“This game needs to be a team game,” said Colorado Mammoth offensive coordinator, Shawn Williams, prior to the Mammoth’s matchup against the Toronto Rock at Pepsi Center on Saturday night. “Our expectations are that we come out and we give the same effort, urgency and energy every shift, and if we can do that, I think we’ll be fine.”
Ultimately, the Mammoth fell 11-10 to the Rock in a down-to-the-wire thriller, and the reason for that fall was most of the team did bring effort, urgency and energy, but not the whole team.
“I’m mad,” said Mammoth head coach Pat Coyle. “I feel like there’s a group, the majority of our team, that is battling hard and working hard, and, you know, I don’t feel like we got outworked tonight. We really competed hard. But there are a few guys that aren’t matching that, and that’s what is killing us right now. Honestly, those few guys are really important to our team, and it’s killing us.
“For us to win, we need the same effort from all 17 guys.”
Players who led the Mammoth on Saturday night included Jacob Ruest. Netting the first goal of the game at 2:07 in the opening quarter and the last goal of the game at 12:53 in the final frame, Ruest led Colorado in scoring with three goals and two assists. Ryan Benesch and Eli McLaughlin weren’t far behind, tallying two goals and two helpers apiece.
McLaughlin, a left-handed, Surrey, BC native, who has scored the second-most goals for the Mammoth this season (6), credits his improved compete level to off-season grinding.
“[Improvement] is due to the summer”, said McLaughlin. “I got off the night shift, then I got in the gym more in the summer and I took it a little more seriously. With Zack Greer retiring and not coming back this season, I wanted to step-up and take a bigger role in this offense.”
McLaughlin’s second goal of the night, which put the Mammoth back within one (10-9) at 8:53 in the fourth quarter, was also his 100th regular-season career goal.
“I thought Eli was good," said Coyle. "He probably could have had two more goals. You can tell he worked really hard off-season on his fitness and fitness in this league matters so much so it gave him the leg up, and I think Zack Greer not being here has given Eli more confidence to take the ball a little more where he would defer a little more. He’s the guy on our offense right now who is saying, 'Give me the ball, I’ll do it.'"
The Mammoth player who had the most impressive game on Saturday night was irrefutably goalie Dillon Ward. With 55 saves of 68 shots, Ward was one save back from tying his all-time single-game save record in the regular-season, which he set against Saskatchewan on Feb. 18, 2017.
“Ward played great,” said Coyle. “I know, statistically [Toronto] had a lot of shots, and that’s a credit to them, but it’s also about the type of shots we gave up. I thought at lot of shots were the ones we wanted to give up, but sometimes, when we didn’t give up the shots that we wanted, Dillon made some great saves. I thought he had a great game.”
For Toronto, Rob Hellyer topped the scoresheet in a first-star game with three goals and two assists. Netminder Nick Rose saved 32 of 42 shots in the Rock's win.
The Mammoth will play the final game of their season-opening homestand next Sunday, taking on the Calgary Roughnecks for the second time this month.
In preparing for next week, Mammoth defensive coordinator Andrew McBride said, "It’s about effort. It’s about controlling what you can control instead of focusing on what others are saying. It’s about really being accountable to yourself."
The Mammoth's next game is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 20 at 1 p.m. The contest will also be the Mammoth's "Kids' Day Out" game. Any fan in attendance can stay for a family-friendly movie that will play in the arena following the game. Tickets are available at AltitudeTickets.com.