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2022 NLL Championship Season Review: The Rookie Difference

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.

Having explored some of the team’s most explosive and entertaining players in the series’ first few posts, we’ve been able to re-live some of the biggest and best highlight moments during Colorado’s 2021-22 NLL Championship season. Featuring the smiles of Zed and Joey, the competitiveness of Ward and Robinson, the raw talent and teamwork from Lee and McLaughlin … the list goes on.

Originally selected in the 2020 NLL Entry Draft (2nd round, 31st overall) Mammoth fans had to wait nearly a year and half to see the young Coquitlam Adanacs prospect in action. Once the 2021-22 season dawned, Mammoth fans got their wish, quickly understanding why Head Coach Pat Coyle and company believed in the young, speedy back-ender. But with an aging defensive core and midseason trade sending a fellow defensive rookie in Ron John to the New York Riptide, Jalen Chaster would end up seeing some quality transition looks in addition to his 5-on-5 assignments.

Throughout his 16 regular season appearances, the rookie recorded 5 points (2g, 3a), 61 loose balls, 11 caused turnovers and eight penalty minutes in his first season of action, including a career-best 2 points and first NLL goal and assist Jan. 9 in front of his hometown crowd in Vancouver. Chaster added his second goal of the campaign just over a month later when the team hosted the Warriors at Ball Arena, seemingly amped to play the team he grew up watching.

While it was more like Chaster would push the ball up the floor then quickly exit for one of his entering O-guys, as the season progressed and confidence grew, he would stay out in a few more of those sets, letting the shrinking forward group get some extra rest and gaining valuable experience becoming familiar with aspects of the game which he’s normally responsible for defending against.

The former Adanacs defenseman went on to record his first postseason point, an assist, in the quarterfinal round against the Roughnecks before doubling-down on that total with a pair of helpers against San Diego in Game 1 of the West Conference Finals. Eventually contributing a clutch goal in Game 3 of the series, helping his squad clinch its first NLL Finals berth since 2006, Chaster became a reliable force regardless of where he was on the field. Constantly soaking up words of wisdom from some of the team’s veterans, asking questions and putting his head down to grind, Chaster showcased his ability to perform and willingness to blend in, likely cementing a spot on the squad for years to come.

In two regular season appearances with Colorado, forward Brett McIntyre recorded 7 loose balls in limited playing time during April 9 and April 30 late-season matchups. If there was ever a time for one of the first-years to step up for their squad, it was when Mammoth star forward Ryan Lee went down in the team’s quarterfinal win over the Calgary Roughnecks (16-10), thus becoming McIntyre’s time to shine.

Immediately inserted into the lineup for Colorado’s West Conference Finals trip to San Diego, McIntyre recorded his first playoff minutes at Pechanga Arena May 13. Despite only logging three loose balls in the contest, the first-year forward eventually adapted to the bright lights.

Picking up his first NLL career point (and postseason point), McIntyre sent a nice pass to Eli McLaughlin in the first quarter of Game 2, which he finished, granting the young forward his first assist and some additional confidence. Eventually sending a fierce, unassisted bid past Seals’ goaltender Frank Scigliano in the third quarter, marking his first overall and postseason goal, B-MAC was officially NLL ready. While his next performance, an ever-dramatic West Conference Finals matchup back in San Diego, would only see one assist from McIntyre, it was ultimately the NLL Finals where he would take center stage.

Racking up 13 points (6g, 7a) in the best-of-three series, the Calgary native began the impressive showcase with his first professional hat trick June 4 in Buffalo. Part of his then-career-best five points (3g, 2a) McIntyre’s growing charisma with Tyson Gibson, Zed Williams and the elite talents of the left-side unit was paying off for the Mammoth. Eventually besting that total with a six-point showing (2g, 4a) in Game 2 of the Finals, the rookie helped Colorado complete the job back in Buffalo for Game 3, logging a pair of points (1g, 1a) in the win.

While rookie defenseman Noah Lebar and first-year goaltender Nate Faccin didn’t see any official game action in their first NLL action, they were both great additions to the team. Each drafted by the organization, (Faccin: 2020, Lebar: 2021) Faccin served as the backup goaltender in 7 contests this season, with veteran Tyler Carlson sidelined during the middle of the season due to injury. Lebar, a sixth-round selection, stayed with the team, learning in practice, always getting better and enjoying his time in the big leagues. The pair are expected to join the team at training camp next month in hopes of making the roster.

While defenseman Erik Turner and Sam Firth are now riding with the Las Vegas Desert Dogs, as they prepare to debut in their inaugural action during the 2022-23 NLL campaign, they were nonetheless part of last year’s championship squad.

Firth, acquired early in the season from the Georgia Swarm, generally played his largest roles at practice, as the rookie battled a hand injury and a very deep forward group up front for the Mammoth in establishing playing time. That said, when called upon to record his first professional experience in the NLL Finals, he was able to step up and provide for the organization. Tallying a pair of points in the epic Game 3 victory, Firth’s first overall NLL point, goal and assist also qualified as his first points as a pro.

While Turner has been around the league, and within the Mammoth organization for a few years as a member of the practice squad, he made his case to become one of the regulars during the team’s championship run. Appearing in 17 regular season matchups for Colorado, Turner was the definition of hard work, dedication and doing whatever was needed to both make and support the team. (If you’ve seen his Instagram, you know he’s always grinding.) Recording eight points (2g, 6a), 51 loose balls, nine caused turnovers and seven penalty minutes, Turner was everywhere he was supposed to be. Adding a goal in his lone postseason appearance, Turner should be ready to help his new squad after gaining valuable experience last season.

Sharing a variety of roles, responsibilities and beyond, the collection of first-year players complemented the Mammoth’s veteran core well. Showing room from growth, yet establishing the will to grind and now understanding the fun of celebrating the end goal, Colorado’s first-year players will return with less of a spotlight on their growth and development and more of it on them getting the job done game in and game out.

Colorado Mammoth Pro Lacrosse Team