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Stars and History Collide When The Seals and Mammoth Battle In the Quarterfinals

The NLL playoffs have arrived! Four single-elimination battles involving teams who have absolutely earned the right to fight it out for professional lacrosse’s most sought-after prize.

Perhaps the Quarterfinal round’s most intriguing matchup takes place in sunny southern California, when the number one seeded San Diego Seals host the fourth seeded/defending champion Colorado Mammoth, Friday night at Pechanga Arena. The 10pm ET/7pm PT clash can be seen on both ESPN+ and TSN+.

These franchises are mighty familiar with each other, when factoring in their epic three-game Conference Final clash last season, along with the three times the teams have played since late January, including both last weekend and on April 14.

The 2022 West Conference Finals featured scores of 14-12, 11-10 (in OT) and 15-13, with the Mammoth’s hard-fought triumph preparing them beautifully for their NLL Finals collision with the Buffalo Bandits. View the Game 3 highlights from the 2022 West Conference Finals here. By contrast, this regular season, the Seals have walked away victorious on two of three occasions, including taking out Colorado 11-8, just last weekend in San Diego.

The Seals were nothing short of remarkable, during the regular season, posting a robust 14-4 record, which included two consecutive victories to close out the campaign. San Diego led the NLL in goals with 240, amid tying for third in least scores given up at 193. Head Coach Patrick Merrill’s squad is led by the four-headed scoring monster of Wesley Berg, Dane Dobbie, Curtis Dickson and Austin Staats. The Berg-Dobbie-Dickson trio placed 7th, 10th and 11th in total points (all over 100 points), with the iconic duo of Dobbie and Dickson landing 6th and 8th in goals scored, amid Berg finishing 6th in assists. When factoring in Staats’ respectable 75-point tally, it’s easy to ascertain as to why the Seals offense can be described as both prolific and spectacularly fun to watch.

Less than a year removed from partying with the NLL Cup in Buffalo, the Mammoth’s season residing on lacrosse’s mountaintop has been more difficult than hoped. An 18-6 opening game thrashing, courtesy of the Saskatchewan Rush, served as the precursor for a roller-coaster ride of injuries and inconsistent play, including two consecutive defeats to cap off the 18-game schedule, of which the Mammoth finished with a 9-9 record and the fourth seed in the West, including just a 2-7 record away from Ball Arena. While expectations may have been higher for this team, they did finish last season at 10-8 and were still able to make the championship run as underdogs while losing key pieces along the way in Ryan Lee and Eli McLaughlin.

With Ryan Lee and his 119 points in 2021-2022 not returning to action until late February of this season, fellow stars Eli McLaughlin, Zed Williams and Connor Robinson posted solid, yet somewhat underachieving statistics, finishing with 83, 71 and 71 points respectively. McLaughlin cracked the top eight in goals scored with 44, but Colorado’s overall lack of offensive punch was evident in the fact that the club was one of only four franchises to finish with less than 200 goals, ceasing at 190. No forward played all 18 games; Williams, McLaughlin and Robinson all played 17 but otherwise the lineup was a continuous rotation all season with Ryan Lee, Chris Wardle, Tyson Gibson, Dylan Kinnear, Ty Thompson and Brett McIntyre and former Mammoth players in Rhys Duch and Mike Burke all vying for time

When it comes to lighting the lamp, the clear advantage belongs to the beach boys of San Diego.

Between the pipes, the Seals had a two-headed approach this season. Frank Scigliano started and ended the regular season in net, going 10-2 with a 10.71 goals against average and 78% save percentage. Chris Origilieri also saw ample time in net and put up similar numbers, a 10.36 goals against average and 77% save percentage. Simply stated, San Diego was all-around brilliant this season, dominating the game on both sides of the field leading to their 14-4 record.

Though Scigliano ranks as one of the NLL’s best goalies right now, his counterpart on the Mammoth side is already considered an all-time great by many. Known as perhaps the best goalie in the world for both field and box lacrosse, the fabulous Dillon Ward’s resume includes a whopping 55 saves during the 2022 NLL Finals clinching game, leading to the Orangeville, Ontario native being crowned Finals MVP. He’s a proven winner and knows how to put the team on his back in big game situations.

The matchup of goaltenders presents a unique contrast between the man of the hour vs. the man whose been there and done that.

While the Seals come into Friday’s game as the prohibitive favorite on paper, in a win or go home scenario, absolutely anything can happen as we saw last season. San Diego has the talent and dominant regular season to hang their hat on, but the champs are the champs for a reason. Whilst Seals stars Dobbie and Dickson own rings from their days in Calgary, the squad from Denver is full of recent champions, who enter this game with the recollection of capturing multiple winner take all games last season in Calgary, San Diego, and Buffalo on their way to the title.

For teams that have been developing a rivalry since the day the Seals were announced as an expansion team, this game has all the makings of an instant classic like we saw last week!

The victor faces the winner of the Panther City at Roughnecks contest in the best-of-three Conference Finals, which takes place Saturday night at 9:30 ET/7:30 MT, on ESPNU, ESPN+, TSN, and TSN+.