The Colorado Mammoth took a giant step forward in 2017, advancing to the West Division Finals for the first time in 11 years. The team’s playoff journey ended on Saturday night at SaskTel Centre as the Mammoth lost to the two-time defending champion Saskatchewan Rush, 11-10, in Game Two.

Colorado led, 3-2, after one, and was tied, 4-4, at the half. The game opened up in the third quarter with Saskatchewan pouring in five goals to Colorado’s four. The 9-8 score was identical to that at the third intermission of Game One a week ago.

The Rush pieced together two goals in the first 86 seconds of the fourth quarter to extend its lead to three, 11-8. But the Mammoth responded. A Jacob Ruest slow-break goal off the bench was followed by Jeremy Noble’s second tally of the night to pull within one. Colorado had three attempts with an extra attacker on the floor in the game’s final seconds, but was unable to beat Saskatchewan goalie Aaron Bold.

“I’m really proud of the way we battled,” said Pat Coyle, Colorado’s head coach. “Like I said to [the players], there were a couple times there where I felt like we could have just packed up and said ‘yea, we tried hard but it wasn’t our night’. We battled, literally, until the last second of the game. This is the third time we’ve played these guys to a one-goal (game) in this rink. It’s getting old being on the wrong side of that, but I’m super, super proud of the way we battled.”

Colorado dropped both regular-season games in Saskatoon by a single tally, and also lost a home game to Saskatchewan by just one.

Forward Eli McLaughlin, who enjoyed a breakout season, had a game-high three goals. Zack Greer, who was acquired from the Rush last offseason, scored two goals and two assists. Defenders Greg Downing and Joey Cupido each scored once. Goaltender Dillon Ward made 37 saves.

“We came a long way,” said captain Dan Coates. “It [hurts] losing tonight, but there’s a lot of positives to take from the season. We really grew as a team. Looking back on the season, I think we came a long way. We have to learn from this, continue to grow. We’ve accomplished a goal getting this far. For a core group of us, we haven’t been this far. But, we’re coming, we’re eager, we’re young, we want to learn, and we’ll be back next year for 2018.”

Featured Image Credit: Josh Schaefer, Saskatchewan Rush,