COLORADO MAMMOTH (9-9) VS. SAN DIEGO SEALS (14-4)
FRI MAY 5 | PECHANGA ARENA
8 P.M. MT FACEOFF
ALT TV 2 | ESPN+
The Mammoth wrapped up its 2022-23 campaign last weekend with an 11-8 loss to the San Diego Seals inside Pechanga Arena to finish fourth overall in the NLL’s West Conference. The West’s No. 1 seed had Colorado’s number early and eventually took a 7-3 lead into the half before running it up to 9-3 early into the third quarter. While the Mammoth were able to assemble a five-goal run throughout the third, the early struggle proved to be the determining factor as the Seals picked up the win to end the year 14-4.
RELATED: Mammoth Fall to San Diego with Postseason Rematch Set
Now, nearly a year after eliminating the Seals during last year’s West Conference Finals, Colorado will head back into enemy territory for the one-game showdown round as the NLL Quarterfinals begin Friday, May 5.
As far as records go, things aren’t that far off compared to the resumes each team brought into last year’s postseason run in. San Diego may have a few more wins than last season, but Brodie Merrill is a year older, too.
When personnel comes into the conversation, Colorado looks nearly identical on its front end, and may even welcome back the talents of forward Ryan Lee, who has a shot to return from the Injured Reserve List ahead of Friday’s game. When it comes to defense, a majority of the Mammoth’s returning championship-caliber defense will play in this weekend’s game, with the exceptions of both Joey Cupido and Noah Lebar on the team’s Season-Ending Injured Reserve List. With the welcomed additions of defensemen Evan Downey and Garrett McIntosh now helping to shore up efforts there, Colorado has looked good in five-on-five sets for the most part.
For San Diego, they’ve been able to find a spark in faceoff specialist and contributing defenseman Danny Logan since the squad last met in the playoffs, while its offseason offensive additions of Curtis Dickson (44g, 56a) and Kevin Crowley (14g, 32a) have seemed to fit in just fine so far. Outside of those three key additions, the team which dropped two-of-three to Colorado last season looks much the same, and after fumbling the No. 1 seed last year, they’ll surely be fired up for some postseason revenge Friday night.
Seeing the Toronto Rock and Halifax Thunderbirds square off during Friday’s early game, six teams will remain in postseason contention following the result of the Seals/Mammoth matchup, with the total dropping down to just four after Saturday’s pair of playoff battles come to an end. From there, teams will endure a best-of-three game series in their respective West and East Conference Finals. Those lucky, healthy and skillful enough will have the honors to advancing to the NLL Finals, where glory awaits.
The burgundy boys are locked in on Friday’s Quarterfinals action, but fans interested in the Mammoth’s potential postseason path can check out this year’s playoff breakdown on coloradomammoth.com for more details.
RELATED: 2023 NLL Playoff Format: Colorado’s Road to a Repeat
Ending the season 9-9 overall despite dealing with a variety of injuries throughout the five-month regular season, Colorado will now head back to San Diego Friday night for a Quarterfinals matchup against one of its known rivals.
Prior to its regular season finale, the Mammoth executed four transactions as the injury carousel continues to churn. With Ty Thompson relegated to the Injured Reserve List, Chris Wardle and Tyler Garrison were moved to the Active Roster, where the latter made his inaugural appearance with the Mammoth, logging one blocked shot, one caused turnover, one loose ball and two penalty minutes in his debut. Josh Sullivan was also moved to the Holdout List, but is expected to be back in action this weekend in San Diego. On a similarly hopeful note, All-Pro Ryan Lee has a chance to be activated Friday afternoon as well.
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 this weekend’s contest against the Seals.
Friday’s Quarterfinals showdown in San Diego represents the first and only postseason matchup scheduled against the Seals, but the fourth contest to take place between the two West Conference rivals during the 2022-23 slate. It will also represent the second of four competitions to take place inside Pechanga Arena. While San Diego was able to capture the regular season series last weekend with an 11-8 final, the defending champions have had their fair share of success out west, and will be prepared to take on the purple and yellow squad. The Quarterfinals meeting is slated to begin at 8 p.m. MT and can be viewed on Altitude TV 2 and ESPN+.
Last Time They Played
As mentioned briefly above, the Colorado Mammoth and San Diego Seals met last weekend out west for each team’s regular season finale. With an 11-8 final, in favor of the home team, San Diego completed the season with a franchise-best win mark of 14. While the final deficit settled at three, thanks to an empty-net goal, the contest wasn’t all that close for a majority of the 60 minutes, as the Seals established an early lead.
Seeing Austin Staats cash in just 92 seconds into the game, Dillon Ward had his work cut out for him, as he does every time the franchises clash. Two minutes later, Zed Williams was able to provide an equalizer for Colorado, but San Diego would go on a four-goal run over the course of the next 15 minutes of play. With Connor Robinson ending the streak nearly six minutes into the second quarter, Staats and Wes Berg quickly retaliated with a pair of conversions in the next two minutes until suddenly, the Seals were up 7-3 at the break following a late second-quarter goal from Brett McIntyre.
The second half was a bit more friendly for Colorado, as the “Down 5” unit attempted another epic comeback. As Jacob Dunbar and Staats got the Seals on the board early in the third, now up 9-3, it was the Mammoth’s time for a big run. Eventually ripping off five-consecutive tallies (Williams, Williams, McLaughlin, McIntyre, Robinson) between the 5:16 mark of the third and 4:36 mark of the fourth, Colorado found itself down one goal with 10 minutes to play. But, a pair of last-minute goals from Patrick Shoemay, including an empty-netter with three second left, solidified the 11-8 final.
Zed Williams (3g, 2a) and Connor Robinson (2g, 3a) paced Mammoth scorers with five points each, while Brett McIntyre (2g, 2a), Eli McLaughlin (1g, 2a) and Tyson Gibson (0g, 3a) rounded out primary scoring efforts for Colorado. Goaltender Dillon Ward stopped 31-of-41, while Seals’ netminder Frank Scigliano saved 49-of-57 for the win. Austin Staats highlighted San Diego’s attack with six points (4g, 2a), while Dane Dobbie (1g, 3a), Curtis Dickson (1g, 2a), Wes Berg (1g, 2a) and Patrick Shoemay (2g, 1a) each met the three-point mark.
Leading the Way
Following up the greatness of an NLL Championship-caliber season is hard to do, but Eli McLaughlin has yet to meet a challenge he’s backed down from. Matching his career-best point total from last year, the talented lefty racked up a team-best 83 points (44g, 39a) en route to pacing the defending champions in both goals and assists this year in 17 games, one less than last season. His 44 goals represent a career-best as the operator was able to find twine from anywhere on the floor, especially inside Ball Arena. Logging nine hat tricks throughout the year, it was his seven-goal effort against San Diego just a few weeks back which may stand out as one of the best performances of the B.C. native’s career.
Also matching a career-best point total, the magician Connor Robinson posted an impressive 71-point effort (35g, 36a) in his second year with the burgundy contingency. Finishing the season second in assists and third in goals, the red-headed rocket could typically be found coming over a screen and firing insane heaters on net throughout his 17 games played. The chemistry than he, McLaughlin, Wardle and Kinnear share on the left side is next level, but when it comes to finding the back of the net, Robinson has been there for the Mammoth.
Matching his teammate on the scoring leaderboard, but holding things down on the right side, Zed Williams also posted 71 points (37g, 34a) en route to logging the most points of his NLL career. After recording 45 points (20g, 25a) during his first season in Colorado, the big-bodied talent nearly doubled that amount while scoring the second-most goals on the squad this year. Whether he’s got one, two, three or four defenders draped all over him, he’s proven his physicality can’t be matched, while continuing to assert himself via his insane lacrosse IQ. A walking behind-the-back when he wants to be, Zed has been extremely selfless in helping to lead the Mammoth offense, reflected his near 1:1 scoring ratio this season.
Veteran Chris Wardle (7g, 23a, 13 GP), who battled some injuries this year, and Ryan Lee (6g, 33a, 6 GP), who played in just a third of the season, round out the top 5 producers for the Mammoth during the 2022-23 season.
On the defensive front, it was captain Robert Hope who set a new personal career-best for loose balls (154), while surging to No. 6 in the franchise record books for the most LBs in a season. After seeing fellow defenseman Warren Jeffrey lead the team’s caused turnover charge for a majority of the season, the veteran surpassed Jeffrey on the year by logging four against the Seals Saturday night. Stepping into the franchise record books himself with the third-most faceoffs wins (276) in a campaign, Tim Edwards put together an absolute unit of a season in several categories. Racking up a career-high 138 loose balls, Edwards contributed in the transition game more than ever, picking up a new-best 11 points (0g, 11a) while dominating at the circle.
Consistency is Key
After seeing the combined talents of Connor Robinson, Zed Williams and Eli McLaughlin absolutely explode during last year’s successful postseason run, the trio logged a combined 225 points despite missing quarterback Ryan Lee for most of the season. While Lee’s helpers and diving abilities were missed at certain points throughout the season, each of the team’s three leading scorers were able to step up in the helper department while continuing to put the ball in the back of the net. After seeing Lee record a franchise-best 119 points last season en route to finishing within the Top 3 of NLL scorers last season, Eli McLaughlin’s team-high 83 points ranked tied for 24th at season’s end, but with McLaughlin, Williams and Robinson each racking up 71 points or more this year, they qualify Colorado as one of eight teams to have three or more players meet the 70-point mark. In similar regards, the Mammoth were one of four teams this season to have three or more players log at least 35 goals, joining the Philadelphia Wings, Toronto Rock and San Diego Seals. While it’s been the Big 3 highlighting the flashy, high-end marks for Colorado, Tyson Gibson has showed up in on the scoresheet more times than not, and joins the following Mammoth players to record at least one point in each contest played this season, including:
Eli McLaughlin (0g, 5a), (4g, 3a), (2g, 1a), (1g, 3a) (3g, 1a), (2g, 4a), (2g, 1a), (4g, 2a), (3g, 1a), (0g, 3a), (3g, 2a), (2g, 1a), (3g, 5a), (4g, 1a), (3g, 3a), (7g, 1a), (1g, 2a) = 83 points (44g, 39a)
Zed Williams (2g, 0a), (3g, 5a), (3g, 0a), (1g, 0a), (1g, 2a), (2g, 1a), (1g, 3a), (1g, 3a), (3g, 1a), (3g, 1a), (2g, 3a), (4g, 3a), (3g, 3a), (2g, 1a), (2g, 3a), (1g, 3a), (3g, 2a) = 71 points (37g, 34a)
Connor Robinson (1g, 0a), (0g, 1a), (5g, 1a), (4g, 1a), (2g, 2a), (4g, 3a), (1g, 4a), (1g, 1a), (2g, 3a), (0g, 3a), (3g, 0a), (4g, 3a), (1g, 3a), (1g, 2a), (3g, 1a), (1g, 5a), (2g, 3a) = 71 points (35g, 36a)
Ryan Lee (2g, 8a), (0g, 6a), (0g, 7a), (2g, 2a), (1g, 3a), (1g, 7a) = 39 points (6g, 33a)
Tyson Gibson (0g, 2a), (1g, 2a), (1g, 3a), (1g, 0a), (0g, 2a), (2g, 0a), (1g, 1a), (1g, 4a), (0g, 3a) = 24 points (7g, 17a)
Brett McIntyre (1g, 1a), (1g, 1a), (0g, 1a), (1g, 4a), (1g, 1a), (1g, 0a), (1g, 0a), (1g, 0a), (0g, 2a), (2g, 2a) = 21 points (9g, 12a)
Get in the Game
Mammoth games can be viewed on Altitude TV and streamed live via ESPN+. Friday’s game against the Seals can be viewed on Altitude TV 2 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.