DENVER – On an evening where Head Coach Pat Coyle earned his 80th career victory as Colorado’s bench boss, the Mammoth secured a HUGE 14-8 win on the road over the Vancouver Warriors Friday night.
Rogers Arena may have had a good crowd for College Night, but it was the burgundy and black contingent which exited the arena in the win column as the two teams kicked off the NLL’s Week 9 slate.
Quiet in the first quarter overall this season, it was Colorado’s turn to get the fun started Friday night, as “Liger” Eli McLaughlin picked up his 14th of the season five minutes into the opening quarter.
Doubling down exactly two minutes later, McLaughlin extended the away team’s lead to two, courtesy of his particular set of skills. A set of skills meant … to score!
Completing his first-quarter natural hat trick in transition fashion after accepting a long-lofted pass at mid-turf, McLaughlin glided right towards the net, finishing the one-on-none opportunity with his third of the evening. Born and raised in British Columbia, the home-province kid was putting on quite the show early on Friday night.
Leading the squad with a team-best 29 points (15g, 14a) coming into the competition, forward Adam Charalambides got the Warriors on the board with 65 seconds remaining in the first quarter to cut the lead down to two and restore a roar in the home team’s building.
Coming off the bench and immediately being greeted at the top of a second-quarter offensive set with the ball, fellow B.C. boy Connor Robinson got his first act underway, as he quickly received a pass and instantly fired a fierce step-down shot, beating Vancouver goaltender Aaron Bold and reinstating Colorado’s three-goal lead 18 seconds into the second.
Just 38 seconds later, rookie defenseman Sean Kriwokon found the scoresheet for the first time in his professional career! Taking the rock from the D-zone all the way to pay dirt, he slammed an overhanded shot past Bold before enduring a pair of shots from Vancouver defenders. More importantly, his shot found twine, as the Mammoth collected the youngster’s first ball from the back of the net and celebrated accordingly. The scoreboard read 5-1 early in period two.
After the team collectively forced the Warriors into a bit of a panic thanks to some precise tic-tac-toe passing, Mammoth forward Tyson Gibson drove to the crease before eventually send the ball Connor Kelly’s way, who was waiting directly outside of the crease. Accepting the dish and sending a saucy top-shelf corner past Bold, the Mammoth chased the veteran netminder, as Aden Walsh entered the game with just over 10 minutes to play in the first half.
This time serving as the scorer himself, he finished a power-play opportunity with another set of formation-crossing passes before beating Walsh up high, now 7-1 Mammoth.
Battling back in iso fashion, forward Keegan Bal worked the two-man game, finishing a switch with a long-range missile to bring Vancouver back within five midway through the second.
Zed restored the Mammoth’s six-goal lead with four minutes to play, again using some back-and-forth passing tactics to confuse the goaltender and create some space. 8-2 for the good guys!
Gibson added his second of the night almost three minutes later before seeing Bal net a second of his own to bring his team back within six heading into the break.
Deciding he was very much going to have a night, McLaughlin got right back to work three minutes into the second half by picking up his fourth of the night.
With Ryan Martel and Tyson Kirkness notching goals for Vancouver as the third raged on, it was McLaughlin who had the final say.
Logging his season-high fifth of the contest, 51 was ON FIRE inside Rogers Center, as the heat was successful, and so was his effort in restoring his team’s six-goal advantage halfway through the third.
Doing everything to turn this thing into a blowout, defenseman Warren Jeffrey finished another transition opportunity by weighing his options before calling off the pass and giving himself a green light for a goal! 12-5 with five remaining, this was exactly what the Mammoth needed after looking a bit slow on the offensive end through its first six contests of the season.
Getting some momentum flowing in Vancouver’s favor, Riley Loewen was able to finish a set play running around his defenseman and beating Mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward to reduce Colorado’s lead back to six with 14 to go.
Another Western Canada kid, another goal for the Mammoth, as veteran forward Chris Wardle crashed the crease and beat Walsh to create a 13-6 game with 12 minutes to play.
Zed Williams saw all of the scoring and decided he wanted to get in on the fun, too! Posting up Dilks, his assigned defender, he quickly turned and fired, beating Walsh and netting Colorado’s 14th of the night as the offense continued to put on a show.
Bal completed his hat trick on the evening courtesy of some shortside cheese on the extra-man set to bring Vancouver back within six. Veteran Kevin Crowley wouldn’t go down without a fight, notching a late-game tally with less three minutes to play to solidify a 14-8 final.
Representing Head Coach Pat Coyle’s 80th career win, the bench boss became the NLL’s 10th most winning coach all-time with the big win Friday night.
Eli McLaughlin paced the Mammoth with 10 points (5g, 5a), while Connor Robinson (1g, 4a), Tyson Gibson (2g, 3a), Chris Wardle (1g, 3a) and Zed Williams (2g, 1a) highlighted primary scoring efforts for Colorado. Mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward stopped 38-of-46 to pick up his second win of the campaign.
The Mammoth will now prepare to endure four consecutive games on the road before returning to Ball Arena Feb. 23 for a showdown with the New York Riptide during the organization’s Rumble at the LOUD HOUSE. Limited tickets for the Saturday, Feb. 23’s matchup remain available, so be sure to lock yours in and get ready to TUSK UP!