Throughout the regular season, the trade that sent Adam Jones to the Saskatchewan Rush and brought Zack Greer to the Colorado Mammoth looked like it worked out well for both sides. During Game One of the West Division Finals at Pepsi Center on Saturday night, however, Jones exacted his pound of flesh from his former squad.
The first half was tightly contested, and Jones didn’t even get on the scoreboard during the first two quarters. He did have an assist on one of the Rush’s five first-half goals, but it wasn’t until the second half that he took over. Jones scored all six of his goals in the second half and added two additional assists to end the night with six goals and three assists total in the Rush’s 19-8 victory. Mammoth star goaltender Dillon Ward was in net for four of Jones’ six goals.
“He’s a great player,” Ward said. “We all know how great of a player he is. He meant a lot to our organization when we had him and we knew by trading him would be a great addition to them, but we also got Zack Greer in return, who’s another great player. It’s obviously a great game for him, but we need to know where he is on the floor at all times, and we’ll fix that next week.”
Mammoth head coach Pat Coyle had a short, but honest, response when asked about Jones’ performance after the game.
“He played great,” Coyle said.
The Mammoth had a golden opportunity slip out of their hands on Saturday night. The Rush were a completely different team on the road than at home this season, and they were decidedly worse when traveling. When on the road, the Rush have a sub-.500 record, are eighth in the league on the power play, seventh in the league in the penalty kill and were outscored by seven goals. The script flips at home, where the Rush are 8-1, have the best power play in the league, have the fourth-best penalty kill and have outscored opponents by a whopping 26 goals.
If the Mammoth do pull off the victory in Game Two, it will be their second playoff victory since 2006. Their first playoff victory since 2006 came in their May 6 victory over the Vancouver Stealth. The way the playoff format works for the National Lacrosse League is that if a team wins both games of the two game series, that team advances. If the two games are split between the squads, a 10 minute tie-break game is played immediately after Game Two to decide a series victor. If the mini-game is tied at the end of regulation, the a sudden-death overtime period is played.
If the Mammoth can stop Adam Jones and play the entire game like they played the first half of Game One, they’ll give themselves a very realistic shot at dethroning the two-time defending champion Rush in Saskatoon.