Sunday afternoon, in front of a crowd of 11,378 faithful fans spending their afternoon at Pepsi Center, the Colorado Mammoth came out to battle but ultimately lost a hard-fought game, 11-8, to their Rocky Mountain Rivals, the Calgary Roughnecks.
Calgary forward Rhys Duch, the first star of the game, topped the scoreboard with six points (four goals, two assists), scoring a hat-trick in just the first half. Roughnecks goalie Christian Del Bianco saved 41 of 49 shots in the win.
Despite the loss, the consensus from the Mammoth’s locker room was that this game was an improvement from a disappointing home-opener against the San Diego Seals two weeks ago.
“I was proud of how we battled,” said Mammoth interim general manager and head coach Pat Coyle. “Last game I couldn’t say that. I thought we got outworked all over the floor. [This week] we matched their intensity the whole game and actually, most times, we worked harder.
In a game that was tied five times before halftime, the Mammoth were down several times, but they were never out, keeping the deficit within two points until a score by Dan Taylor at 5:18 in the final stanza put Calgary up 10-7. Even then, the Mammoth came back for one more with a top-corner snipe from Brad Self; the 100th regular-season goal of the defenseman’s career. Back within two (10-8), the Mammoth kept grinding until the final buzzer, firing off 11 shots but unable to find twine. With 0:46 left on the clock, Shane Simpson scored an empty net goal to widen the ‘Necks’ lead to 11-7, which held until the final buzzer.
The Mammoth had points from seven different scorers on Sunday. Ryan Benesch led the team with two goals and one helper.
“It felt like we were a goal away from really changing things. A couple times we did score goals and it felt like, ‘okay, it’s going to change’, but to give them credit they came back and scored some big goals. Especially coming out of the half there, those two goals that they scored; our defense needs to own that one.”
Sunday, Colorado entered the second half on a knotted score (5-5) and a man-up advantage for the first 1:26. The Mammoth didn’t convert that opportunity. By the end of the game, the Mammoth were scoreless on three power-play chances while the Roughnecks scored once on two tries.
“It’s obvious we need to work on our power-play. This is a league where man-up, man-down, you live and die by that, I think. We didn’t score a man-up [goal] and they did, so, I thought our short man did a good job but our power play has to bury at least half their chances.”
One area where it was obvious that the Mammoth had improved was between the pipes. Goalie Dillon Ward saved 28 of 38 shots, making over 10% of those saves early, in the game’s first 10:35, and then continued to make saves that would keep his team in the game throughout the full sixty-minutes.
“I thought Wardo played great. Like I’ve said, I know he didn’t have a great game a couple weeks ago, but my experience with him is that when he plays a game like that, he always comes back solid.”
Looking ahead, Mammoth captain Dan Coates said, “Our team has to reflect on this game. We have to learn from it, and we need to get better every single day; that’s Monday through Friday. We can’t just flip a switch when it comes to game day.
For the eighth-year Mammoth defenseman, Sunday’s game was a milestone: his 100th regular-season career game.
“This is a veteran group, and I don’t think there is any panic in this room, it’s just ‘alright, what can we do next.’ We have to learn from our mistakes and I don’t think there is any panic there. We believe in our coaches and it will come along.”
The Mammoth continue their four-game homestand on Saturday, Jan. 12, in facing the Toronto Rock at 7 p.m. MST. The game will also be the Mammoth’s 80s Rock Night presented by KOOL 105. Tickets are available now at AltitudeTickets.com. Fans can also watch a live-stream of the game on B/R Live.