The adage, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” was almost accurate for the Colorado Mammoth’s performance on Friday night. However, despite an admirable late-4th quarter comeback by the home side, the Mammoth fell short due to an incredible driving-then-diving goal by the Knighthawks’ Kyle Jackson to give the visitors a 10-9 overtime win on the road.
Early on in this game, it looked as though the Mammoth might have a second straight game with less than 40 shots on goal. It wasn’t until after the first TV-timeout that they challenged the Knighthawks netminder, Warren Hill. But as the game wore on, the Mammoth’s urgency grew. The team was able to put more shots on goal, and by the final whistle, they were on target 47 times. Hill’s 38 stops were just enough to help his team to a confidence-boosting win.
Having said that, the young Mammoth offence that has deservedly been described as flourishing looked out of sorts up until the 57th minute of Friday’s game. The offence had only mustered six goals up to that point. It didn’t help that Eli McLaughlin had left the game early in the 2nd quarter with an upper-body injury.
What little they did score came from welcomed sources. Chris Wardle had his first hat trick since late January, and defenseman Taylor Stuart scored his fifth goal of the season and his first in eight games.
With little offensive production from the Mammoth throughout most of the game, Dillon Ward was forced, yet again, to make save after save. On Friday he added 44 more stops to his season total and has made 40+ saves in each of his last three games. His expertise in net down the stretch is partly what allowed the offence to gain some momentum and put pressure on Hill in the final moments of regulation.
For the Knighthawks, Ryan Benesch didn’t struggle in his return to the Pepsi Center. He helped fuel the visiting offence with two goals and two assists. The Knighthawks also saw a positive outing from Austin Shanks who was playing in his first game since March 2nd when he experienced a lower-body injury. He had two goals and two assists in Friday’s game.
Knighthawks rookie Dawson Theede continued to show signs of promise. For the third time since he was signed to the team in mid-March, he tallied a goal and an assist, and also added three loose balls and forced a turnover.
Coming into the game, it was clear that face-offs would play a significant factor in the result and that surely was the case. Jake Withers dominated at the face-off dot (17-22) for the Knighthawks and added an assist plus a goal off one of his successful draws. Controlling possession for the majority of the contest frustrated the Mammoth offence, and it might have been the reason why the Mammoth kept trying to force the ball in transition, albeit unsuccessfully a few times when they had the ball.
The Mammoth can still clinch a playoff spot on Sunday night if the Vancouver Warriors lose to the Philadelphia Wings at Rogers Arena. If the Warriors win, though, the Mammoth will have to wait another week to possibly win a game. They head on the road to San Diego to face the Seals next Friday, April 19th at 10:30 pm ET.