The Vancouver Warriors could’ve locked up their season-series with the Colorado Mammoth last night. Instead, the two West Division rivals will decide who has the upper hand between them tonight when they face off once more, this time in Denver at the Pepsi Center.
It’s only March, but both teams know how much is on the line in this back-to-back battle between the Warriors and the Mammoth. There’s no mincing words here: these two games are playoff games.
The energy and intensity from both clubs was obvious at the get-go. Although the Warriors jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead and it was looking like the Mammoth were doomed for another slow first quarter, the visitors flipped the script and finished the frame with a season-high four goals in the first 15 minutes.
The Warriors kept the game close through most of the first half, but allowed the Mammoth to go on a three-goal run to end the half down three to put the score at 7-4. For those with a decent memory, 7-4 was the halftime score at the end of the first half the last time these two played before the game headed to overtime and Logan Schuss scored the game winner.
However, the Warriors fate was not the same on the this night. Despite Schuss’s third quarter effort of two goals to complete his hat trick and bring the score to 8-7 with three minutes left in the third, the Mammoth would control the game from that point on.
Dillon Ward didn’t allow a single goal over the final 18 minutes to help his team to a 11-7 victory on the road. Ward has now allowed just 11 goals over his last 104 minutes. Schuss, who finished the night with five points (three goals and two assists) was able to beat Ward on this occasion, but the rest of his teammates could only muster four goals. While frustrating, the Ladner-native knows to expect these types of outings from Ward because he’s seen it so many times over the years.
“I’ve been facing [Ward] since the bantam nationals like 15 years ago,” said Schuss. “He’s a great goalie and you saw that tonight. Once he gets on a roll, it’s tough to score on him, but if we can keep getting our shots and start scoring in bunches tomorrow, it’s going to be the key to our success.”
The Warriors can’t get discouraged even though Ward stopped 41-48 shots including 21-23 shots from the team’s top-three leading scorers Mitch Jones, Jordan McBride and Keegan Bal. Warriors head coach Chris Gill knows it was difficult to find the back of the net for most of his guys last night, but he expects a different performance tonight in Denver.
“We’ve got to reset,” said Gill. For the most part, I don’t think we were moving the ball or moving our feet. We were stationary and making it relatively easy on the defence. But, when we were actually going hard, going to the goal and doing our stuff we were getting open. We have to get back to our system.”
After last night’s win, the Mammoth are now a game ahead of the Warriors in the West Division and could steal the season-series tonight in Denver. If the Mammoth were to win tonight, not only would they take the season-series, they would push themselves two games ahead of the Warriors – with the tiebreak on their side – and the Warriors would only have four games left on their schedule. To say it’s a must-win isn’t an understatement for the Warriors according to Schuss.
“It’s huge,” said Schuss. “This is the playoffs. I know it’s cliche, but, if we don’t win this next game, it’ll be hard to get into the playoffs. It’s a business trip and we’re looking forward to it. We’re chomping at the bit to get to Denver.”
The huge game will start at 9:00 PM EST in Denver and can be seen on B/R Live