It may be a new year, but that does not mean there will be change. Yes, there was a new team in action in last night’s National Lacrosse League contest, however many things stayed the same.
John Grant Jr remains one of the best lacrosse players in the world, and that fact stayed true on Friday night as he scored the game winning goal to lead the Colorado Mammoth past the Georiga Swarm, 16-15 in front of more than 15,000 fans.
It was Georgia’s NLL debut after relocating from Minnesota this off season, and they took on many familiar faces. Both Callum Crawford and Greg Downing of the Mammoth were members of the Swarm just last season. Also making debuts for Georgia were rookies Lyle Thompson, Jesse King, Chad Tutton, and Randy Staats. Drew Petkoff also made his Swarm debut.
Colorado started out hot, with a shorthanded goal from defenseman Creighton Reid followed by an extra attacker goal from Jeremy Noble. Georgia got on the board with a power play goal from Johnny Powless and then tied the game with a tally from Joel White. Crawford scored his first goal as a member of the Mammoth to take the lead, and Colorado finished the first quarter leading 4-2.
By the half it was 8-7 Mammoth over the Swarm. The second quarter saw the first goal as a member of the Mammoth for Chris Wardle, while Swarm rookies Staats and King scored their first career goals.
The second half was the tale of rookies scoring, for both teams, as Jordan Gillies scored his first career goal for the Mammoth while Thompson and Tutton added their first tallies for the Swarm.
An 11-11 score going into the final frame set the stage for a classic finish. The Swarm at one point scored three straight goals (Tutton, Thompson, Kiel Matisz) to take a 14-13 lead. Eli McLaughlin tied it for Colorado on the power play with four minutes left in the quarter, but it was tied on a shot from Thompson where he went airborne in front of the crease. At 15-14 Georgia lead, the game was tied again by Crawford, the former Swarm.
With just 45 seconds left in the contest, Grant found himself with the ball being defended in front of the crease. With a quick turn, he fired the goal past Zach Higgins to give Colorado the victory.
Staats led the Swarm with seven points in his NLL debut. Matisz, Jordan MacInosh, and Lyle Thompson each contributed four points. Colorado saw seven point nights for both Grant and Adam Jones, and six point contests for Noble and Crawford.
“I spent six years with the Swarm organization…the motivation for me was to show why I came here,” Crawford said to NLL.com. “I came here to win a championship and that’s the first step towards it is that first win.
Without Bob Snider, who recently signed with Calgary, new captain Dan Coates took the majority of the faceoffs and won 16 out of 28. Defenseman Robert Hope led the game with 14 loose balls.
“We did some good things and some bad things,” said Lyle Thompson after the game to NLL.com. “I think we are a lot better team than what we showed tonight. I don’t think we were disciplined, the little things you have to be good at in this league.”
Second-year player Alex Buque got the start in net to open the season and made 42 saves off of 57 Georgia shots. Higgins made 44 saves. It remains unclear why Dillon Ward did not get the start in net for the Mammoth.
There is no doubt both teams have potential on offense, especially Colorado, but the weakness on both teams remains defense. David Earl was injured for the Swarm, but his state remains uncleared.
Colorado will hit the road next Saturday when they travel to Rochester to face the Knighthawks, while the Swarm will host their first game ever in Gwinnett against the Toronto Rock.