DENVER – After Gavin Prout brought tears to the eyes of Mammoth fans during his emotional jersey retirement ceremony, back-up goaltender Alex Buque electrified the Pepsi Center crowd and stole the show in his first career start as Colorado defeated the Vancouver Stealth, 12-6, on Sunday night.
Playing in place of Dillon Ward, Buque made 49 saves and was named the 1st Star of the Game.
“We were just hoping he would rise to the occasion and he did,” said coach Dan Stroup of his rookie netminder. “He played awesome! It was really nice to see.”
The rookie recorded double-digit save totals in all four quarters and limited the Stealth to three scores in each half. The six goals allowed were the fewest given up by the Mammoth this season.
“It was the best feeling in the world,” said Buque. “Being an NLL player is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’m glad I’m able to do it.”
Colorado scored five power-play goals on six chances. Captain John Grant, Jr. led the way for the Mammoth offensively with three goals and four assists. With the win, Colorado opens up a two-and-a-half game lead over Vancouver for second place in the West.
“It was huge!” said assistant captain Dan Coates of the victory. “You can’t look ahead in the schedule. We knew Vancouver was desperate for a win. To get some separation is big.”
The Mammoth also kept pace with the Rush, who won on Saturday. Colorado sits one-half game behind Edmonton for the division lead.
The first six goals of the game (two by Vancouver, then four by Colorado) were scored on the man-up. Colorado rookie Eli McLaughlin had his best game as a pro with two goals and four assists. Fellow rookie Jeremy Noble went for two goals and three helpers. Veterans Alex Turner (2g, 2a) and Drew Westervelt (1g, 4a) chipped in offensively as well.
Colorado and Calgary play a home-and-home next weekend in a match-up that could clinch a playoff berth for the Mammoth. Tickets to Friday’s game are on sale now at ColoradoMammoth.com.