DENVER – The Colorado Mammoth dropped a 15-8 final Friday night inside Ball Arena as more than 10,300 fans gathered to welcome lacrosse back to Colorado during the LOUD HOUSE Home Opener.
Despite the loss, Mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward surpassed his 8,000-career minute mark in the first quarter, becoming just the tenth all-time NLL netminder to meet the mark in league history. Stopping 35-of-50 on the night, it was good to see the All-World talent back in action after spending the season-opener on the team’s Physically Unable to Perform List.
Defenseman Anthony Joaquim also collected his 300th career loose ball Friday night, while forward Eli McLaughlin notched his 500th career point in the fourth quarter, courtesy of a goal with five minutes remaining.
Getting the scoring started during Georgia’s first possession of the game, just 34 seconds in, All-Pro forward Lyle Thompson beat Mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward with a slick, low-angled roller to give the Swarm an early 1-0 lead.
Receiving a pass from Mike Manley, #24 took advantage of some space before sending a diving bid across the crease past Ward. Just 15 seconds later, defenseman Liam Byrnes made it three-straight for the away team.
Getting the LOUD HOUSE rocking midway through the opening period, The Magician himself, Connor Robinson, converted with a unique play of his own. Using a sick spin move to avoid a pair of defenders, he sprinted toward the creased and laid out for the diving finish.
Keeping his hot start to the season going, Mammoth forward Dylan Kinnear recorded his third goal of the campaign at the 8:02 mark to bring Colorado back within one. Sharing a set alongside fellow left Eli McLaughlin, Kinnear pulled up and sent a laser past Swarm goaltender Brett Dobson to get the crowd going once again.
Doubling down on the evening, Robinson beat Dobson with a long-range shot (literally, two steps inside the restriction line) to tie the game. After being held to a mere two points (0g, 2a) during the season-opener in Duluth, Georgia, 96 quickly reminded the fans of his talents.
2020 NLL MVP Shayne Jackson got one back for the Swarm a minute later to re-establish his team’s one-goal advantage. Making it two in a row, Andrew Kew finished an effort just outside the crease via a bit of a give-and-go effort to make it a 5-3 game.
As the second quarter raged on, so did Georgia’s score, as Brendan Bomberry was allotted some space on the left side before quickly pulling up and launching an overhanded bid, beating ward and making it three-straight for the Swarm. With Lyle Thompson screening both his and teammate’s defender, forward Seth Oakes pulled up from nearly the same exact spot as Bomberry did, finding net and creating a 7-3 game with just under five minutes to play.
Just 28 seconds later, Ward was able to stop a one-on-none breakaway attempt, but as he fell backwards into the net, the ball ricocheted off his gear and into the stick of an awaiting Bryan Cole, who finished the play and extended Georgia’s lead to five.
Despite drawing an extra-man opportunity toward the end of the second quarter, the Swarm managed to escape with its 8-3 lead heading into halftime.
Breaking the team’s draught of 26-plus minutes of scoreless action, Robinson completed his first hat trick of the season via the power-play. With Adam Weidemann getting called for a dead ball foul four and a half minutes into the third quarter, Robinson quickly capitalized on the man-up opportunity, bringing the Mammoth back within four.
Momentum was rolling at this point and so was Colorado, as forward Tyson Gibson rolled high around a pick at the top of the set and instantly sent a fierce bid on net, which found its way past Dobson to create an 8-5 contest midway through the third.
Responding with a pair of tallies in the closing minutes of the quarter, Georgia restored its five-goal lead, with Jordan McIntosh and Oakes (his second of the night) converting for the Swarm.
That wouldn’t stop new guy Connor Kelly from notching his fourth of the season! Accepting a lob pass from “Nearsy” (Dylan Kinnear), Kelly knew exactly what to do with the rock, and did just that, beating Dobson to make it a 10-6 ball game.
Picking up his second tally of the night, Bomberry finished a diving move (right to left across Ward’s vision) by tucking it short side and high mid-dive, granting the Swarm another five-goal lead with nine to play. Oakes completed his hat-trick effort 47 seconds to give Georgia its first six-goal advantage of the night.
Proving their point and ensuring its 2-1 record to start the year, the Swarm added another midway through the final quarter, courtesy of Zach Miller in transition fashion. Making it four in a row with his fourth of the night, Oakes beat Ward once again, now 14-6 with less than seven to go.
Registering his 500th career point, Eli McLaughlin willed his way onto the scoresheet via a nasty strike with five minutes remaining. But Lyle Thompson didn’t come out west to celebrate. He came to be a playmaker, and did just that a minute later, scoring his second of the night, albeit his sixth point overall.
Extending his team-high goal count to five, Kelly made quick work of the opposition, faking out his defender and finding twine shortly after. Solidifying the 15-8 final, Colorado will look to bounce back during its Week 5 showdown.
Eli McLaughlin (1g, 2a), Connor Kelly (2g, 1a), Connor Robinson (3g, 0a), Tyson Gibson (1g, 2a) and Dylan Kinnear (1g, 2a) each paced the Mammoth with three points each, while Dillon Ward (0g, 1a), Robert Hope (0g, 1a), Chris Wardle (0g, 1a), Jalen Chaster (0g, 1a) and Evan Downey each chipped in a point during the team’s 2023-24 debut at the LOUD HOUSE.
Shayne Jackson led scoring efforts for the away team, courtesy of his seven-point showcase (1g, 6a), while Lyle Thompson (2g, 4a) and Seth Oakes (4g, 1a) each earned their way into the five-plus-point club.
The Colorado Mammoth will now prepare to host the Vancouver Warriors during the team’s Beach Night at the LOUD HOUSE on Saturday, Dec. 30. We’re talking custom Mammoth beach shirts, light-up leis and a big ole party as the boys look to secure their first win of the season on home turf.
Limited tickets for next Saturday’s showdown with the Warriors remain available!