Callum Crawford (3+5) and Adam Jones (4+4) each notched eight points to lead the Colorado Mammoth (2-0) to a 16-14 victory over the Rochester Knighthawks (0-1) in front of 7,982 fans at Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night. The Knighthawks took a 4-0 lead after the first quarter, but the Mammoth outscored the hosts 9-1 in the second quarter to help them to a lead they would never relinquish. The Mammoth were quick to compliment the Knighthawks after the victory.
“We’re pretty happy with the win,” said Mammoth coach Chris Gill. “Completely exhausted. You know what? That’s a great team we played against. The fact that, as a team, our dressing room was able to not wrap it up after being down four-nothing after the first quarter in a hostile barn, it showed that they are committed to the team and they want to win.”
“It’s huge, it’s another step forward for our team,” said Mammoth forward Callum Crawford. “We can get so much better. There’s so much more we need to do to be where we need to be to finish our goal. That’s a great, unbelievable team. They’ve won so many championships for a reason. First game of the season for them, we already had one under our belt. They’re working out the kinks as well. That’s a great team that we beat, so we’re really proud to pick up that win.”
“They can score from both sides of the floor,” said Knighthawks defenseman Mike Kirk. “We held them for three quarters, but that one quarter got away from us. They made us pay.”
The Mammoth put on an offensive show, but the fireworks started on the very first shift of the game. Cody Jamieson made his return after tearing his Achilles tendon back in May and proved that he had returned only 19 seconds into the game, scoring his first goal of the season en route to a seven-point game (2+5).
“It’s great to see Cody Jamieson back,” Crawford said. “It’s wonderful.”
“I think on his very first shift, he showed everybody he’s back,” said Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “He’s battled hard. He’s had a long summer of pushing himself and making sure he’s available and ready to do that tonight. All the credit goes to him.”
“For me personally and all the rest of the guys in the room, it’s inspiring,” said Knighthawks forward Dan Dawson. “It’s a devastating injury, and how hard he’s worked, he has no rust tonight. He gets the first goal tonight… He’s our best player. To me, he’s the best player in the world.”
“You don’t ever want to come out here, season opener, and get a loss,” said Jamieson. “I had a tough battle. We started good early, then hit a little dry spot there as an offense. You can’t do that in this league. Personally, I feel great health-wise, but it’s still disappointing with a loss like that.”
Jamieson’s return was not the only bright spot on the night for the Knighthawks. Rookie defenseman Graeme Hossack made his NLL debut and came away with two goals.
“I thought Graeme played really well,” Dawson said. “He had those big, big two goals in transition here and brought it really close. He got some tough loose balls. Those are things that may not show up on the scoresheet, but he’s a fantastic player and he’s only going to get better.”
“Hossack, what do you say about him?” Hasen said. “Big boy, two goals. Don’t expect two goals every night out of him, but he had a good one too. He’s a big, strong, fast boy.”
“It’s good to get them out of the way,” said Hossack. “Now I can focus on making improvements. I made a few mistakes today that I’m hoping to improve on… I feel fine. It’s just getting used to the pace and make sure that I learn from my mistakes. Keep moving forward.”
Just like the Mammoth did not fold after falling down 4-0 after the first, the Knighthawks kept battling all the way through the end.
“At halftime, we said it’s a test of character,” Dawson said. “Our character is there, our effort is there, it was just our execution tonight. Every time we made a mistake, Colorado made us pay. That was the biggest thing, every mistake we made, the ball was in the back of our net. They deserved to win tonight.”
“If you look at the fourth quarter and some of their goals, they were just hard-working goals,” Gill said. “They were banging, getting rebounds. We played great ‘D’ and they got four goals off rebounds and the end.”
The feeling among the Knighthawks after the loss was that the problems Saturday night are correctable.
“When we look at the game film and start preparing for Toronto tomorrow, we know it’s going to be a loose ball, a stick swing,” Dawson said. “Penalties were big tonight, 6-2 tonight. We didn’t generate enough power plays, that’s on the offense. When you’re in the box for like 12 minutes, that takes away almost a quarter of your time, and that’s really tough.”
“We can take some positives out of it,” Kirk said. “We have two big games this week, Thursday and Saturday against Toronto. I think we take the lessons from it and move on.”
“We turned it around in the second half,” Hasen said. “We kept it close and we had our chances. So moving forward, there are a lot of good things that will come.”
The Knighthawks travel north to take on the Rock Thursday night then return to the BCA on Saturday night to finish the home-and-home series. The Mammoth return home for a Saturday night matchup against the Buffalo Bandits.
Three Stars of the Game:
1) Callum Crawford
2) Adam Jones
3) Cody Jamieson
By Jeremy Pike (@KnighthawksBeat) for NLL.com.