A fourth-quarter frenzy brought the Colorado Mammoth (7-2) back from extinction on Saturday afternoon, as the home team rallied from a five-goal deficit in the fourth quarter to top the Vancouver Stealth (4-5) by a final of 11-10 in front of 14,009 fans at Pepsi Center.
Adam Jones scored the game-winning goal with one second remaining to cap off a six-goal fourth quarter for the star forward, which set the new NLL record for most goals by a player in the fourth quarter, as Jones finished the game with seven points (6+1).
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Mammoth coach Chris Gill of Jones’ outburst. “I still don’t even know what happened. We got lucky tonight, we weren’t sharp, but luckily we got a hot stick in Jones. When it came down to it, the big guys stepped up.”
“That might have been our worst game of the year for the first three quarters,” Jones admitted. “It could have been the bye weekend blues…But we just believe in the process and wear teams down, by the end of the game, it showed.”
In the first three quarters, the Mammoth looked dead in the water. Despite showing advantages in small areas of the game, the scoreboard was against them from the get-go.
“We didn’t have a great flow in the game or playing our style,” Gill added. “We like to dictate pace, dictate what’s going on…I think for most of the game they were outpacing us.”
On the other bench, the Stealth appeared just as shocked as the Pepsi Center crowd that remained when the clock struck zero, which resonated in the locker room postgame.
“It was split into two games the way we played in the first half and the second half,” said Stealth head coach Dan Parreault. “We ran out of gas and Jones got hot.”
For Vancouver, Ryhs Duch and Logan Schuss registered three goals and three assists to highlight the Stealth offense.
Jeremy Noble tallied Colorado’s lone goal in the opening quarter on an extra attacker situation. Vancouver would answer with their opening goal moments later, before tacking on two late scores by Schuss to take a 3-1 advantage.
The Stealth continued to control the tempo in the second with three more unanswered goals. John Grant Jr. snapped a nearly 20 minute scoring drought by the Mammoth to make it 6-2 at the half.
Vancouver tallied two more scores in the opening 1:26 of the second half, ultimately chasing Dillon Ward from net. The Stealth would add one more in the quarter to Colorado’s two.
The fourth quarter was all Jones. After scoring a hat trick in 27 seconds, Jones converted two more scores later in the quarter to bring the Mammoth back from the brink 9-9. The Stealth stopped the bleeding with a score by Corey Small to tilt the lead back in Vancouver’s favor temporarily before Callum Crawford tied the game again for Colorado with just over 4 minutes remaining. With one second remaining, Jones fired a shot from long distance, securing the fourth quarter “sock trick” and the game-winner for the home team.
The key to Colorado’s improbable comeback: getting those little things right, such as picks and ball movement.
“When you get that bye weekend, even though you’re training it’s not the same as playing. Sometimes your legs take a while to get going,” Jones added.
But the Mammoth revival was not without controversy. Prior to Jones’ game tying goal, Alex Buque appeared to lose the ball when attempting a clear, rolling into the net in the process. With the attention turned up field, the officials did not appear to see the error by Buque.
Vancouver did however, but unfortunately was unable to challenge the play.
“The ball was in the net. I had no challenge flags, but we were sure the ball was in the net,” Perreault added.
“I have to watch the film, I don’t know what happened,” Gill said in contrast.
Buque stepped in relief of Ward early in the third quarter, picking up the win in an 11-save performance, as Ward exited after stopping 22 of 30 shots. Opposite net was Tyler Richards, who registered 47 saves on the night.
The Mammoth will look to rebound in a big way next week after a narrow escape. Colorado will host the New England Black Wolves on March 5 at 9 p.m. ET. Vancouver will head home as well to host the Buffalo Bandits on the same day, beginning at 10 p.m. ET.
Three Stars of the Game:
1) Adam Jones
2) Alex Buque
3) Rhys Duch
By Nick Salen for NLL.com. Photo by Jack Dempsey.