The Colorado Mammoth and Calgary Roughnecks faced off at the Scotiabank Saddledome for a decisive Game 3 of the West Division finals. It is the sixth time these teams met this season, with Calgary holding a 3-2 edge between regular season and playoffs. Additionally, three of the five games played have been decided by a single goal.
The winner would advance to the NLL Finals to take on the Buffalo Bandits in a best-of-three series for the NLL Cup. The last two championships have seen both of these teams defeat Buffalo in the final (Roughnecks in 2019, Mammoth in 2022). Game 3 would turn out to be another classic grindfest, as the Mammoth prevailed 9-7 to win the West and advance to the NLL Finals.
Mammoth hold edge after rugged first half
The Roughnecks struck first in a rather unconventional manner. After defender Eli Salama was whistled for holding 25 seconds from the opening faceoff, Jeff Cornwall (1g, 1a; 0:49) scored a shorthanded goal for a 1-0 Calgary lead. However, 19 seconds later Eli McLaughlin (1g, 2a) would equalize while still on the power play. The Roughnecks took back the lead with goals from Jesse King (1g, 1a; 8:01) and Haiden Dickson (1g, 2a; 10:40). The latter of those goals held up against a challenge after video review showed Dickson did not commit a crease violation as the ball slowly tricked past Mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward. It took less than a minute for Colorado to halve the lead as Zed Williams (2g, 2a; 11:37) responded. But Kyle Waters (1g, 1a; 12:39) scored his first goal of this postseason on a nifty inside move to give Calgary a 4-2 lead after 15 minutes.
The Mammoth came out firing in the second quarter, outscoring the Roughnecks 4-1 for a 6-5 halftime lead. Ryan Lee (1g, 1a; 1:11) and Chris Wardle (1g, 1a; 1:29) quickly tied the game at 4. Zach Currier (1g, 1a; 5:23; shorthanded) briefly restored a Roughnecks lead, picking up an errant shot from Shane Simpson and dunking it behind Ward. In this case, “briefly” was a total of 30 seconds, as Tyson Gibson (1g, 1a; 5:53) made it 5-5. Tim Edwards (9:40) broke the tie, crashing the net on his off-hand side and sneaking one past Roughnecks goaltender Christian Del Bianco.
Mammoth defense stands tall to advance to NLL Finals
Colorado appeared to have the edge as the second half started, having outscored Calgary 14-10 in the second half over the first two games of the series. The Roughnecks had other plans, blanking the Mammoth 2-0 in the third quarter. Tanner Cook (1g, 1a; 1:11) tied it, then Shane Simpson (1g, 1a; 3:18) scored the Roughnecks’ third shorthanded goal of the game to put Calgary up 7-6 with 15 minutes remaining, as Ward and Del Bianco continued their stellar play in net.
The Mammoth turned the tables in the final frame. Williams (6:08) tallied his second from long distance as the shot clock was expiring to tie the game at 7-7. The goal broke a scoreless drought of almost 26 1/2 minutes for Colorado. Approximately two and a half minutes later (8:32), Warren Jeffrey (1g, 2a) took the ball coast-to-coast to put Colorado up 8-7.
The Roughnecks continued to press for the game-tying goal, and had a golden opportunity with less than a minute left. Having pulled Del Bianco for an extra attacker, Tanner Cook and Tyler Pace double-teamed Williams deep in the Mammoth zone, causing a turnover. But Ward was once again up to the task, stoning Pace on the doorstep following the steal. Jordan Gilles then fed Connor Robinson (1g, 1a: 14: 46) up the floor for an empty net insurance goal. Calgary could only watch as their season ended with a 26:42 scoreless drought of their own, thanks to the efforts of Ward and the Mammoth defense.
Other Stats of Note
Power Play: COL 1 for 5; CGY 0 for 3
Zach Currier (CGY): 14 Loose Balls (led all players); 4 Caused Turnovers (led all players)
Dillon Ward (COL): 33 saves
Tyler Pace/Dan Taylor/Josh Currier (CGY): 0 combined points
Colorado held a lead for just 22:17 of the 180 minutes in the three-game series
Check out the All Lacrosse Live podcast this Sunday morning at 11 am (ET)
“Muffler” Mike Kostiuk was formally introduced to box lacrosse when he attended a New England Black Wolves game on a whim in 2016. Instantly hooked, he has since become an avid follower of the National Lacrosse League. Following the postponement of the 2019-2020 NLL season, he was offered the chance to share his wealth of statistical knowledge and unique insights with the lacrosse community at large. He cheerfully accepted, and currently serves as Edge of Philly’s correspondent for both the Albany FireWolves and New York Riptide.