The Colorado Mammoth captured a stunning victory Saturday evening after posting a 15-14 win over the now 13-2 Buffalo Bandits. The scrappy, back-and-forth scoring frenzy featured a variety of lead changes, penalties and verbal exchanges of the sort before a rowdy Loud House crowd which ultimately witnessed an impressive Mammoth victory on Military Appreciation Night.
Mammoth forward Ryan Lee paced Colorado scorers with 8 points (1g, 7a), while Connor Robinson continued to come in clutch for the squad with four markers of his own (4g, 0a). On an evening that saw Zed Williams dominate his opposing defenders, Williams added four points (2g, 2a), while Tyson Gibson (2g, 2a), Eli McLaughlin (1g, 3a), Chris Wardle (1g, 1a) and defenseman Alex Woodall (2g, 0a) rounded out scoring efforts for the club. Mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward stopped 48-of-62 shots en route to earning his eighth win of the campaign.
NLL Most Valuable Player candidate Dhane Smith was first to the score sheet Saturday night, as the forward maneuvered around his defenseman and slammed an overhand shot over Mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward’s left shoulder.
As the result of a dead ball foul called on Mammoth defenseman Joey Cupido, the Bandits recorded a power-play tally on its first extra-man opportunity, as forward Chris Cloutier was the recipient of some extra space on the left side and took advantage early in the first.
Following a scoreless first quarter for Colorado, Mammoth forward Zed Williams got the home team on the board 90 seconds into the second after collecting a rebound and sending a spinning bid toward net, which trickled past Bandits’ netminder Matt Vinc.
Connor Robinson kept the scoring going for the Mammoth three minutes later with a power-play response of his own, as the unit worked the ball around on the right side before executing a skip pass to Robinson, who stepped down and converted.
Buffalo forward Kyle Buchanan quickly erased the deadlock with a transition tally before Eli McLaughlin evened the contest again 24 seconds later with his first of the evening from the left side. Chase Fraser continued the back-and-forth exchange for Buffalo on the team’s next possession to recement a one-goal lead for the Bandits.
The Mammoth retied the game with just under eight minutes to play on a unique conversion, as McLaughlin fired a shot at the end of a set play which deflected off of Williams and past Vinc.
Cupido established the first lead of the night for Colorado two minutes later with a transition conversion before Warren Jeffrey was flagged for a slashing penalty on the ensuing possession, which quickly led to a Connor Fields-tying extra-man tally at the 10:13 mark of the second.
The Mammoth didn’t waste much time before reclaiming its lead, as Williams drew a two-man look by posting up his defender outside the crease and drawing a slide before kicking it out to a wide-open Ryan Lee, who buried a saucer from the point to create a 6-5 game.
After gaining possession on a loose ball pushing call, Robinson got back to work on the left side, as the forward received a beautiful pass from Cupido and fired one past Vinc to give Colorado its first two-goal advantage of the contest
Smith again opened up scoring efforts in the second half, as the forward peeled left and outside of his defender and curled back to the crease, eventually beating Ward. Teammate Josh Byrne evened the score at seven less than two minutes later before Buffalo logged its third-straight two minutes later courtesy of a Fraser conversion.
Robinson stepped up with another clutch goal at the 7:41 mark of the third, as the forward came around a screen and fired another step-down bid from the point to complete his hat-trick. Mammoth Draw man Alex Woodall followed up the effort by recording his first career NLL goal Saturday, after winning a faceoff and taking the ball right to Vinc before slamming one home.
After Mammoth defenseman Scott Carnegie was called for a five-minute major, Smith completed his hat trick from the right side before Josh Byrne picked up his second of the night with another power-play goal.
Woodall logged his second career tally and score of the night after winning another faceoff and taking it right back to the house to send another past Vinc and tie the game at 10.
As the Mammoth continued to spread the offensive workload, forward Chris Wardle was the first man off the bench during a transition opportunity and received a pass from defenseman Erik Turner before sneaking one past Vinc to give Colorado a one-goal lead.
Called for its fifth penalty of the night, Colorado gave up another power-play tally at the 3:28 mark as Byrne finished his hat trick effort to tie the game at 11. But on its next offensive possession, recently-acquired forward Tyson Gibson recorded his first goal in burgundy and black.
The back-and-forth affair continued to produce offensive highlights, as Bandits’ rookie Tehoka Nanticoke recorded his 28th of the year with just over 10 minutes to play in the final quarter. The first-year forward later logged his 29th on the year at the 7:12 mark to give Buffalo another one-goal lead.
Williams continued to exert his physical dominance against the Bandits, as the forward wound down the shot clock before connecting with twine on a sick behind-the-back shot.
Gibson’s second of the night was earned via a five-hole bouncer past Vinc with just over two minutes remaining, but Fraser was able to convert on a shot after flying in the air past Ward’s left side to reinstate the tied game.
Robinson’s clutch gene struck again with a minute to play, as the forward cut back and forth outside the crease before finally rolling over a pick and finishing past Vinc to solidify a late 15-14 lead.
Despite dropping the close contest, Buffalo’s offensive unit provided the club a great opportunity to capture the matchup, as MVP front-runner Dhane Smith contributed 12 points (3g, 9a), while teammates Josh Byrne (3g, 5a) and Chase Fraser (4g, 1a) helped make a case for what would’ve been the team’s eighth win in a row. Max Adler was awarded 21-of-34 faceoffs on the evening, while netminder Matt Vinc managed to stop 34-of-49.
Colorado will host a light practice and film session Sunday afternoon at Ball Arena before preparing to host its second of three opponents in nine days, as the New York Riptide are set to visit the Loud House for the first time Monday night. The organizations were scheduled to originally meet for the first time during the shortened 2019-20 season, yet Colorado has now completed its three-game series with the NLL’s 2021-22 expansion club before getting a crack at the “new guys” from 2019-20. After sending forward Tyler Digby and defenseman Ron John to the Riptide last month prior to the trade deadline, former New York forward Tyson Gibson continues to get comfortable in the Mammoth system and produced four points (2g, 2a) in his third game with Colorado.
Through 14 contest contests, forward Ryan Lee continues to pace Colorado players with 92 points and 63 assists while teammate Connor Robinson paces the team with 35 goals. Mammoth captain Robert Hope’s 21 caused turnovers and 108 loose balls both qualify as team-best totals.
Tickets to Colorado’s April 4 Monday Night Lacrosse matchup against the New York Riptide, and all Mammoth home games, can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com. Mammoth road games can be streamed live via ESPN+.