The Colorado Mammoth kicked off the entire 2019-20 NLL season with the Black Friday matchup versus West Division rival, Saskatchewan Rush. The Rush would be looking to take revenge on the Mammoth for eliminating them in the 2019 NLL Playoffs in the thrilling West Division Semifinal overtime finish in Saskatoon. The 18th season for the Mammoth kicked off with the 3rd Annual Teddy Bear Toss.
The game started on a sour note for the Mammoth as Robert Church netted the first goal of the season only one minute into the game. Mammoth goalie got a piece of the ball but the ball squeaked past. After the Rush took a 2-0 lead, Ryan Lee got it going for the Mammoth with 3:00 remaining in the first. Lee got the goal off an assist from Jacob Ruest and dunked the ball on the left side of the net to beat Rush goalie Evan Kirk. Kyle Killen tied the game on a powerplay goal at the end of the first quarter of an assist from Eli McLaughlin.
The second quarter had all Mammoth fans on the edge of their seat for the Teddy Bear Toss. Once the Mammoth scored their first goal of the quarter, they would unleash thousands of bears onto the turf to be donated to local non-profit, A Precious Child. Mark Matthews tried to play spoiler to the event by netting the first goal of the second quarter. 44 seconds later however, Chris Wardle, who was questionable to play with injury to begin the night, took a low shot that bounced past Kirk. Once play resumed, the momentum swung to the Mammoth’s side as they went on their best run of the game, netting three straight in the second quarter. After Wardle unleashed the teddy bears, Jacob Ruest scored his first of three on the night, then Ryan Lee scored soon after with his second on the night. Those three goals came in a span of 1:28 in the 2ndquarter. However, Saskatchewan answered with two of their own before the end of the half to tie it at 5 at the midpoint.
Once the 3rd quarter started, the momentum swung the Rush’s way even though Wardle led off the second half scoring, scoring the only goal for the Mammoth in the third. The Rush went on to score four straight and Colorado lost their timeout when the challenged a no-goal call when Dylan Kinnear drove to the net and got the ball past Kirk on a bit of a deflection. The ruling on the field stood leaving the Mammoth behind by two at the end of the third quarter. GM and Head Coach Pat Coyle said about the third, “the 3rd quarter really hurt us, we played too much defense and our offense kind of wilted.” Dillon Ward had two huge saves as the quarter was coming to an end, one of them coming from his back.
To begin the fourth, Connor Robinson scored for the Rush, moving the lead to 9-6. To make matters worse, on the following faceoff, Colorado was hit with a minor penalty when Tim Edwards helmet come off and continued play. Colorado almost netted a short-handed goal when after a save by Ward, he threw a long outlet pass to Chris Wardle who placed the ball wide of the net. The Mammoth were able to kill the penalty and soon got their own power play opportunity on an illegal substitution. Jacob Ruest was able to capitalize on the man advantage to bring the Mammoth within two with just over 10 minutes remaining. For the next ten minutes, Evan Kirk and the Rush defense remained tough, stopping all Mammoth shots on net. Just when it looked like they would pull off the two-goal victory, Ruest scored his third of the night to get the Mammoth to within one with 2:35 remaining in the game. Colorado had two opportunities with Ward on the bench and a sixth forward on the turf to get the equalizer, but a turnover at the end of the game sealed the game for the Rush, 9-8.
Pat Coyle, Mammoth GM and Head Coach after the game had to say about the team’s effort, “There were a lot of positives to build on. For having young guys out there, I thought there were a lot of positives. I don’t think there was a moral victory for that game, we have to think that’s not good enough.”
Coming off the run in the playoffs last season, the Mammoth gained a new confidence and although they didn’t have that dominant scorer who everyone looked to score that big goal, the Mammoth were able to hang around with a tough Rush team. A full year of experience for most of the offense led to more crisp passes and scoring opportunities. Jacob Ruest was the second star of the night, leading the Mammoth with 5 points (3g, 2a).
Three Mammoth players made their debut for the team tonight including first round pick Warren Jeffrey (1a, 8 LB), Will Malcom, and Dylan Kinnear (1a).The Mammoth will take two weeks off before their next game on Saturday, December 21 versus the team that eliminated them from the playoffs last season and eventual champs, Calgary Roughnecks. The Mammoth will return home after a two-game road trip on Saturday, January 4 for the Rumble at the Loud House versus the Vancouver Warriors.
Tickets can be purchased at AltitudeTickets.com. All Mammoth road games can be streamed live via Bleacher Report Live.