Adam Jones exploded on offense with six goals as the Colorado Mammoth (3-0) stayed undefeated with a 15-14 overtime home win over the Buffalo Bandits (1-1) before a crowd of 14,125 at Pepsi Center in Denver on Saturday night.
Mike Burke scored the game-winning goal off a rebound 3:25 into overtime in a game that was tied nine times.
“I just caught the rebound off of [Callum] Crawford,” Burke said. “He made a nice play to the net. He was doing that all game and they weren’t dropping for him. It came to me, I guess I could have shot right away, but I decided to step around and put it in.”
Burke tacked on an assist to go along with the game-winner.
Jones started out extremely hot with five goals in the first half en route to an eight-point (6+2) outing for the Mammoth.
“Always good to win those close ones,” Jones said. “It helps build character, we’ve got some momentum going into next weekend. It was kind of one of those games where if you get a couple early, you just keep shooting and they are falling.”
John Grant, Jr. finished right behind Jones on the evening, posting a six-point (3+3) performance. Bryce Sweeting saw action in his first-ever NLL game, scoring an important late fourth-quarter goal to help keep pace and momentum for the home team.
Mammoth coach Pat Coyle was not as exuberant as his players post game, but still found plenty of silver linings in the team’s nail biting performance in Week 3.
“I’m really proud in the way we battled,” he said. “Not our finest game during periods of that. It’s nice to feel that maybe getting an identity that we’re not going to fold and go away, that we’re just going to keep battling.”
“We wanted to stay away from a game like that,” said Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley regarding the back-and-forth game. “We know they are very explosive offensively. And we made tons of mistakes, we’re not happy with our game. Having said that, we had a chance to win it, but ideally I thought that Colorado outplayed us for most of the game. They were a little more hungrier than we were.”
Buffalo’s offense was highlighted by Dhane Smith (3+5) and Mark Steenhuis (4+1), who picked up his 400th career NLL goal in the team’s first loss of the season.
“Games like that can go either way,” said 35-year-old Steenhuis. “I think we were disappointed that it went to overtime on our end. Lots of things to clean up.”
Smith needed 18 seconds on the Bandits’ first power play chance of the night, going top corner on Dillon Ward three and half minutes into the opening frame. Steenhuis followed up later in the quarter with two scores of his own, with the Mammoth keeping pace with a pair from Jones and one by Chris Wardle.
It didn’t take long for Buffalo to regain the lead, courtesy of an Anthony Malcom tally 13 second into the second. Jones tallied three in the quarter, and with help from Grant, Jr. to gain a temporary lead. Nick Weiss and Steve Priolo responded late in the half for the Bandits to knot the game 7-7 at the half.
The Bandits took the lead midway though the third before back-to-back scores by Grant, Jr. tilted the advantage back to Colorado, heading into the fourth up 11-10. Another three-score run in a span of 26 seconds put the Bandits back on top. The Mammoth countered with back-to-back tallies by Jones and Joey Cupido to tie the game again late in the stanza.
It was Cupido’s first goal of the season, on a coast-to-coast transition tally, which ultimately proved critical for the Mammoth.
“Huge, that was huge,” Coyle added. “I think Joey puts more pressure on himself than we do, that he needs to score goals, and I think it was nice for him too to get that goal.”
With 39 seconds remaining, Buffalo rang a shot off the post on a sprawling Dillon Ward, and with two seconds left, Hones rang a crossbar of his own, setting up a dramatic overtime atmosphere.
The teams changed multiple possessions in the extra period until a rebound by Burke set up the winning goal.
“It was exciting…made up for a pretty mediocre game by myself,” Burke added.
Ward finished the game with 41 saves on 54 shots faced. He was also briefly chased from net, but quickly returned.
“He didn’t have his best game for sure,” Coyle mentioned. “We thought he was pretty average most of the game, but when the chips were down…the save he made on Benesch was unbelievable with 20 seconds left. That was the game right there, and what’s awesome is that he stepped up when he had to.”
Opposite of Ward was Anthony Cosmo, who finished with 40 saves on 55 shots for the Bandits.
Buffalo will look to rebound at home next Saturday as they host the Toronto Rock at First Niagara Center, beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET. Colorado meanwhile will begin a three-game road trip, starting with Vancouver next Friday night at 10 p.m. ET at Langley Events Centre.
Three Stars of the Game:
1) Adam Jones
2) Mike Burke
3) Mark Steenhuis
By Nick Salen for NLL.com. Photo by Jack Dempsey.