The Colorado Mammoth completed an epic comeback Saturday night at Pechanga Arena as the organization captured a 15-13 victory in Game 3 of the West Conference Finals. The win secures the team a spot in the NLL Finals for the first time since 2006, when the team won its first championship, and is now slated to visit the Buffalo Bandits June 4 for Game 1 of the NLL Finals.
Mammoth forward Eli McLaughlin recorded 12 points (5g, 7a), while Connor Robinson (3g, 5a), Zed Williams (2g, 3a), Tyson Gibson (2g, 2a) and company rounded out scoring efforts in the win. Veteran goaltender Dillon Ward stopped 42-of-55 and became the 9th goaltender to record 500 postseason saves. Colorado will now head east to Banditland next weekend before hosting Buffalo for Game 2 of the Finals at Ball Arena Saturday, June 11 at 7 p.m.
“This year we grind being down and it feeds us,” Mammoth forward Eli McLaughlin shared in a postgame interview. “We went into the locker room (at halftime) knowing we were down, but knowing we could do it and I’m just so happy to be going back to the finals.”
After being deemed a healthy scratch during Colorado’s first three postseason matchups, defenseman Erik Turner got the Mammoth on the board first Saturday, as the first-year regular finished a transition opportunity just over three minutes into the opening quarter. But, courtesy of a delayed penalty call, San Diego’s Zack Greer was able to convert a six-on-five opportunity after a series of Seals’ passes left the forward open outside the crease.
Zed Williams fired a saucy step-down, overhand bid on net at the 11:18 mark, which found its way past San Diego goaltender Frank Scigliano, to regain a one-goal advantage for Colorado. The former Mammoth forward, Greer notched his second of the night less than two minutes later after scoring two last weekend in Game 2.
Following a San Diego penalty call four minutes into the second, Eli McLaughlin executed a quality seal for teammate Tyson Gibson, who fired a nasty step-down shot from the point past Scigliano, granting the Mammoth another one-goal lead. However, on San Diego’s ensuing possession, Jeremy Noble drew two defenders on a missed switch and sent a backhanded lob to an open Wes Berg, who quickly found twine 24 seconds later, re-knotting the contest.
Continuing to spread the scoring early, Casey Jackson received a pass from Noble behind the net, stepped around Ward’s right side and eventually buried a far-side attempt past the netminder to give San Diego a 4-3 lead. Just 20 seconds later, Austin Staats became the Seals’ fourth member of the team to score, as the forward fired early into the possession and converted on the unexpected bid.
McLaughlin fires a point-blank shot on Scigliano which ricochets off Scigliano and to the aggressive stick of Connor Robinson, who instantly put the ball back on net and squeaked one over the goal line at the 7:19 mark. Rookie defenseman Patrick Shoemay was able to re-establish a two-goal lead for the Seals, as the defenseman finished a transition opportunity less than a minute later. Berg continued the run after sending a fiery step-down shot from the point past Ward, granting San Diego its first three-score advantage of the night.
Dobbie registered himself on the scoreboard after triple-faking a high-arcing Ward and logging San Diego’s third straight. Instantly retaliating, McLaughlin was able to beat his man before finishing a diving cross-crease bid to bring Colorado back within three.
Seals’ rookie Tre Leclaire added his team’s ninth tally of the night late in the second to grant San Diego a 9-5 advantage heading into halftime after outscoring Colorado 7-3 in the second.
As the result of a holding the stick penalty called on Tyson Bomberry, McLaughlin was able to convert less than 10 seconds into Colorado’s extra-man opportunity. Forty seconds later, Robinson, doing his best Dylan Kinnear impression, went low crease-side and sent a back-handed no-look shot past Scigliano to get Colorado back into the ball game, trailing by only two midway through the third quarter. Continuing the run, McLaughlin fired a fierce step-down shot from the left side to bring his squad back within one.
After taking its 3-0 goal differential into the fourth, Robinson opened the final period with a goal three minutes into the fourth, Colorado’s fourth-consecutive. Following it up a minute later with a stellar transition effort, Joey Cupido finished a spinning behind-the-back effort to give Colorado a lead four minutes into the fourth. The Mammoth kept it coming, as McLaughlin beat Scigliano at the 5:23 mark to grant Colorado its sixth-straight.
Resulting from a holding penalty called on Colorado, Berg was able to capitalize on the extra-man opportunity and create am 11-10 game. But just seven seconds later, rookie defenseman Jalen Chaster received a post-faceoff transition pass from faceoff specialist Tim Edwards before burying one past Scigliano to reinstate a two-goal lead for the Mammoth. Williams posted up his defender just under two minutes later and extended Colorado’s lead to three with his second of the night.
Granted a penalty shot with less than five minutes to play, Dobbie snuck one past Ward to pull the Seals within two late in the fourth. In transition fashion, San Diego defenseman Eli Gobrecht exploded through midfield and connected with a surging Staats, who finished the run with his second of the night.
Working the two-man game on the left side, Robinson and McLaughlin worked San Diego toward the crease before McLaughlin ultimately beat Scigliano. The veteran racked up his fifth of the night with a minute remaining, his second-consecutive dominant postseason performance. Berg picked up his fourth of the evening at the 14:15 mark to solidify a 15-13 final.
Tickets for Game 2 of the NLL finals, hosted at Ball Arena (AKA THE LOUD HOUSE!), which will take place on June 11, are now available!