COLORADO MAMMOTH (9-9, 2-0) VS. CALGARY ROUGHNECKS (13-5, 1-1)
SAT MAY 13 | SCOTIABANK SADDLEDOME
7:30 P.M. MT FACEOFF
ALT TV | ESPN+
The Colorado Mammoth began its second-straight trip to the West Conference Finals by notching a tight 8-7 victory over the Calgary Roughnecks Thursday night inside the Loud House.
Securing a win in the opening matchup between the storied rivals, the Mammoth continued to lean on All-World talent in netminder Dillon Ward en route to picking up the ever-important win on home turf. After earning the No. 2 seed during the competitive West Conference regular season, the Roughnecks opted into taking their talents on the road for the opening game, with hopes of closing out the series back home, but suddenly find themselves in desperation mode, now needing a pair of victories north of the border in order to keep themselves from being eliminated by the Mammoth for a second-straight year.
RELATED: Colorado Completes Comeback Over Calgary, Takes Lead Into Saturday’s Game 2
Eventually allowing the Roughnecks to establish a 3-0 lead through the first 15 minutes and 10 seconds of play, as the talented Zach Currier was cleared for goal-scoring action following a successful draw, Ward and his defensive unit didn’t allow the slow start to phase them.
Seeing an explosion of scoring come to life as the second period continued, Zed Williams and Jeff Cornwall both found twine before the one-minute mark approached, as Calgary held a 4-1 lead. Able to get a little something going in 5-on-5 action via a Connor Robinson snipe, followed by a transition spark provided by streaking defenseman Jordan Gilles, the home team found itself down just one goal midway through the second. But when Roughnecks’ forward Seth Van Schepen took advantage of some space with five to play in the opening half, the deficit was restored to two.
That wouldn’t stop the Loud House perpetuators from logging three-straight to begin the third, including a speedy conversion from Chris Wardle just 27 seconds in. Followed up by quality efforts from McLaughlin and again, the veteran, Wardle, the Mammoth had established their first lead of the game four and a half minutes into the third quarter. As the scoring slowed down again, Calgary forward Dan Taylor drummed up a pair of scores himself within two minutes to again flip the script. Thankfully for the defending champions, they roster the most clutch goal-scorer in all of the lands, as Connor Robinson turned it up a notch late in the fourth quarter.
Beating Roughnecks’ goaltender and potential regular season NLL MVP candidate Christian Del Bianco with six, and then later three minutes to play, the red-headed bandit did it again, as Mammoth fans filled Ball Arena with several waves of roaring approval.
The low-scoring, defensive battle saw a combined 18 penalty minutes, but thankfully for the home team, just four of them (two two-minute minors) were charged to Colorado, paving the way for the defending champs to regularly cash in on power-play opportunities throughout the night. Upping the ante, Eli McLaughlin logged a rare shorthanded goal for the squad early into the third quarter, perhaps one of the bigger momentum shifts of the contest. With five combined special teams markers, in a game where each was needed and very-much welcomed, the Mammoth will need to stay creative and physically disciplined if the squad wants to take care of business in Game 2.
Allowing 64 shots on goal last weekend to the Seals, the Mammoth’s stalwart defensive unit limited Calgary to just 43 successful rips on net en route to outshooting their opponent, a rather rare occurrence for a team who regularly relies on Ward and his high arc.
After defeating Calgary inside its own barn last year during the Quarterfinals, Ryan Lee and company will look to play spoiler again a short 48 hours after facing off with the black and gray squad Thursday night. Seeing Tim Edwards win 11-of-19 faceoffs in limited circle work due to the low-scoring bout, Colorado also but a damper on the Roughnecks’ typically clicking transition game in the win. While both teams will turn back to the film to see what they can take away from the Game 1 showdown, they won’t have much time to dig deep, with Game 2 set to take place Saturday, May 13 at 7:30 p.m. MT.
If you thought Colorado and Calgary had a quick turnaround, enter the East Conference Finals, as the Buffalo Bandits and Toronto Rock are scheduled to play twice within 27 hours, with both contests taking place between Games 1 and 2 of the West’s edition of the best-of-three series. Buffalo is set to host Toronto Friday night at KeyBank Center, only to cross the border Saturday morning for a quick rematch inside Rock territory. Later that night, the Mammoth will cross the border themselves, albeit a bit longer of a trip, as the defending champs look to close the series out inside Scotiabank Saddledome at 7:3:0 p.m.
The respective winners from each conference will advance to the 2023 NLL Finals, as the best-of three series has a chance to feature the same two squads who provided the dramatic series just 12 months ago.
RELATED: 2023 NLL Playoff Format: Colorado’s Road to a Repeat
Unlike its injury-ridden regular season, the Mammoth did not make any roster transactions ahead of Thursday’s matchup, but saw the Calgary Roughnecks move talented forward Tyler Pace to the Holdout List, while seeing former Mammoth scorer Zach Herreweyers promoted to the team’s Active Roster. With the quick turnaround and a few bumps and bruises suffered on each side, Mammoth fans can stay tuned to coloradomammoth.com, the team’s social media channels and NLL.com’s transaction page for the team’s latest transactions, news and beyond heading into Saturday’s Game 2 showdown with the Roughnecks.
Saturday’s Game 2 of the West Conference Finals in Calgary represents the second of potentially three postseason matchups scheduled against the Roughnecks, depending on if a winner-takes-all Game 3 is needed, as well as the fifth overall contest to take place between the two West Conference rivals during the 2022-23 slate. It will also represent the third of five competitions to take place inside Scotiabank Saddledome, with the potential Game 3 set to take place north of the border on Saturday, May 20, if needed.
The West Conference Finals meeting is slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. MT and can be viewed on Altitude TV and ESPN+.
Consistency is Key
After seeing six players record at least one point in each contest they participated in, it was Eli McLaughlin (83 points), Zed Williams (71 points) and Connor Robinson (71 points) who regularly did the heaviest lifting for Colorado. Respectively, Williams was able to log at least one goal in each appearance as well, while McLaughlin failed to find twine just once all season, and only two games out of 17 saw Robinson go without a goal.
Glancing back at last year’s historic playoff run, it was the same trio, plus an insane 10-point game from Ryan Lee before the talented forward got banged up. Now, two games into the 2023 NLL postseason, it’s very much the same narrative for a Mammoth squad which returns more than 80% of its roster from last season, as the defending champions have continued to allow the core four to call (and make) the shots.
While the boys may have only played in two contests so far, it’s all about quality at this stage of the year, but each player’s ability to consistently show up on the scoresheet goes a long way in keeping the playoff games coming. After picking up wins over the San Diego Seals (13-12) during the NLL Quarterfinals before capturing a clutch 8-7 win Thursday night in Game 1 of the West Conference Finals, seven Mammoth players have managed to log at least one point in both contests, including:
Ryan Lee (4g, 5a), (0g, 4a) = 13 points (4g, 9a)
Eli McLaughlin (4g, 2a), (1g, 2a) = 9 points (5g, 4a)
Zed Williams (2g, 3a), (1g, 2a) = 8 points (3g, 5a)
Connor Robinson (0g, 1a), (3g, 2a) = 6 points (3g, 3a)
Jordan Gilles (1g, 1a), (1g, 0a) = 3 points (2g, 1a)
Chris Wardle (1g, 0a), (2g, 0a) = 3 points (3g, 0a)
Anthony Joaquim (0g, 1a), (0g, 1a) = 2 points (0g, 2a)
Get in the Game
Mammoth games can be viewed on Altitude TV and streamed live via ESPN+. Saturday’s game against the Calgary Roughnecks can be viewed on Altitude TV and ESPN+. Mammoth fans can keep an eye on coloradomammoth.com and the team’s social media channels for the latest news, transactions and organizational updates throughout the 2022-23 NLL season.
Should the Mammoth advance to the NLL Finals, either via securing a victory Saturday, May 13 or Saturday, May 20, Mammoth fans can stay tuned to coloradomammoth.com and Colorado Mammoth social media channels for the latest on ticket announcements, NLL Finals scheduling and everything concerning the 2023 NLL Playoffs.