The Colorado Mammoth captured an insane 13-12 victory over the postseason’s No. 1-seeded San Diego Seals Friday night inside Pechanga Arena. With Dillon Ward allowing just three goals in the first half and Eli McLaughlin logging his fourth of the game with 1.8 seconds remaining, the Mammoth are marching on to the West Conference Finals for the second-straight year.
After making a quality save against the opposition, Mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward sparked a transition effort to get Colorado on the board first. Taking an extra second to weigh his options, Ward sent a beautifully-lofted ball to a surging Jordan Gilles, who darted directly toward the goal and granted the away team an early 1-0 lead four minutes into the opening quarter.
Thoroughly working the ball around the offensive zone, Ryan Lee, in his first game back since missing some more time due to a lower-body injury, sent a sharp pass to an awaiting Chris Wardle on the wing, who instantly sent a rocket on net to beat San Diego netminder Frank Scigliano and make it two in a row two minutes later.
It was only a matter of time before veteran forward Dane Dobbie got on the board, though, as the talented scorer established position inside of his defender before peeling toward the crease for a quick diving conversion, cutting Colorado’s early lead in half with just under five to play.
Barely a minute later, scoring extraordinaire Eli McLaughlin pulled up from distance and found the back of the net with a long-range laser, effectively restoring the Mammoth’s two-goal advantage at 3-1.
With the offense clearing out and allowing Zed Williams to work in isolation, Williams ditched his defenseman and darted toward the crease, eventually beating Scigliano to create a three-goal lead for the Mammoth.
Following the strike up the next time Colorado possessed the rock, this time it was Lee cashing in, his first of the night.
Finally mustering an answer, Curtis Dickson finished a flashy twister move while diving across the crease to give the home team some life and bring them back within three.
The first to double down for the Mammoth, McLaughlin left his defenseman in the dust before slamming one home past Scigliano to restore the defending champs’ four-goal lead as Colorado continued to dominate.
Lee wanted another as well, logging a late second-half goal to grant Colorado a 7-2 lead. But after being flagged for a penalty following the conversion, the Mammoth defense gave up a power-play tally with X seconds to play, still managing a 7-3 advantage heading into the break.
A few minutes into the third quarter, Staats and Dobbie ran the two-man game to perfection, with the sequence ending with a diving goal from Staats. Making it three straight during the team’s ensuing possession, Wes Berg finished a nice feed from Dickson to bring the home squad back within two.
Resilience runs deep in the mountains though, as faceoff specialist Tim Edwards putting one past Scigliano, bringing the contest to 8-5.
Logging his second of the night, Crowley was left wide open outside the crease and quickly found twine to reduce the lead to two midway through the third.
Brewing up a postseason hat trick, Lee recorded his third of the night while quieting the crowd as the No. 1 seed continued to unravel. Not too long after, Williams added another for the burgundy boys, as momentum was in full swing.
Willing his team back into a competitive match, Mac O’Keefe finished a quick lob play with an amazing diving catch-and-release finish to make it a 10-7 matchup.
Continuing to make mammoth fans around the world nervous, Staats netted another as the Seals were suddenly within two goals early in the final quarter.
Just ask quickly as the mammoth fan base got worried, it collectively gathered its breath after seeing Lee log a goal in transition fashion four minutes into the fourth. But almost instantly, Berg replied with a conversion of his own as the team got Ward moving around in his crease.
Further fueling the comeback effort, Staats connected again, completing a hat trick of his own, as the away team’s lead was reduced to one. The game of runs, literally and figuratively, continues, as the Seals logged another, this one coming from O’Keefe as the scoreboard read 11 a side.
That wouldn’t stop McLaughlin from finishing a hat trick, though, as the skilled scorer regained the lead for Colorado with less than five to go. Speaking of finishing hat tricks, Crowley netted his third of the night via pure effort, crashing the crease for a rebound and sending a behind-the-back shot past Ward to knot the game at 12s.
In absolutely insane fashion, McLaughlin logged a game-winning power-play goal with 1.8 seconds to play to send the Seals into summer vacation mode as the defending champions knocked off the No. 1 seed. After all, you can’t spell SeaLs without an L …
All-Pro forward Ryan Lee paced Mammoth scorers with nine points (4g, 5a), while Eli McLaughlin (4g, 3a), Zed Williams (2g, 3a) and an assist-friendly effort from Dillon Ward (0g, 3a) led producers in the back-and-forth battle. Chris Wardle (1g, 0a), Jordan Gilles (1g, 0a) and Tim Edwards (1g, 0a) each chipped in tallies, and in a game where every goal counted, they were beyond welcome additions. Ward stopped 52-of-64 en route to solidifying his name as the best goaltender to ever don the burgundy and black.
Colorado, and its avid fanbase, will now keep an eye on Saturday night’s Panther City vs. Calgary showdown, as the defending champs are set to face the winner of the one-game showdown. Fans can stay tuned to coloradomammoth.com and Colorado Mammoth social media channels for the latest updates on everything NLL Playoffs.