The reigning East Division champion Buffalo Bandits tied the Colorado Mammoth for the best home record (8-1) in the NLL a season ago. On Saturday night in western New York, the Mammoth defense was supreme in Colorado’s 12-8 road win at KeyBank Center on Opening Night.
Goaltender Dillon Ward didn’t allow a goal in the first quarter as the Mammoth jumped out to a 3-0 lead. When Callum Crawford scored his first of the night midway through the third quarter to give his team a 9-2 advantage, Ward’s counterpart – Bandits goaltender Anthony Cosmo – was pulled. And Colorado never looked back.
The Mammoth defense limited reigning NLL MVP Dhane Smith to one goal, and it came with just 52 seconds left in regulation. Colorado’s netminder, who led the League in save percentage in 2016, finished Saturday’s performance with 47 saves.
“Every defender contributed in a positive way – knocking down passes, stepping in front of shots, and grinding for loose balls,” said Mammoth coach Pat Coyle. “It was a great workmanlike effort. When Buffalo did get shots, Dillon was there to stop them. Tonight was a total team win from the back-end.”
Colorado third-year defenseman Robert Hope had a game-high 12 loose balls, and also chipped in with a first-quarter assist. Off-season acquisition Zack Greer had a team-high three goals, and added two assists. (His first goal of the game was the 200th of his career.) Forward Jacob Ruest scored twice on three shots in his NLL debut.
Crawford was Colorado’s other multi-goal scorer (2g), and led the team with six points. Forwards Chris Wardle, John Grant, Jr. and Jeremy Noble, and defensemen Dan Coates and Creighton Reid, each scored once.
The Mammoth power-play and penalty-kill units were dominant, scoring three times on the man-up and adding a short-handed tally. It didn’t allow Buffalo to convert on its two power-play opportunities.
Colorado hosts the Vancouver Stealth in the home-opener at Pepsi Center on Saturday, Jan. 7 at 7:00pm MT. Click here to check seat availability.