The Colorado Mammoth gave up a five-goal lead, losing to the Calgary Roughnecks 15-12 — ending their playoff run with their seventh one-and-done run in eight years.
After securing the No. 2 overall seed for the NLL playoffs, the Mammoth hosted Calgary Saturday night and stumbled out of the gate, allowing the first goal a little under a minute-and-a-half into the first quarter.
But a quick response of two goals by Stephen Keogh and Ryan Benesch got the Mammoth back in the game. Ruest added a third tally and the Mammoth defense combined with Dillon Ward’s strong goaltending to finish out the period without giving up another to the Roughnecks kept Colorado ahead.
In the second, the Mammoth scored two more within a thirty-second span to go up 5-1. With all the momentum in their favor, a strong defensive effort by Ward and a shorthanded goal by Eli McLaughlin, Colorado went up 6-1 with all the momentum. The Roughnecks scored one to break the streak and knock the lead back down to four, but Jeremy Noble put it back to five one a power play goal. With just 3:14 left in second quarter, the Mammoth looked like they were ready to run over the Roughnecks and leave them in the rear-view mirror on their way to a division final matchup with the Saskatchewan Rush.
But then, the first signs of disaster began to rear it’s ugly head. With just 30 seconds left in the half, the Roughnecks put one past Ward and walked into the locker room down by four.
Using the momentum from that goal, Calgary came out in the third period with all cylinders firing. Despite not scoring a rare penalty shot early in the quarter, the Roughnecks shrugged it off and put three past Ward, bringing the deficit to one. Zack Greer tallied one to get the lead back to two, but it would prove futile as Calgary put three more in during a 2:10 span, taking their first lead since 13:33 remained in the first quarter. Colorado fought back, tying it at nine with just nine seconds left in the quarter, leaving one quarter left to decide the playoff fate of the Western Division rivals.
Calgary took first blood in the fourth quarter, but the Mammoth responded with goals from Greer and Noble, taking the lead back 11-10. The teams tied again at 11’s and 12’s as the clock wound down under five minutes. Then, with 2:43 left, Calgary’s Curtis Dickson put one past Ward, giving them a 13-12 lead and leaving the Mammoth in a desperate position.
The Mammoth pulled Ward for a sixth attacker after gaining offensive possession, but it would prove ineffective as Calgary regained possession of a rebound and passed it down the field, scoring an easy empty net goal with 22 seconds remaining. The Roughnecks would roll another soft empty net goal in with six second left, adding insult to injury as the comeback win was completed.
The Mammoth were eliminated at home, and for the seventh time in eight seasons, in the initial round of the NLL playoffs.
Colorado may have some what of a kryptonite in the Roughnecks, failing to claim a victory over Calgary in the postseason over the last 11 seasons, a streak that looked good to be broken at the halfway mark of the game.
But after the Mammoth offense disappeared, the defense softened up and Ward cooled off, Calgary put in 12 goals in two periods of play to secure the victory and move on.
Even as the season ends before they hoped, the Mammoth can look forward to the 2019 when they get both Cameron Holding and Dan Coates back from the PUP list.
Ruest will also be a big factor for the team moving forward after having a breakout year. Leading scorer Benesch will also be more familiar with the system, and his numbers could improve moving forward.
For now, the Mammoth will have to live with another one-and-done season. The off season will certainly bring change with the roster moving forward as the Mammoth look to return to the NLL playoffs in 2019.
Photo credit to Colorado Mammoth Twitter Account.