With first-place in the West Division already locked up, the Edmonton Rush (13-5) wrapped up the regular season on a high note by downing the Colorado Mammoth (9-9) on the road by a final of 13-10 before a massive crowd of 16,239 at Pepsi Center on Saturday night.
The game marks Colorado’s sixth loss in the last seven regular season meetings with the Rush.
“Frustrating,” said Mammoth coach Pat Coyle following the loss. “I’m proud that we battled…we know they are a good team, [Bold] played well tonight, he played different than last week and we didn’t shoot as well.”
Now sitting at .500, the Mammoth will host the Calgary Roughnecks next weekend in the single-elimination West Division Semifinals, the first playoff game at Pepsi Center since 2012.
Ben McIntosh led all players in points on the night (2+7). Mark Matthews was not far behind in his performance registering seven points (4+3) on the night. In net Aaron Bold finished the night with 34 saves.
“I thought both teams competed really hard,” said Rush general manager and head coach Derek Keenan. “There probably wasn’t a ton to play for, a little bit for us, but considering both teams knew where they were going in to the playoffs, but I thought both teams battled hard and proved a point in terms of going into the playoffs on a strong note.”
“It was a great game. It was sort of a different game in terms of it not meaning much standing-wise,” McIntosh added. “But I think it meant a lot in terms of momentum going into the playoffs. It’s a big one for us to get that win.”
Edmonton kicked off the scoring affair just 1:45 into the game with a goal by Matthew Dinsdale, which was followed up by Mark Matthew’s 50th score of the season. Dan Ball rattled off Colorado’s opening score just over four minutes later on transition after clearing the penalty box for slashing call.
Later in the quarter Edmonton used both of their challenge flags to dispute a disallowed goal by the Rush, and a score by Drew Westervelt on the ensuing possession. After review, Edmonton’s was confirmed no goal while Colorado’s replay was inconclusive, thus awarding the goal. In the end, the score settled at 3-2 in favor of the Rush.
Jeremy Noble would knot the game 3-3 on the power play to kick off the second quarter. Ben McIntosh responded to tilt the lead back to Edmonton before Colorado’s Adam Jones made it 4-4 on his 50th goal of the season. The teams exchanged tallies again before heading into the locker room at 5-5.
The Rush then began to break away from the pack in the third, with five separate shooters combining for six goals. Colorado would tally half that, putting the team down 11-8 heading into the final stanza.
Westervelt pocketed back-to-back long-range scores in the fourth and pulled the Mammoth to within a goal, but Matthews quickly responded on a Edmonton power play chance. The eventual three-goal lead would prove too much for the home team to overcome, sending them to .500.
The American veteran shooter led the team in points (3+2) on the evening, with Adam Jones (2+2) just behind him. In total, six players registered goals for Colorado on the night.
“The good news is that we have another week,” Westervelt said. “It’s frustrating, we had portions of the game where we played pretty well, and then we had long lulls. All of us are accountable for that. We had a good fourth quarter…but things have to be better mentally next week.”
Dillon Ward started in net once again for Colorado, but was once again relived during the contest by Alex Buque after Colorado quickly fell into a three goal deficit. Ward finished the night with 27 saves. Buque recorded 17 in a second half relief role.
Despite the bye week for Edmonton this week, the win was important according to Keenan, which gave the Rush their fourth consecutive win.”
“I think it’s important. It’s important to have momentum,” he commented. “You never know, we might be back here [in Denver], and it’s a good confidence level for us. We get into these playoffs and every team involved is good. We’re fortunate to not play the ‘one-and-done’ game but the two-gamer is a risky one too.”
Colorado will host the Calgary Roughnecks in the West Division Semifinal next Saturday, May 9 at 9 p.m. ET for a rematch of last year’s first-round playoff game where Calgary edged Colorado in overtime and ultimately advanced to the Cup Finals. Just like last year, the winner will face the Edmonton Rush in the West Finals.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Ben McIntosh
2) Drew Westervelt
3) Mark Matthews
By Nick Salen (@MammothBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Bartley Young.