Swarm Puts Damper on Mammoth’s First Postseason Home Game Since ‘08
The Colorado Mammoth made its first home playoff appearance since 2008 on Saturday night, but it was the Minnesota Swarm that ended up celebrating a milestone.
The Swarm earned its first ever playoff victory by defeating the Mammoth 14-10 in the West Division Semifinal at Pepsi Center. Minnesota entered 0-5 all-time in the postseason.
On a night when Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock donned a Mammoth jersey and presided over the ceremonial opening faceoff, Colorado was forced to play catch-up the entire contest in front of a charged-up crowd of 14,152. The Mammoth never held a lead and trailed 5-2 after the first quarter, 8-5 at the half and 10-7 entering the fourth.
“We're really disappointed,” Mammoth coach Bob Hamley said. “It's been such a great year. We'll have to sit down and evaluate where we are, but we made a lot of strides this year. No one gave us a chance at the beginning of the year to be where we are today.”
Buoyed by National Lacrosse League MVP John Grant Jr.'s fifth goal, the Mammoth trimmed the deficit to 10-9 early in the fourth quarter, but never drew closer as Minnesota scored the next three goals and kept Colorado scoreless for more than 10 minutes. NLL Rookie of the Year Adam Jones broke the drought with 1:04 remaining, but it was too late to mount a comeback.
“We were so focused on not giving up goals that we weren't truly in the flow of the offense,” said Grant Jr., who set an NLL mark with 116 points in the regular season.
Grant Jr. (5g, 2a) and Jones (3g) paced the Mammoth while goaltender Chris Levis stopped 31 of 44 shots before being lifted for the final two minutes. Captain Gavin Prout returned to action for Colorado after missing the final two games of the regular season and added one goal and three assists. His 83 regular-season points were fifth-best in the NLL.
“This season was a success for us. We had a great regular season and we were right where we needed to be,” Prout said. “Unfortunately in these playoffs, if you don't play your 'A' game, you're out. It's not a series or anything, and we definitely weren't at our best.”
Two shorthanded goals by the Swarm, one in the second quarter by Andrew Watt and one in the third by Tyler Hass, short-circuited any chance for Colorado to seize the momentum. The Mammoth exhibited only glimpses of the form that led to an 11-5 regular-season mark that was second-best in the NLL.
Colorado had beaten Minnesota twice in three tries in the regular season, although the loss was fresh on the teams' minds. It came in the regular-season finale, when the Swarm triumphed 16-13 in Minnesota.
Ryan Benesch tallied a team-best seven points (3g, 4a) for Minnesota while rookie goaltender Evan Kirk stopped 35 of 45 shots.