The Colorado Mammoth picked up another key conference victory Sunday afternoon, as the team posted a 12-10 contest against the visiting Saskatchewan Rush. A rowdy Loud House crowd, which came out to support Colorado’s caretakers, community heroes and beyond during the team’s Essential Workers Night, enjoyed a tight back-and-forth battle before ultimately seeing its home team prevail.
On a night which featured two defensemen surpassing 800+ career loose ball totals (Joey Cupido, Robert Hope), three defensemen scoring their first markers of the campaign (John Lintz, Warren Jeffrey, Jordan Gilles) and Eli McLaughlin logging his 200th career assist, the Mammoth head into Week 13 with a 6-2 record for the first time since the 2016-17 season.
The unique 3 p.m. start time on a Sunday marked the team’s only currently-scheduled Sunday bout and represented the first of a home-and-home series between the Rush and Mammoth. Colorado is now set to head north this weekend to execute consecutive games against the Saskatoon-based squad before returning April 16 to complete the season series.
Ryan Lee (5g, 2a) headlined offensive efforts for Colorado, as the forward logged his third hat trick of the season while managing to score in all four quarters at Ball Arena Sunday. Connor Robinson extended his goal-streak to five games, as the former Rush player recorded three points (2g, 1a) in his first action against his old squad. Eli McLaughlin posted his fifth four-plus point performance (1g, 4a) while Zed Williams added four helpers (0g, 4a) in the win.
“We were able to regroup in the locker room and talked about what we needed to do, since we obviously didn’t do it in the first half, so coming out in the second, we’re glad it worked for us,” Mammoth forward Ryan Lee shared in a postgame interview. “I was doing anything to get open – Moving my feet, shooting from up top was working, so we’re just going to keep working on offense and find the open guys.”
As the result of an early tripping penalty called on Chris Wardle, Saskatchewan opened the scoring Sunday afternoon with a power-play tally. Less than a minute later, Robert hope sent a beautiful pass through three Rush defenders and connected with a sprinting Ryan Lee, who converted past Saskatchewan goaltender Adam Shute to tie the contest with a diving effort.
Forward Dylan Kinnear went to work on the left side at the 6:17 mark after he established positioning on his defender, faked left and went right to zoom around the opposition and buried a far-side bid to give Colorado its first lead of the night.
Josh Currier evened the scoring with just under six minutes in the opening period, as the forward sent a quick shot from the top of the point past Ward’s left shoulder. The Rush forward added another three minutes later after being left alone outside the crease while both teams struggled to collect a loose ball near the restraining line.
Ryan Keenan added a third-straight for the Rush with 15 seconds to play in the first and eventually took a 4-2 lead into the second quarter.
Saskatchewan added its fourth-consecutive at the 3:49 mark of the second, as veteran forward Mark Matthews kept momentum flowing in the Rush’s favor. The DU lacrosse product added another one almost four minutes later to give Saskatchewan a 6-2 advantage.
After scoring six in his last Loud House appearance, Mammoth forward Connor Robinson came off a pick and landed a fiery shot past Shute to reduce the lead to three.
Lee picked up his second diving bid of the night at the 4:20 mark of the second, but was penalized five minutes for goaltender interference. At the end of the scrappy half, Saskatchewan carried a 6-4 lead into the break.
Lintner logged one three minutes into the second half before Ryan Lee received a pass, took an extra step around his advancing defenseman and buried a bouncer past Shute to bring the Mammoth back within two and record the night’s first hat trick performance. The RIT standout added his fourth of the evening with two minutes remaining in the third, creating a 7-6 matchup.
While both teams were preoccupied with setting up and securing the quarter’s last possession as the period approached an end, Robinson was left wide open at the restraining line and fired a fierce, step-down blaster past Shute to tie the game with 30 seconds left in the third.
Customary to each of the four quarters Sunday, Saskatchewan logged the first of the period, as Lintner collected a transition rebound and reverted a shot back on goal, which travelled past Ward and re-established a one-goal lead for the Rush.
Courtesy of some midfield scrappiness, defenseman John Lintz finished a two-on-one opportunity at the 3:37 mark to create another tied contest. Eli McLaughlin, on a night he logged his 200th career assist, found his way to the score sheet five minutes later after receiving a dish from Ryan Lee outside the crease, faking Shute out and finished to give Colorado its first lead since early in the first quarter.
Ryan Lee called heat check at the 9:54 mark after the forward rolled along the restraining line, gained half of a step on his defender and fired another past Shute, his fifth of the evening.
Currier completed his afternoon hat trick with just under four minutes to play, bringing the Rush back within one. With just over a minute to play, defenseman Warren Jeffrey was able to collect a loose ball in transition and took it all the way to the house, netting an empty-net goal with 55 seconds to play.
Defenseman Mark Messenger saw a fellow D-man pick one up and decided to do the same, albeit in different fashion. The veteran collected a loose ball following a physical bout for possession and proceeded to run through three Mammoth defenders and finished past Ward to bring the Rush back within one late.
Continuing and ending the game with some defensive scoring, Colorado’s Gilles recorded an empty-net goal of his own to solidify the 12-10 final at Ball Arena.
“At the end of the game, I looked up at the board and saw there was like 57 shots, which is completely ridiculous, but we’ve got the best goalie in the league here, so that’s going to keep us in games,” Lee shared.
Mark Matthews (2g, 3a) led the scoring attack for Saskatchewan, while Josh Currier (3g, 0a), Dan Lintner (2g, 0a) and Robert Church provided reinforcements during the scrappy conference battle. Defenseman Mark Messenger logged a contest-best 12 loose balls and added a late goal for the Rush, while netminder Adam Shute stopped 28-of-38 during his fifth loss of the season.
Through eight contests, forward Ryan Lee continues to pace Mammoth players with 54 points and 33 assists, and thanks to his five tallies Sunday, surpassed teammate Connor Robinson to lead Colorado with 21 goals. Lee’s 6.75 points per-game represent the second-highest average among NLL players and highest among players who have completed eight-or-more games this season. Robert Hope’s 12 caused turnovers and 78 loose balls both qualify as team-best totals, as the veteran captain continues to lead defensive efforts.
Tickets to Colorado’s March 11 Rumble at the Loud House matchup against Panther City Lacrosse Club, and all Mammoth home games, can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com. Mammoth road games can be streamed live via ESPN+, including next weekend’s matchup in Saskatchewan.