Saturday night at Pepsi Center, the Colorado Mammoth celebrated the 10th anniversary of their Lacrosse Out Cancer initiative with 12,841 fans, but have to postpone celebrating a spot in the NLL playoffs, as the team fell 9-7 to the Saskatchewan Rush.
Speaking to how their loss on Saturday night highlighted the Mammoth’s youth in comparison to the Rush’s maturity, Mammoth head coach Pat Coyle said, “Sometimes, you don’t know how tough [a game] is going to be until you’re in it.”
Coyle did credit one Mammoth veteran for holding the Rush from running away with the game, “Ward played awesome. He’s the reason the score was as tight as it was.”
Mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward refused 46 of 55 shots in Colorado’s loss; the most shots the Orangeville, Ontario native has made since he set a single-game record with 57 saves against the Toronto Rock on January 12.
Forwards Cory Vitarelli and Jeff Wittig tied atop the Mammoth’s goals column with two apiece. Wittig, a rookie signed as free-agent prior to the start of the season, has now scored seven career goals, and has played three two-goal games.
Coyle said that Wittig played with physicality and confidence against the Rush on Saturday night, and noted that those traits are necessary in facing a squad of NLL Championship veterans.
Coming out hot in the Loud House, Saskatchewan started the game with three-straight goals by 4:20 in the second quarter.
Nearly five minutes later, Chris Wardle, put the Mammoth on the scoreboard. Wardle, a 26-year-old forward, now has nine goals and 16 assists for 25 points on the season.
The Rush extended their lead by two scores in the second and third quarters before Wittig netted another for the Mammoth, putting the score at 5-2 Rush at 3:43 in the third frame.
With a tally by Mammoth defenseman Julian Garritano six minutes later, the Mammoth came within two tallies, 5-3 Rush, toward the end of the stanza, but weren’t able to close the gap any tighter through the fourth quarter.
By 44 seconds into the fourth quarter, the Rush had jumped to a four goal lead, 7-3.
Kyle Killen and Wittig scored two quick goals in the fourth and fifth minutes to bring the Mammoth back within two goals, 7-5, but the Rush answered back in the sixth and seventh minutes to put them up by four once more, 9-5.
Vitarelli lead a late-game Mammoth charge and scored the final two goals of the game, one on an empty net, putting the score at 9-7 Rush at the buzzer.
The Mammoth have a quick turn-around next week, as they face the Rochester Knighthawks at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 12 at Pepsi Center. Once again, this will be a game with playoff implications for the Mammoth. Stay tuned next week for clinching scenarios.