The Colorado Mammoth (9-3) are postseason-bound following a thrilling 13-12 overtime affair over the Calgary Roughnecks (6-8) on Saturday night at Pepsi Center in front of 14,127 fans.
Colorado is the first team in the NLL to punch their playoff ticket this season in a game highlighted by decisive plays on defense and clutch gameplay by the Mammoth leadership.
After tying the game late in the fourth quarter to force overtime, John Grant, Jr. scored the game-winning goal at 13:04 of the extra period. He finished with five points (4+1) to help keep the Mammoth undefeated at home this season.
“The first possession was designed for me to go one on one and see what happens and feed the guy that was open,” Grant commented. “The ball moved around and we saw something that we liked and we got another opportunity. Fortunately the ball ended up in my stick and put it through a pretty small hole.”
“Hard fought game, I thought both teams played great. I thought both teams made good adjustments,” Roughnecks head coach and assistant GM Curt Malawsky said. “A one-goal game in overtime, it’s a testament to the guys on the guys on the floor. They left everything out there.”
“I wish we did it in regulation, but the guys came through when it counted,” added Mammoth coach Dan Stroup. “If we had a better third quarter, maybe we would have been there.”
Adam Jones also highlighted the Colorado offense after going scoreless against Calgary in the teams’ previous outing. He finished with six total points (3+3).
Curtis Dickson (4+1) and Jeff Shattler (2+5) led the charge for Calgary.
Colorado opened with the game’s first three goals, in a span of 1:10. Calgary was quick to counter with scores by Wesley Berg and Dickson moments later, before Shattler and Dickson netted late scores to put the Riggers up 4-3.
Chris Wardle and Grant led a second stanza charge for the Mammoth, scoring two each in the quarter. Cam Holding added a fifth for Colorado before Calgary’s Tyler Digby pocketed a late half goal, making the score 8-5 at halftime in favor of the home team.
Down three the Roughnecks were quick to turn the tide in the second half. Five unanswered scores by five different players gave Calgary a two-goal advantage before Colorado ended a 15 minute scoring drought with a late score by Jones, making it 10-9 going in to the final frame.
The teams would alternate goals throughout the period, with Colorado tying the game three separate times. With 25 seconds left in regulation however, Calgary gained possession, and after a timeout attempted a game winning play to no avail. The Mammoth claimed the ball with four seconds left, who attempted a long shot that sailed wide as the buzzer sounded to signal overtime.
Both teams exchanged possessions in the extra session, but on Colorado’s third attempt on offense, Grant sank the game-winner with five seconds remaining on the shot clock.
“We try not to panic in those situations,” Grant added. “We have a tendency to go cold from time to time. There are a lot of reasons for that to happen, but we just have to focus next week on making sure that doesn’t happen.
“That doesn’t happen without our defense stepping up in OT and down the stretch. That win is a completely defensive win for us…we went dormant on offense tonight, we got to stop doing that.”
Dillon Ward was given the nod to start Saturday night for the Mammoth, but pulled just over midway through the third quarter. He finished the night with 31 saves on 41 shots. Alex Buque stopped 14 of 16 in relief of Ward, making big stops late in the half.
“It’s a game of momentum, it’s a game of runs,” Malawsky said. “They went on their five goal run, went on our six goal run starting through the third quarter…it was a one goal game coming down the stretch. Last shot wins, Junior is a phenomenal player and he always seems to get the big goals.”
Mike Poulin started in the second game this weekend for Calgary, who stopped 38 of 50 on the night following a 25 save performance against Georgia Friday night.
The team will wrap up their three-game road trip next week against the Rush, beginning at 9:30 PM ET. But despite tonight’s close loss, the team has plenty of positives moving forward according to Malawsky.
“Character,” he said. “We have great character in this room. I’m not too worried about Saskatchewan. [If] we play like that every night and compete like the way we did, battle and do the little things and believe in each other we’re going to make noise.”
With the playoff race heating up, the Riggers control their own destiny, a loss like tonight is a bitter pill to swallow, but not as harsh as one in a few weeks time.
“Better now than in the playoffs or a do-or-die situation…we’re 3-1 in the last four games and we have to build off of that.”
Colorado meanwhile will begin a two-game road trip starting next Saturday against the New England Black Wolves, which is slated for 7 PM ET.
Three Stars of the Game:
1) Alex Buque
2) John Grant Jr.
3) Greg Downing
By Nick Salen for NLL.com. Photo by Jack Dempsey.