The Colorado Mammoth secured its fourth win of the season, splitting the road double-header by posting a 12-6 victory over the Saskatchewan Rush at SaskTel Centre Jan. 18.
“We have a lot of character in our room – We’ve got a bunch of guys that have played together for a long time and we know what they’re made of,” Mammoth Head Coach Pat Coyle said. “We have so much pride that after last night’s result, we knew that we would bounce back and play better tonight.”
Despite spotting the Rush an early three-goal lead, Colorado relied on goaltender Dillon Ward and its consistent defense to stand tall while the offensive unit found its stride and produced 12 goals during a huge divisional duel. Dillon Ward stopped 53-of-59 while Chris Wardle logged five tallies and Eli McLaughlin recorded a hat-trick among seven points.
“These are always close games – The Rush are such a talented team, but we’re confident in our defense and our offense as well,” Mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward share postgame. “We knew coming in that this would be a tough matchup, and when we went down early, we could’ve mailed it, but we decided to stay the course and stuck with our game plan.”
Ryan Keenan opened the contest’s scoring 35 seconds into the match when Robert Church connected with Keenan down low near the crease, who finished the play to grant the Rush an early lead.
Following a penalty for too many men on the Mammoth, Ben McIntosh finished a series of passes with a quick strike past Dillon Ward to give Saskatchewan a two-goal lead. Mark Matthews buried a power-play goal two minutes later as the result of a second extra man penalty to make it 3-0 just five minutes into the contest.
Chris Wardle got the Mammoth on the board with his eighth of the season seven minutes into the first, courtesy of a Dylan Kinnear assist. An unguarded Josh Sullivan collected an Eli McLaughlin rebound in front of the crease and slammed one past Rush goaltender Evan Kirk less than a minute later.
Rush forward Jeff Shattler slipped by his defender on a pick-and-roll and received a quick feed from Connor Robinson to re-establish Saskatchewan’s two-goal lead.
Eli McLaughlin logged a tally for the Mammoth after cutting through two defenders and receiving a high pass, gathering the ball with one hand on his stick, and tucking one in over Kirk’s right shoulder. A holding penalty on the Rush four minutes into the second quarter led to McLaughlin’s second of the night, as the forward buried a wind-up shot past Kirk to tie the game at four.
Wardle logged his second of the night by taking advantage of a confused Rush defense on a delayed penalty to give Colorado its first lead of the contest. The forward completed his first-half hat trick less than three minutes later with a diving goal past Kirk’s right side to make it a 6-4 game with a minute remaining in the second.
Joey Cupido solidified a three-goal lead by launching a fierce shot from the restriction line in transition that found its way past Kirk with less than 40 seconds in the half. Following a 3-0 early burst for the Rush to start the game, Colorado took a 7-4 lead into halftime.
Warren Jeffrey logged his first career NLL goal during on transition rush with a quick strike past Kirk’s left elbow to make it 8-4 two minutes into the third quarter.
McIntosh brought the Rush back within three when the forward sent a pass across the top of the key to an alert Robinson, who sent it right back to McIntosh before the forward buried a shot past Ward.
A holding penalty on Kyle Rubisch at the 6:11 mark led to a Wardle power-play goal, his fourth tally of the evening, as Wardle received a heated pass from Ryan Lee just outside the crease and slammed the ball in to make it a 9-5 game.
The forward continued his season-best performance by sending a three-quarter sidearm shot in transition past Kirk to cement a five-goal lead for Colorado early in the fourth quarter.
Lee logged a marker from the right side six minutes into the fourth quarter to make it an 11-5 game in favor of the Mammoth. McLaughlin completed his hat trick with a diving goal across the crease from the left side fifty seconds later.
Shattler picked up his second marker of the night with just under four minutes to play in the contest for a final score of 12-6.
“It goes back to last night – we were pretty disappointed with ourselves and I thought the offense rebounded amazingly,” Ward said. “To put up 12 goals in this barn, against that great defense – that’s a huge win in its own, and I couldn’t be happier for the guys up front.”
The Mammoth have continued to shut down the opponent’s best players this season, limiting Mark Matthews to three points (1g, 2a) and Robert Church to two helpers (0g, 2a), as Ben McIntosh logged three points (2g, 1a) and Ryan Keenan chipped in one marker (1g, 0a). Evan Kirk stopped 35-of-47 for the Rush.
During a 5-0 run in the second period, Colorado feasted on the Rush defense and created several scoring opportunities for Mammoth forwards, as Ryan Lee led the team in scoring with seven points. Chris Wardle logged five goals (5g, 0a) as Eli McLaughlin tallied seven points (3g, 4a) on the evening. Sullivan, Jeffrey and Cupido each netted a marker in the victory as well.
In a matchup where the Mammoth were able to execute on both ends of the floor and capitalize on their strengths, film review and preparation paid great dividends.
“Our offense is sticking to the game plan; we’re committing to moving the ball, moving our feet, and it’s just a matter of who’s going to put it in the net,” Mammoth forward Chris Wardle said in a postgame interview. “Sticking to the game plan is what’s going to make us score goals and win games.”
Through seven games this season, forwards Jacob Ruest and Chris Wardle lead the Mammoth in goals (12) while Ryan Lee continues to pace Colorado in points (31) and assists (21) after the forward logged seven points (1g, 6a) Saturday in Saskatchewan.
“We’re excited to get back to Pepsi Center Saturday against Buffalo – It’s the best place to play in the league,” Coyle said. “This weekend gave us two examples of what works and what doesn’t work, so we’re going to build on areas we found success and get after it next week.”