The Colorado Mammoth captured its second NLL Championship with a 10-8 NLL Finals Game 3 victory over the Buffalo Bandits at KeyBank Center Saturday. Mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward was named the NLL Finals Most Valuable Player after making a Finals-record 55 saves in the win and 135 throughout the three-game series.
Zed Williams (4g, 2a) and birthday boy Chris Wardle (1g, 5a) led the Mammoth with six points a piece Saturday, while Brett McIntyre (1g, 1a), Anthony Joaquim (1g, 1a), Dylan Kinnear (1g, 1a), Tyson Gibson (1g, 1a) and Sam Firth (1g, 1a), who registered his first NLL goal and assist, rounded out scoring efforts for Colorado.
Entering the 2021-22 NLL postseason, Williams had logged one career point (1g, 0a) in his brief playoff experience but quickly evolved to become a dominant presence for Colorado’s front line. Finishing his first three-round tournament run with 37 points (20g, 17a), the forward’s 20 goals tied teammate Eli McLaughlin for the most in the NLL this postseason.
“He’s a big man and a strong guy, a tough matchup and defenses have to adjust for him,” Mammoth Head Coach Pat Coyle shared in a postgame press conference Saturday. “He’s such a fantastic team guy too — really humble, great family guy and we’re so lucky to have him.”
The decisive Game 3 victory secured Colorado’s second overall championship and first since 2006, when the squad also beat the Bandits in Buffalo. After helping to earn the honors as a defenseman with the squad 16 years ago, Mammoth Head Coach Pat Coyle captured his sixth NLL Championship and first behind the bench.
“It’s really well deserved for the city — we have such great sports fans,” Coyle shared in a postgame press conference. “They’ve been waiting since 2006 for us and have been supporting us the whole time and I know we’re very happy and thankful for that.”
Despite missing its two leading scorers in forwards Ryan Lee and Eli McLaughlin since Game 2 of the West Conference Finals and Game 2 of the NLL Finals, respectively, Zed Williams, Connor Robinson and company successfully demonstrated the next man up mentality and showcased the incredible depth of talent throughout Colorado’s roster.
“It’s wild: You take away the two top players from any offense in the league and everyone counts them out,” Mammoth forward Connor Robinson shared in a postgame interview. “The only people who thought we could do this were the guys in the room, so we went out there and battled like we were down five team game, played an absolute team game and got the job done.”
Kyle Buchanan (3g, 1a) paced the goal-scoring charge for the Bandits, while teammates Ian MacKay (1g, 1a), Chris Cloutier (1g, 0a) and Connor Fields each added goals. Holding Buffalo’s top-end talent in Josh Byrne (1g, 3a) and Dhane Smith (1g, 2a) to a combined seven points Saturday (2g, 5a), the Mammoth outscored the NLL’s hottest offensive unit 35 to 31 throughout the series, thanks to the elite efforts of goaltender Dillon Ward.
“You don’t get here by accident — We’ve had a really strong defense all year and we went out and executed and played them how we wanted to,” Mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward shared in a postgame press conference. “We forced them into situations I don’t think that they wanted to be in and the shots that we game up, for the most part, were the shots we were looking for, so credit to the defense in front of me.”
Making 22 fourth-quarter saves against the once-unstoppable unit, the read-and-react professional brings the hardware back to his home in Colorado Sunday where the Loud House regulars await a championship celebration.