The Colorado Mammoth dropped a 12-9 decision Jan. 11 during its fifth game of the season as the Halifax Thunderbirds completed the comeback effort despite trailing by four goals early in the match.
The Mammoth got off to a fast start when Warren Jeffrey scooped up a loose ball from the opening faceoff and connected with a speedy Joey Cupido, who converted a breakaway tally with a quick shot over Halifax goaltender Warren Hill’s right shoulder to give Colorado a 1-0 lead 14 seconds into the contest.
On the next Mammoth possession, Chris Wardle took a few steps inside the restriction line before cutting inside and ripping a low shot past Hill for Colorado’s second goal in the opening minute of play.
Wardle picked up his second marker of the night two minutes later after collecting the rebound off an Eli McLaughlin shot and placing the ball over Hill’s left shoulder to give the Mammoth an early 3-0 lead.
Wardle picked up his third point of the night when he came off a pick-and-roll and sent the ball to Kyle Killen, who fired a hard bounce shot from the left side for another Mammoth tally.
Graeme Hossack got Halifax on the board with just under seven minutes remaining in the first with a breakaway tally over Dillon Ward’s left shoulder to make it 4-1.
Colorado answered 90 seconds later when Kyle Killen sent a behind-the-back pass from the left goal line to a streaking Ryan Lee who netted his sixth of the year with a quick strike past Hill.
Following a Jordan Gilles holding penalty, Halifax captain Cody Jamieson converted on the extra-man opportunity to bring the Thunderbirds within three. Halifax forward Stephen Keogh added another goal on a delayed penalty inside the final minute of the first quarter.
Ward made twelve saves in the first quarter while Colorado didn’t surrender a goal until 8:18 in the first, marking the longest the Mammoth have held an opponent to scoring its first goal of the contest this season.
“After our early start, they packed it in a little more and kept us to the outside,” Mammoth Head Coach Pat Coyle shared in a postgame interview. “They’re a strong, athletic defensive unit and we didn’t get many resets while having a lot of short offensive sets, so hats off to them.”
Ryan Lee logged the first goal of the second quarter after the forward received a pass from Chris Wardle in front of the crease and converted a diving attempt past Hill. The forward went on to complete his first-half hat trick during a power play with less than four minutes to play in the second quarter and give Colorado a 7-3 lead.
Halifax finished the half strong, scoring three goals in the final two minutes as Brad Gillies logged a tally with a bounce shot around Ward before Benesch sent a quick pass across the key and found Clarke Petterson during a delayed penalty. Eric Fannell fired a heated sidearm shot from the top of the key 34 seconds later to make it a 7-6 game going into halftime.
“We don’t want to give up a three-goal run to a team going into the half and I need to come up with a save there,” Mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward said. “Defensively, we want to do things a bit differently than we did tonight, but there will always be runs – that’s the game of lacrosse. We need to react better when teams score goals.”
Fannell got back on the score sheet less than one minute into the third period by collecting a rebound following a blocked shot and netting a scrappy goal past Ward’s right side to create the game’s first tie at seven all.
The Mammoth re-established its lead with a Jeff Wittig power-play marker as the result of a series of precise passes. Halifax quickly evened the score at eight when Jamieson logged his second of the night and third delayed penalty goal for the Thunderbirds overall.
Benesch got open near the crease on a quick cut and converted over Ward’s right shoulder to give Halifax its first lead of the game. Benesch logged his second of the evening seven minutes into the fourth with a low, sidearm shot past Ward’s right side to give Halifax a 10-8 advantage. Chris Boushy added a goal for Halifax with just under five minutes to play.
Jeff Wittig brought the Mammoth back within two goals by netting a rebound and slamming a shot past Hill with 36 seconds left before Hossack logged an empty-net goal for a final score of 12-9.
Despite the slow start, Hill finished the evening with 48 saves on 57 shots to pick up his fourth-straight win. Mike Burke led the Thunderbirds with five points (0g, 5a) while Cody Jamieson pitched in four points (2g, 2a). Ryan Benesch (2g, 1a), Graeme Hossack (2g, 0a) and Eric Fennell (2g, 0a) logged two goals each while Jake Withers added one goal and 17 loose balls.
Ryan Lee led the Mammoth in scoring with five points (3g, 3=2a) while Eli McLaughlin netted four points (0g, 4a) and Chris Wardle contributed four points (2g, 2a) on the evening. Jeff Witting added two goals on the evening as Dillon Ward stopped 46-of-57 shots faced.
Colorado will look to get back in the win column against a pair of West Division opponents as the Mammoth travel to Vancouver Jan. 17 and complete the road double-header with a Jan. 18 matchup in Saskatchewan.
“This group has been together for a couple of years now and I think our mental toughness has grown as a team,” Mammoth captain Dan Coates said. “We have to learn, otherwise we won’t be a productive ball club. Road games, double-headers, wins and losses, it’s all part of the game.”
Through five contests, forward Jacob Ruest leads the Mammoth in goals (11) while Ryan Lee continues to pace Colorado in points (23) and assists (14) after picking up six points (3g, 3a) Saturday against Halifax.
Tickets to Colorado’s Jan. 25 matchup against the Buffalo Bandits and all Mammoth home games can be purchased at AltitudeTickets.com. Mammoth road games can be streamed live via Bleacher Report Live.