The Colorado Mammoth went 6-12 in the regular season but held on to secure a playoffs berth for the ninth-straight season, extending the longest active playoffs streak in the NLL.
Facing the No. 1 seed Saskatchewan Rush in the West Division Semifinal last Friday, a team the Mammoth had never beat in the playoffs, it looked like Colorado’s postseason run could be over before it even started, but the Mammoth pulled off one of the biggest shocks in NLL history by winning in overtime against the 2018 NLL Champions and advancing to the West Division Final.
Tonight, in the Division Final against the No. 3 seed Calgary Roughnecks at Scotiabank Saddledome, the Mammoth continued to shock, holding Calgary scoreless for the first 20:47 in the game. By halftime, the score was 2-0 Roughnecks.
After an uptick in production by the Riggers’ offense in the second half, the Mammoth would go on to lose 8-4 to the Roughnecks. The disappointing end to the Mammoth's championship chase was also the lowest scoring NLL Playoff game since 2009.
“Our playoff run this season just confirms what most of us thought,” said Mammoth head coach Pat Coyle. “I know outside the room there are a lot of people who doubt who we are, but our run confirms the character in our room. I think we’re still young and we’re going to try and fill some holes in the draft, but our future is really bright, I think.
“We’re dealing with today right now, but we’re young, so there are a lot of positives to take from this season. We have potentially the best goalie in the league, our defense is solid and we have a good draft pick this year. I think things look good.”
Even in a loss, the Mammoth turned heads by holding the Roughnecks under 10 goals. Mammoth goalie Dillon Ward marshaled the team’s defensive effort, making 46 saves on 54 shots and earning Third Star of the Game honors.
“Goaltenders were front and center for the game. Their goalie played awesome. Wardo played awesome.”
On offense, playing in just his second NLL Playoffs contest, 25-year-old Ryan Lee led the Mammoth in scoring for a second-straight game, netting two goals. Chris Wardle had a hand in nearly every Mammoth goal, tallying three assists.
“The difference between the teams was the power play. We only scored once. That five-minute major in the beginning that they got, not capitalizing on that sort of shifted the momentum.”
The Mammoth only converted one of five power-play opportunities while the Roughnecks scored in all five of their man-up chances.
“It wasn’t our best effort, obviously,” said Mammoth captain Dan Coates. “It was a decent first half and we let some things slip away toward the end of the second and the third. I look to myself on some of those goals. It’s unfortunate, you gotta learn from it and it’s just the way it goes. You have to build some scars to win.
“It’s a good team over there. They earned it, but we’ll be back in this position soon.”