Shawn Slaght, All Lacrosse All The Time – A Division of the Edge of Philly Sports Network
The Colorado Mammoth broke a 16-year curse as they defeated the Buffalo Bandits 10-8 Saturday night to win the NLL Cup.
Dillon Ward was named the finals MVP and rightfully so. Ward stopped 55 of 63 shots in the third and final game of the series and was solid in the second half to lead the Mammoth to the championship.
The mind games began even before the first whistle. Colorado activated Eli McLaughlin hours before game time and even took warm-ups but was a scratch minutes before the ball dropped.
Shaky first quarter
Both defences looked shaky as the game began and the goals came fast and furious. Zed Williams opened the scoring as he ripped a shot 24 seconds into the game that got past Matt Vinc.
Buffalo would tie it right up 1:15 into the game, with Dhane Smith shooting around a defender. A bouncer by Josh Byrne 19 seconds later put the Bandits up 2-1 to the delight of the 19,060 in attendance in Banditland.
The Bandits would extend their lead at 7:33. Ethan O’Connor’s shot went wide but Ian MacKay was there to grab the rebound off the boards and bury it.
Williams went diving across the crease with 4:59 left in the quarter. Make the score 3-2 in favour of the Bandits after one-quarter of play.
Mammoth offence breaks out in the second period
Colorado’s offence found its stride in the second quarter as they outscored the high-powered Bandits 5-2.
Brett McIntyre would tie up the game 36 seconds into the frame on a great individual effort with Steve Priolo draped all over him.
Sam Firth would score his NLL goal 13 seconds later to give the Mammoth a 4-3 lead in what would prove to be a key goal.
The Bandits were scrambling to tie up the game. Smith would appear to score with 13:32 to play in the second, but it was waved off due to a crease violation.
Confusion struck at the 2:05 mark as it appeared that Kyle Buchanan’s quick stick had tied up the game on a delayed penalty. Colorado challenged, but it was ruled that the penalty caused the player to go into the crease, therefore the play was not challengeable.
Colorado would bounce right back was Dylan Kinnear would put a shot through traffic to make it 5-4 for the Mammoth at 3:20.
Buffalo would once again have a tying goal taken away from them at the 4:09 mark. Priolo found Nick Weiss cutting across the front of the net. Mammoth head coach Pat Coyle challenged the play and it was ruled that Weiss was in the crease.
The Bandits would tie up the game with 7:35 left in the second with Buchanan flying through the crease.
Colorado would go on to score a couple more key goals. First Tyson Gibson’s outside shot with 5:54 left would give the Mammoth a 6-5 lead. Mid-season acquisition Anthony Joaquim would score on transition with 4:31 left to make it 7-5. The Mammoth defence would be solid through the remainder of the quarter to keep Colorado ahead at the half.
Goaltender duel in the third
Both Vinc and Ward were outstanding in the third quarter. Vinc stopped all 17 shots he faced, while Ward stopped 13 of 14 shots.
The lone goal came on the power play at 10:14. Chris Cloutier took a low-to-high shot that got by Ward.
Colorado held a slim 7-6 lead heading into the final frame.
NLL Cup is on the line in the fourth
Connor Fields would score on the quick stick 27 seconds into the final frame to tie it 7-7. Early in the fourth and it was still anyone’s game.
Wiliams scored his hat-trick goal at 3:15. Chris Wardle leaped across the crease at 9:29 to put the Mammoth up 9-7.
Ward was sensational in the fourth quarter as he was bombarded with rubber, but held his ground.
Williams would end up burying one into the empty net with 25 seconds left in the game to ice the Mammoth’s NLL Cup championship. Buchanan would score with 6.6 seconds left in the quarter, which would be a meaningless goal.
- Dillon Ward, Colorado
- Zed Williams, Colorado
- Kyle Buchanan, Buffalo
Zed Williams, 4g 2a
Chris Wardle, 1g 5a
Robert Hope, 3a
Kyle Buchanan, 3g 1a
Josh Byrne, 1g 3a
Dhane Smith, 1g 2a
Shawn Slaght has been a sports reporter across the Canadian prairies for over 10 years and has experience covering everything from junior hockey to World Cup skiing to all levels of lacrosse. He is the Saskatchewan correspondent for All Lacrosse All The Time.