive play continued as Zed Williams earned himself a hat trick with a brilliant shot from up top against Mammoth goalie Dillon Ward. Then, not :15 later, the Swarm added another goal, this one coming of the stick of Shayne Jackson, leading to another quick rendition of the Outkast song of the same namesake for the second time of the evening.
But just like each time before when the Swarm threatened to blow the game open, Colorado found an answer to stay in the game. After failing to convert to open the game, the aforementioned Coates announced his return from injury with a key unassisted goal that kept Colorado within one.
Colorado turned around and followed the goal up by committing yet another penalty, putting the Swarm on the power play for the fourth time. After having been stopped on two of their first three power plays, the Swarm wasted no time burying one in the back of the net to regain their two-goal advantage with Lyle Thompson doing the damage with his third power play goal of the year.
Armed with a 10-8 lead the Swarm entered the final quarter on the power play yet again, Colorado again suffering the consequences of their attempt to be physical in their efforts to stymie the dynamic Swarm attack. Following their inability to convert the man advantage into a three-goal lead however, the Swarm yielded a goal to Colorado, bringing the Mammoth back within one.
Every time the Swarm seemed destined to find some breathing room and take control of the game, the pesky Mammoth offense found a way to get back on the scoreboard and keep the pressure on the home team.
Within one, Kyle Killen scored the equalizer for Colorado 1:37 into the period and what was supposed to have been a defensive struggle had turned into a full on offensive showcase.
The Mammoth continued their fourth quarter offensive onslaught as last week’s hero, Jordan Gilles again came up with a clutch goal for Colorado, putting the Swarm in the foreign territory of actually trailing in a game. In addition to the go-ahead goal, Gillies, who came into the game with 293 career loose balls, picked up the seven more loose balls needed to push him to 300 for his career.
Despite his seven, and ten from teammate Chris Wardle, the Mammoth still recovered only 65 loose balls compared to 95 from the Swarm. A number that, coupled with Georgia’s advantage in shots on goal, would have likely led one to believe the Swarm were in control of the game.
Throw in Colorado’s penchant for finding their way into the penalty box and it seemed like Georgia should be in good shape as the game played itself out down the stretch.
Following a Joey Cupido holding penalty, Colorado yielded a game tying goal to Shayne Jackson on the third goal scored by Georgia following a Colorado penalty. It was also Jackson’s third goal of the game, joining Williams in the hat trick club, and his ninth of the season. It was the last goal Colorado would yield.
As the offense began to run dry, so did Georgia’s discipline, committing back to back penalties giving Colorado a two-man advantage that they turned into their 12th goal of the night, the fifth scored by Ruest. It was Ruest’s team-leading 10th goal of the season.
Georgia had a great opportunity to tie the game back up on Jordan MacIntosh breakaway, but MacIntosh was unable to get the ball past Ward in what turned out to be a pivotal moment in the game as Colorado came right back down the floor and scored on their ensuing possession, pushing their advantage to two.
A Colorado team that only scored four goals total in their previous two fourth quarters found the back of the net five times in the first ten minutes of the final quarter in Duluth, turning a two-goal deficit into said two goal lead.
Neither team was able to add another goal over the game’s final five minutes, and the Colorado defense, led by an outstanding fourth quarter in net by Dillon Ward, preserved their two-goal advantage through the game’s final horn.
For Georgia, the defensive performance was disappointing, allowing 13 goals to a team that had managed a mere 16 over the first two games of the year. The loss dropped the Swarm to 2-1, while the Mammoth have recovered from a season opening home loss to Saskatchewan to win back to back road games against two of the league’s top teams.
The Mammoth also continued their mastery over the Swarm, marking the sixth time in eight all-time meetings that Colorado came out victorious.
Colorado, led by third star Ryan Lee and the game’s first star Jacob Ruest, with their road success in Calgary and Duluth, served notice that this team is a bonafide championship contender. The return of Coates seemed to ignite the entire unit and with last year’s leading scorer Eli McLaughlin still on the injured reserve, the Mammoth know that their offense will only get better as the year continues.