The Vancouver Stealth (4-6) battled back from down five to tie the score at 10-10 early in the fourth quarter, but could not complete the comeback. Instead, it was the Colorado Mammoth (6-5) walking away with the 14-11 victory at the Langley Events Centre on Saturday night in National Lacrosse League action.
“This league, you are never out of it,” said Mammoth captain John Grant, Jr. “Vancouver fought hard and we got a good spurt in the end when we needed it. In the past, we have kind of faltered in the fourth, so we will take it.”
The Stealth lost at home for the first time in four games. It also creates separation in the National Lacrosse League’s West Division as the Mammoth are second at 6-5 while Vancouver is third at 4-6. The two teams complete the home-and-home series on March 29 at Denver’s Pepsi Center.
The game began slowly with both teams tied at two after one quarter and at four early in the second. But the Mammoth scored twice before the half and then broke the game open with three goals to open the third. The Stealth closed the quarter on a 5-1 run and then tied things early in the fourth.
“We could have folded our tent and quit but there is too much character in our room,” said Colorado coach Chris Gill, adding that this was the closest his team has come to playing a full 60 minutes this season. “That’s a big test for us to step up and stop their momentum, a lot of teams would have folded and the guys in that room deserve all the respect for not folding.”
“We had some real good scoring opportunities early and we didn’t score,” said Stealth coach Dan Perreault. “You can’t get down that much, We came close, but we can’t put ourselves in that position. The key moments were earlier in the game when we had great chances and we didn’t score.”
“We showed signs of life, but we dug ourselves a hole at 9-4,” said Vancouver’s Rhys Duch. “The way we played to battle back is how we have to play the whole game if we think we are going to win.”
Duch led the team with three goals and five points. He also passed Gary Rosyski’s franchise record of 250 goals. Duch now has 251. He set the franchise points record earlier this season.
“It is cool. I will put the ball up on display in the man cave when I finally get a house,” Duch said. “Other than that, it is certainly shadowed by the loss, for sure.”
The Stealth offense seemed to be just off on their passes, as well as firing several shots of target.
“We were so stagnant last week, I think we were trying to do a little too much,” Duch said about the team’s out-of-sync offense in the first part of the game. “(But) you can’t blame your sticks. I think it was maybe wanting to do too much.”
The Mammoth were led by Adam Jones (2+6), Jeremy Noble (4+2) and Grant, Jr. (1+5). Early in the game, Grant passed Colin Doyle (1,334 points) and moved into second place all-time on the NLL scoring list.
“All I care about is helping this team get a win,” he said. “They throw the ball at the bench and say something and I have to ask what it is for. All I care about is wins; the rest of the stuff doesn’t concern me.”
The Mammoth also got three goals in transition from Joey Cupido, who leads all defenders with 13 goals. Vancouver lost despite controlling the face-off circle 19-10 and gaining more loose balls, 44-36.
“That was two teams that really wanted that one,” Grant said. “It just came down to our goalie played really well and we got some timely goals.”
Dillon Ward made 39 saves while Tyler Richards stopped 42. The Stealth got three-point games from Tyler Digby (2+1), Johnny Powless (1+2) and Justin Salt (1+2). Corey Small had a goal and an assist while Chris O’Dougherty and Tyler Hass had a goal apiece.
Alex Turner and Jackson Decker had the other Mammoth goals.
By Gary Ahuja (@VanStealthBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Garrett James.