The Colorado Mammoth secured a clutch 9-7 victory over the Calgary Roughnecks to secure a berth in the 2023 NLL Finals behind the stellar efforts of 2022 NLL Finals MVP Dillon Ward and the team’s stalwart defensive unit.
Stopping 33-of-40, Ward absolutely shined in his best game of the entire season, making near-impossible save after save in willing the defending champions into another three-game series against the Buffalo Bandits.
Jeff Cornwall got the scoring started Saturday, courtesy of a short-handed transition effort, granting Calgary an early lead, but Mammoth forward Eli McLaughlin was able to even the score less than a minute later with a power-play effort. Faking Del Bianco out a few times before slamming an overhand bid into the net, the game was knotted at 1
Near the midway point of the opening quarter, Jesse King fired a quick shot at the top of the key while coming around a screen, eventually beating mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward, to regain the lead for the home team.
With 4:20 remaining in the first, Calgary’s Haiden Dickson finished a play directly outside the crease with a side armed low-angled effort to grant the Roughnecks a 3-1 lead.
Less than a minute later, though, Mammoth scoring extraordinaire Zed Williams landed a nasty shot on the run past Del Bianco to reduce the deficit back to one.
Continuing to spread the scoring out every minute or so, the Roughnecks stormed back with a strike just over a minute later, courtesy of quick catch and release conversion from Kyle Waters.
After serving as the team’s primary assist man through the first two games of the series, Ryan Lee finished a Flyin Ryan Lee in diving effort to bring the Mammoth back within one. Quickly following it up during the teams’ next possession, Chris Wardle bounced a heater off CDB’s pads and into the net to tie the game at 4-4.
After seeing his fellow Warrior brand athlete make a stop during a transition run, Zach Currier collected the ball in the crease and dunked it past Ward, making a 5-4 game.
But I’m resilient fashion, Colorado’s Tyson Gibson buried a long-range bid to even the score at 5.
Continuing to prove he can do it all at both ends of the floor, in addition to his normal spot at the dot, Tim Edwards turned on the burners and finished a turf-length effort with just five minutes to play in the first half, netting the defending champs a one-goal lead.
Able to ensure another slow start, Colorado outscored the Roughnecks 4-1 in the second quarter and eventually took a 6-5 advantage into the break.
Coming out of the pause, Calgary’s Tanner Cook converted from range to bring the game at 6-6.
Experts in the transition game, Calgary took the lead with a Shane Simpson goal two minutes later as the momentum began to shift.
As Dillon Ward stood on his head for the entire second half, the score stayed at 7-6 in favor of the Roughnecks as he and CDB demonstrated their skillset.
Zed finally broke the stalemate with an impressive tally after more than 20 minutes if scoreless play, only to be followed by arguably the most important goal in defenseman Warren Jeffrey’s career! Taking the rock from end to end, he slammed one past Del Bianco to earn his team the lead with just over six minutes to play.
Eventually notching an empty-net goal to seal the deal, courtesy of Connor Robinson, the Mammoth punched its ticket to a second-straight NLL Finals courtesy of a 9-7 final score.
Defeating Calgary in the teams’ first-ever three-game series, Colorado now sets sail for a matchup with the Buffalo Bandits on Saturday, May 27.
On a night where the scoring was spread evenly, Zed Williams paced Mammoth scorers with four points (2g, 2a) while Warren Jeffrey (1g, 2a), Eli McLaughlin (1g, 2a) each recorded three points. Chris Wardle (1g, 1a), Tyson Gibson (1g, 1a) and Connor Robinson (1g, 1a) also found the scoresheet, while Robinson and Jordan Gilles lead the way with eight loose balls.