The Colorado Mammoth won the game of the year so far in the young National Lacrosse League season Saturday night, using the power of the force to emerge from their Star Wars-themed home game with a thrilling 13-12 victory over the Vancouver Stealth. Three players had hat tricks for the Mammoth including Adam Jones, who scored Colorado’s final two goals 32 seconds apart late in the fourth quarter. Sean Pollock and Drew Westervelt also had 3 goals for Colorado and Dillon Ward again came off the bench to play very well in net, earning his first NLL win by making 30 saves on the 38 shots he faced. Rhys Duch led all goal scorers with 4, to go along with 2 assists, for Vancouver. Tyler Digby had a huge night in his NLL debut with 3 goals and 3 assists while Alex Gajic led the game in points with a goal and 7 assists.
Colorado got off to a flying start, scoring the opening 2 goals just 37 seconds apart early in the game. Westervelt got them both on almost carbon copy plays. On each, he took a cross-floor pass across the top of the offence and quickly fired back across the grain, over the shoulder of a defender and just inside the far post near the floor. After leading 3-1 following the first quarter, it looked like Colorado was succumbing to the middle-quarter doldrums again, as they had in their season-opening loss to Edmonton. Vancouver outscored the Mammoth 5-1 in the second to head into the intermission with a 6-4 lead and most of the momentum.
The Stealth built on that momentum coming out of the locker room. Duch scored his third of the night 32 seconds into the the third period to keep Vancouver rolling. But then the Mammoth battened down the hatches defensively and got into a rhythm on offence. They went on a 6-2 run for the rest of the quarter to pull ahead 10-9 and whip the crowd of over 15,000 at the Pepsi Center into a frenzy. Pollock got all 3 of his goals in the quarter, connecting on a pair of pin-point accurate inside shots then letting a laser go from the outside.
In a game in which their were only three power plays, Vancouver scored on both of their man advantage opportunities, including Lewis Ratcliff’s marker to open the fourth quarter and tie the score 10-10. Westervelt responded with a goal in the spectacular fashion he’s become known for, racing behind the net and leaping high to absolutely pound a goal in under the cross-bar. Cody Bremner tied it up a minute later but then Jones took over.
Jones took a shot from in close with just under five minutes to play but it was turned aside by Tyler Richards. Jones hustled after a Stealth defender headed up the floor, stripped him right at centre and turned back to the net with the ball. His shot from almost the same spot at the previous one was again stopped by Richards. This time, though, the ball popped back up towards Jones, who snagged it, jumped and tucked the ball over a recovering Richards while keeping out of the crease until the ball was nestled into the netting.
Jones appeared to hurt his right ankle, which looked like it was bothering him a bit earlier in the game as well, when he landed awkwardly after scoring. He limped for a few steps after he got up, then trotted off the floor and was back out for the next offensive shift. Jones called for the ball at the top of the offence, received a pass from John Grant, Jr. and absolutely ripped a shot that turned out to be the winning goal. Digby was able to pull the Stealth back within one but Colorado held on to close out the game and improve their record to 1-1.
Jones was named the game’s first star, Duch was second star and Westervelt was the third star. Colorado have their first road game of the season next Friday when they head to Calgary to play the Roughnecks. Vancouver play host to the Minnesota Swarm in their home opener next Saturday.
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