The Colorado Mammoth (8-5) secured a playoff berth Friday night as the home team edged the Calgary Roughnecks (3-10) by a final of 9-8 in overtime at Pepsi Center.
Colorado is the first team in the West Division to punch its ticket to the postseason.
“It didn’t have to be that exciting how we, at the end, could have done better with the ball. We did it for the crowd,” said Mammoth coach Pat Coyle.
John Grant, Jr. scored the game-winning goal at 11:52 of the extra period and led all offensive players with six points (5+1).
“We’ve been battling this team for years, every game seems to go to overtime,” Grant commented. “I felt with the way things were going, I thought it was time to help our team. I had some energy on that shift, just got to the net and fortunately I put it in.”
The overtime also marked the seventh time Colorado has played Calgary in extra time in their last nine overtime games in the regular season. In short, the matchup was no surprise against the heated rivals.
“I thought it was a great, defensive and goaltending battle,” said Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky. “I thought both goalies played phenomenal, they gave each team a chance to win and they each made big saves.
“Two. Straight. Simple. Quality…quality organizations. They do a great job from the top, down…it goes either way every time, and it’s a great testament to each organization over the years.”
Calgary got off to an early lead in the opening frame, pulling out to a 3-0 lead before Garrett McIntosh took a double minor, setting up back-to-back Mammoth scores to make it 3-2 at the end of one. The two teams continued to duel close in a penalty-ridden first half, with Colorado’s Grant tying the game 4-4 shortly before halftime.
Curtis Dickson tallied Calgary’s two goals in the third to give the Riggers a one-goal lead heading into the fourth. Joey Cupido netted a game-tying goal early in the final stanza to make it 6-6. Grant followed up with his fourth goal of the evening to give Colorado its first lead of the night. They would maintain that lead until 9 seconds remaining in regulation, when Dobbie tied the game on the nearside post.
Calgary set up the scrambled score after forcing a turnover on the Mammoth in final minute of regulation. The exchange left the Denver home crowd stunned with the familiar feeling of an upcoming sudden-death with their West Division foes.
“I didn’t see it as them slipping up, I thought we played [the ball] well,” Malawsky said. “We figured out what they were going to do and we were able to turn it around and head back the other way.”
“There was a split second there where everyone just looks to the sky and is frustrated, but then the guys did good job just turning the page…that was a bad play by us and we didn’t want to carry that over into overtime,” Coyle added.
In overtime the teams exchanged possessions and shots on net, until Grant fired home the postseason-clinching goal for the Mammoth.
“Their goalie, Frankie [Scigliano], played well tonight, we had trouble putting it by him. But that [overtime goal] wouldn’t have happened if [Alex] Buque hadn’t made just one of the better saves I’ve seen in a long time. Two weeks in a row that guys has been unreal.”
Buque got the nod for the second week in a row to start for Colorado, as Dillon Ward was absent from the lineup. The rookie netminder did not disappoint, following up his first regular season performance with a 39-save outing, and coming up with several major stops en route to the win.
Scigliano was equally impressive opposite of Buque, where he recorded 42 saves on 52 shots, including two in overtime.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) John Grant, Jr.
2) Alex Buque
3) Frankie Scigliano
It will be a quick turnaround for the teams as they hit the road to Calgary to wrap up the home-and-home series Saturday in Alberta. The game is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET and can be seen on NLL LIVE and TSN GO.
By Nick Salen (@MammothBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Jack Dempsey.