As the Colorado Mammoth and teams around the National Lacrosse League (NLL) continue to navigate the offseason waters of expansion draft, entry draft and free agent action, we’re taking a look at some of the most impactful players from the Mammoth’s 2022 NLL Championship run.
Finishing its regular season with a 10-8 record and ranked third in the NLL’s West Conference, the squad made its historic run behind the efforts of one of the franchise’s most memorable and comprised squads in NLL history.
And who would we be to start this series off with anyone other than the NLL Finals Most Valuable Player himself?
Enter Dillon Ward (Not actually though, as the veteran enjoys some summer stick action via his stay with the Waterdogs of the Premier Lacrosse League). The decorated All-World talent has won at nearly all levels and types of lacrosse competition during his storied career, but we came here to brag about his box skills this season, so let’s get to it!
Typically referred to as the “heart of a team,” the goaltender position is especially important to organizations in being able to take the next step from a team contending for a championship to one with its mind set on capturing one. Dating back to training camp filming sessions, Colorado’s veteran-led squad had no shortage of confidence in this year’s team, with an NLL championship noted as the end goal in nearly every individual player interview. The other topic typically mentioned as an anchoring force within the experienced group: Dillon Ward.
Luckily for the Mammoth, Ward served as much more than the heart of this squad. Regularly relied on to make stellar saves while feeding the likes of Joey Cupido, Jordan Gilles and friends during the transition game, “Wardo” was the calm, cool and collected veteran who dealt with whatever was thrown his way, literally. Known around the NLL for never having two less-than-amazing performances in a row, Ward continuously kept Colorado in competitive game situations throughout the Mammoth’s 2021-22 championship campaign via his significant net presence and defensive leadership.
Finishing the regular season with the NLL’s second-highest save percentage (.804), sixth-best goals-against average total (10.22) and tied with the second-most saves (688), Colorado’s prized protector logged career-best totals in each of the categories mentioned while recording a season-high 985:53 time on floor. Both the 688-save mark and 985:53 time on floor feats both represent franchise-bests for the Mammoth and helped the nine-year veteran become nominated for NLL Goaltender of the Year.
Racking up 9 wins during the regular season, Ward went on to post a 5-2 playoff record in 422:26 minutes of postseason action, adding 289 saves while recording a .785 save percentage and 11.22 goals-against average. These are especially respectable numbers given Colorado’s three-game NLL Finals series against one of the league’s most potent offensive units in the Buffalo Bandits and facing several offensive juggernauts during its first two rounds in the likes of Curtis Dickson, Dane Dobbie, Wes Berg and company. Thankfully, a combination of Ward’s familiarity with most top-end talent at this point and the stout defensive squad standing in front of him, the goaltender stood tall against teams’ top threats all season long, forcing teams to make adjustments and find new ways to attempt to beat him.
If the NLL brings back an All-Star game any team soon, expect Dillon Ward to be a captain, and expect him to be on the winning team, as the Orangeville, Ontario netminder has been on fire since entering the league in 2013.