With the opportunity to earn the two-seed in the West Division and secure a home playoff game next weekend, the Colorado Mammoth came up just short, dropping a 10-9 decision to the division champion Saskatchewan Rush on Friday night at Pepsi Center in front of a season-high 17,209 fans.
Colorado jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first quarter on Fan Appreciation Night, but scored only once in both the second and third quarters.
Saskatchewan tallied the first two in the fourth to build a commanding four-goal lead (10-6) with less than six minutes to play.
Then, the Mammoth offense came to life. Joey Cupido scored on a breakaway. Chris Wardle buried in a six-on-five with one-minute, 15-seconds remaining. And Eli McLaughlin pulled the home team within one with 12 seconds left with an extra attacker on the floor.
Dan Coates won the ensuing face-off to Cam Holding, who had a point-blank scoring opportunity on Rush netminder Aaron Bold but was denied with one tick showing on the clock.
“[The Rush defense] did a good job locking off our offensive guys,” explained Holding. “I had to make the decision – I had to take it to the net and unfortunately I couldn’t bury it.”
The Mammoth man-down unit kept the team in the game, limiting the Rush to just one power-play goal on six attempts. It was Colorado’s best penalty-kill effort of the season. Saskatchewan’s lone man-up marker was scored by University of Denver alum Mark Matthews late in the third.
Colorado endured two scoreless droughts of 15-plus minutes, which proved to be too much to overcome.
“We got away from our game-plan, and we addressed that at the half,” said forward Jacob Ruest, who finished with two assists. “We came together in the fourth there, but it was a little bit too late.”
Now the Mammoth must play the waiting game. If the Stealth wins tomorrow at the Black Wolves, the West Division Semifinal will be played in Vancouver. A Stealth loss means the game will be in Denver next Saturday, May 6 at 7:00pm MDT.