The Colorado Mammoth (9-7) made an equivalent-sized statement and got revenge from last weekend by holding on against the Rochester Knighthawks (10-5) in a nail-biting 11-10 affair at Pepsi Center in Denver on Friday night.
A five-minute major penalty on Colorado late in the game helped Rochester ride a five-goal run to bring the score to within one goal in the final minutes, after going over 24 minutes of game time without a goal.
“They dictated the game in every aspect throughout,” said Knighthawks forward Dan Dawson. “The last five, six minutes we put something together to make a chance at sending it into overtime, but you can’t do that in this league. You can’t leave it, you need to play four solid quarters and they were the better team tonight.”
“I thought they were really good. They had something to prove, and we decided to play in the last few minutes of the game,” Rochester head coach Mike Hasen added.
The win snaps a two-game losing streak for Colorado, avenging their devastating 14-5 loss against Rochester last weekend, and sets the stage for a much higher-stakes game tomorrow night versus the first place Edmonton Rush.
“After last week we definitely had a chip on our shoulders. We had something to prove…we did what our coaches asked of us, that’s what made the difference tonight,” said Mammoth defenseman Cameron Holding.
“The whole thing is we’re moving forward in the season is just building and building so we’re just playing our best lacrosse when playoffs hit. We’re going to build on that tomorrow at Edmonton, and in two weeks and we will be in good shape for the playoffs.”
John Grant, Jr. passed a major milestone in the contest as well, as the NLL veteran tied and passed legend Gary Gait for second on the all-time goals list with 636. He finished the game with five points (3+2). Adam Jones stood in the spotlight as well leading the Mammoth offense with seven (4+3).
For Rochester it was Dawson (1+7), and Cody Jamieson (3+2).
Jeremy Noble opened the scoring affair against his former team early in the opening quarter. He would tack on another on the team’s first power play chance of the evening as well, but Rochester would keep pace with an even strength goal by Scott Self and a power-play score by Cory Vitarelli. The Mammoth would regain the lead however with two scores in 49 seconds courtesy of Creighton Reid and Jones to close out the first.
Vitarelli open the second with a quick goal before Colorado went on a three-score run. In that span Grant would tie Gary Gait for second on the all-time goals (635) list in the NLL, coming at 1:20 remaining in the half, sending the Mammoth to the locker room up 8-5.
It didn’t take long for Grant to eclipse Gait for sole possession of the 2nd place mark, scoring career goal 636 at the 10:43 mark of the third. Colorado was tested moments later on a 5-on-3 disadvantage for a full two minutes, but solid goaltending by Dillon Ward and the three defenders in front of him kept the home team up with a four-goal advantage. It would become a five-score lead after Jones recorded his fourth of the evening to set up the final stanza.
Rochester registered scored back-to-back goals in the fourth to snap a 24-minute scoring drought for the visiting team. A five-minute major crosschecking penalty by Tyler Codron late in the game nearly spelled disaster for Colorado, however. The Knighthawks shrank a five-goal deficit to just two courtesy of three power-play goals.
With the lead now down to a single goal, Rochester won the ensuing faceoff and quickly called timeout to set up a final game-tying play; but a miscue at the top of the box saw the ball roll back into the Knighthawks end, where Colorado’s Joey Cupido scooped the loose ball and killed off the remaining ticks.
“When that stuff happens we have to try and stay calm…that’s when you have to be your strongest, and we were,” Holding added.
“One thing we did to night was lose focus on things we couldn’t control, and that was crowd noise, what the referees are doing, what the Mammoth are doing,” Dawson commented. “We can only control what we do, [and] we lost total focus tonight from the get-go. It showed in the result.”
Dawson also gave credit where credit was due to opposing netminder Ward, whose 41 saves were highlighted by two key saves to keep the Knighthawks from tying the game.
“Dillon has shown why he’s a first rounder and a starter in this league. He won the game for them tonight, he made the saves when he needed to.”
Knighthawks all-pro netminder Matt Vinc played opposite of Ward on Friday night, stopping 38 of 49 shots.
Another quick turnaround awaits these teams, as Rochester travels to Vancouver to face the Stealth tomorrow night at 10 p.m. ET, while Colorado heads to Edmonton to begin a home-and-home series against the Rush to decide who will be crowned the West Division champions of 2015. That game is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) John Grant, Jr.
2) Dillon Ward
3) Adam Jones
By Nick Salen (@MammothBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Jack Dempsey.