The Colorado Mammoth secured an 11-9 victory over the Las Vegas Desert Dogs as the defending 2022 NLL Champions hosted the league’s newest franchise inside the Loud House for the first time. Netminder Dillion Ward stopped 39-of-48 as the netminder looked like an All-World talent, while Eli McLaughlin (3g, 5a) and Zed Williams (3g, 3a) highlighted offensive efforts for Colorado.
Just 28 seconds into the game, number 28 in burgundy established an early goal for Colorado with a quick behind-the-back effort, which seemed to catch Desert Dogs’ goaltender Landon Kells by surprise.
Barely three minutes later, veteran forward Zack Greer evened the score, double-faking and then eventually burying one over Ward’s shoulder.
But during the home team’s next possession, Williams sent a sly little pass to an eager Eli McLaughlin, who quickly sent a rocket toward the net to beat Kells and re-establish the early lead for Colorado.
The back-and-forth scoring continued four minutes later, this time with Las Vegas forward Jon Phillips finding some space and beating Ward low to knot the game at twos.
Thirty-one seconds later, McLaughlin sent a beautiful lob pass over the formation, immediately accepted by forward Ryan Lee and thrusted into the back of the net as the All-Pro talent finished another of his patented Flyin’ Ryan diving plays midway through the opening quarter of action.
A score-friendly start to say the least, Vegas tied the game up at three during its next possession after earning a penalty shot during a one-no-none transition opportunity. Beating Ward over his left shoulder, Greer converted the opportunity.
Earning his team the first lead of the night, preseason trade acquisition Charlie Bertrand got Vegas on the board for a second-straight goal with just under five minutes to play. Former Mammoth player turned Desert Dog transition specialist, Erik Turner beat Ward down low to extend the away team’s goal streak to three.
Bumping it to four shortly after, standout forward Jack Hannah had a twister land in the back of Ward’s net, creating a 6-3 game with two minutes to play in the first 15.
Two minutes into the second quarter, captain Rob Hellyer made it five in a row as Las Vegas enjoyed a four-goal lead over the defending champs.
The tides began to turn during Colorado’s next possession though, as McLaughlin got free and darted toward the crease before sending an overhanded bid past Kells to stop the bleeding. Completing his hat trick two minutes later, McLaughlin brought the Mammoth back within two.
Chris Wardle finished an amazing set of selfless passes, accepting a pass from Tyson Gibson, faking his defender out and instantly sending a side-armed shot past Kells, now 7-6.
After seeing Vegas log five straight, Colorado managed its fourth-consecutive goal with less than 90 seconds to play in the opening half, as Williams recorded his second of the night to tie the game at seven each. The teams would eventually enter the break with an even 7-7 score.
Following a scoreless opening five and a half minutes of third quarter play, Williams got the Mammoth on the board first, completing his hat trick after backing his man down, turning and sending a saucy snipe pass Kells to gran the Mammoth a one-goal advantage.
That would serve as the only goal in the third quarter though, as Colorado brought an 8-7 lead into the final 15.
But the Mammoth didn’t waste much time in the fourth to get the scoring going again, as defenseman Evan Downey recorded his fifth of the year with a bouncer past Kells just five seconds into the fresh session.
After what seemed to be a Chris Wardle dunk goal, but was waved off, the Desert Dogs converted a shorthanded goal at the other end of the floor, a one-handed dunk courtesy of Hannah, to create a 9-8 game, advantage Colorado.
With 11 minutes to go, Phillips displayed his athleticism by finishing a back-door quick stick play while in midair to tie the game at nines as the dramatic West Conference battle continued. Honestly, a sick play, probably #SCTop10 worthy.
Absent from the scoresheet until that point, forward Connor Robinson earned the lead back for the good guys with six minutes to play, capitalizing on some space from far out. Not too far for the magician though.
After seeing McLaughlin draw an illegal cross-checking call with three minutes to play, Lee quickly turned the man-up opportunity into a power-play goal, his first of the night, as Colorado gained the two-goal advantage.
The Mammoth held off a few waves of potential production from Las Vegas, but eventually captured an 11-9 final inside the Loud House on Grow the Game Night.
Eli McLaughlin paced Mammoth scorers with eight points (3g, 5a), while Zed Williams produced another hat trick effort amongst his six points (3g, 3a). Ryan Lee (2g, 2a), Connor Robinson (1g, 3a), Chris Wardle (1g, 2a) and Evan Downey rounded out scoring efforts in the win, with Tyson Gibson pitching in a pair of helpers (0g, 2a). Tim Edwards picked up an assist en route to winning 15-of-23 faceoff opportunities, including his 1000th career loose ball.
Now 7-7, the Mammoth will host the Vancouver Warriors Friday, April 8 at Ball Arena during Country Music Night as the team makes a push for playoffs via the March to May. Limited tickets to Friday’s rematch against Vancouver remain available.