There will be a new champion in the NLL this year.
The Colorado Mammoth upset the defending champion Saskatchewan Rush 11-10 in overtime on Friday night. The win marked the first time the Mammoth have won a postseason game against the Rush and the first time they have ever won a game of any kind in Saskatoon.
For the Rush, it was the abrupt end to a season that had some ups and downs, but one in which they were still the odds-on favourites to be the Western Division finalists for the fifth consecutive year (including their last season in Edmonton).
Saskatchewan’s Jeff Shattler opened the scoring 6:05 into the game on a mid-range shot, but Colorado responded just 15 seconds later when Jacob Ruest sniped a quick one off the faceoff. This triggered a three-goal run by the Mammoth which the Rush finally stopped just before the end of the quarter.
The Rush opened the second quarter scoring as well, this time to tie the game at 3-3. The two teams exchanged goals the rest of the way, leaving the game deadlocked at 4-4 at the half.
Things got interesting as the second half got underway. Saskatchewan seemed to be taking over the game in the third quarter, scoring three unanswered goals while outshooting Colorado 16-5, making it look like the Rush had found their mojo and were going to put this game away for good.
But the Mammoth still had some fight in them. They notched five goals in the first 8:20 of the fourth quarter to retake the lead. Saskatchewan’s Ben McIntosh tied the game at 9-9 at the 8:55 mark, and things stayed that way until 12:04 when Mammoth sophomore Ryan Lee scored the go-ahead goal on a crease dive, coming off a pick-and-roll with Eli McLaughlin.
As the clock ticked down, the Rush pulled goalie Evan Kirk for the extra attacker and, with less than a minute left in regulation, McIntosh scored again to tie the game, this time in controversial fashion. As Mammoth goalie Dillon Ward was scooping up a loose ball in his crease, McIntosh appears to yank the ball out of Ward’s basket—a clear violation of rule 68.1—and score the ball. By many accounts—including In Lacrosse We Trust’s own Anna Taylor—the goal should have been disallowed and McIntosh should have been served with a two-minute penalty for goaltender interference.
You be the judge:
After review, the referees determined that it was a good goal and the game was forced into sudden death overtime.
Mammoth transition star Joey Cupido put the game away at the 4:04 mark when he intercepted a pass intended for Mark Matthews and beat Kirk on a clean breakaway.
Ward was given the first star of the game for his performance, stopping 44 shots, including all four he faced in overtime. Lee led all scorers with six points (three goals, three assists).
The Rush were led by Shattler, who scored twice and added three assists.
Colorado now moves on to the Division Finals, where they will face the winners of Monday night’s San Diego Seals-Calgary Roughnecks matchup. For the Rush, it’s time to take stock of the season and what they can do next year to get back to the championships.