Halifax Thunderbirds rallied from an early, deep deficit to overtake Colorado Mammoth and remain undefeated in the 2019-20 National Lacrosse League campaign.
Early on, it looked like the 7,623 noisy fans in the Scotiabank Centre was destined to see the home stickmen lose their first game of the season, and lose it badly. Joey Cupido scored for the visitors just 15 seconds into the match, and Chris Wardle added a second 39 seconds later. Wardle scored again at 2:54 of the first quarter, and assisted on Kyle Killer’s marker at 5:24, meaning most Haligonians found their side down by four before even finding their seats.
Coach Mike Accursi’s side did not panic, though, and adjustments were made. Graeme Hossack broke the ice for the T-Birds, scoring at 8:18 of the first, and Captain Cody Jamieson scored a power-play goal for Halifax less than a minute after Ryan Lee had made it 6-1 for Colorado in the 10th minute.
Down 5-3 after the first quarter, Halifax relied on a pressing defense to turn the tide, and the game was largely dominated by the ‘Birds the rest of the way. Although Lee scored two goals early in the second frame to complete his hat trick for the Mammoths, he would be silent the rest of the night, as would the rest of his teammates; two goals from Jeff Wittig would be the only other goals the visitors would grab the rest of the night.
Instead, Halifax fans were treated to a dominating 9-2 run by the home side, ending with a 12-9 win. Jamieson, Hosack, Ryan Benesch and Eric Fannell each scored twice for Halifax, with Mike Burke contributing 5 assists. Halifax’s domination after the 1st quarter was again aided by Jake Withers’ dominance at the X, winning 68% of the draws on the night (17-25).
With his two goals, Benesch passed Lewis Ratcliff (440) to move to 9th place on the NLL’s all-time goal-scoring list and earned him first star honors for the evening.
The second star went to Halifax netminder Warren Hill, who continues to be the surprise of the season so far. Making 48 saves (.842 save percentage), Hill earned his fourth win in as many starts and lowered his goals-against average to a minuscule 8.67 for the year.
Colorado goalie Dillon Ward was just as solid, making 47 saves on 58 shots, but was not able to stop the swarming Halifax offense when it counted.
The play was spirited throughout the match, with several skirmishes throughout the evening.