NLL: Beach night successful for Warriors with 7-5 win over Mammoth

Sam Clare celebrates with Keegan Bal. Colorado Mammoth at Vancouver Warriors, 01.17.20 (Photo credit: Devin Manky/National Lacrosse League)

It was beach night at Rogers Arena, complete with leis and a steel pan band as the Vancouver Warriors hosted the visiting Colorado Mammoth after a week of cold and snowy weather in Vancouver. The Warriors were looking for revenge after their 13-9 to loss Colorado two weeks ago. The home team got the win, prevailing 7-5 on a night where defense was the defining factor of the game. Vancouver improves to 2-4 on the season while Colorado falls to 3-3.

“We challenged all four quarters. Played desperate lacrosse, do or die playoff style,” said head coach Chris Gill. “Kind of a win or you go home scenario. Well done to all the players; they stepped up and did what they had to do.”

The Mammoth started goalie Dillon Ward, who leads the league with 224 saves, to protect the net against Vancouver’s potent offense. The Warriors entered the night with 57 goals scored on the season, the most goals scored in the NLL. Mitch Jones has been outstanding offensively this year, leading the league in goals (12), assists (20), and points (32) entering Friday night’s clash. Jones managed to score two goals and register an additional two assists for four points on the night. Teammate Jordan McBride also entered the game against Colorado with 12 goals on the season and managed to notch another two, keeping pace with Jones and leaving him with 14 goals in the campaign thus far. On the Colorado Mammoth side it was Eli McLaughlin who led the charge for his team with three points, one goal and two assists.

Jeff Wittig opened up the scoring at the 3:31 mark of the first quarter to put the Colorado Mammoth up 1-0. The Mammoth led for all of 30 seconds before McBride scored for the Warriors, tying the game 1-1. Vancouver gained the lead courtesy of Sam Clare’s first career goal to put the Warriors up 2-1. Colorado would not have the lead again, as Vancouver clamped down on defense and for the rest of the game.

After the first quarter the Warriors led 3-2. The second was relatively uneventful, but saw Mitch Jones score for Vancouver and Jacob Ruest tally for Colorado. The Warriors maintained their one-goal lead and led 4-3 at the end of the first half.

Vancouver struck first in the third quarter, courtesy of a goal from Riley Loewen and led 6-4 at the end of the third. The caginess continued in the fourth and as the final three minutes ticked away, Colorado’s net sat empty for the extra attacker, desperate for any kind of offense they could muster against an extremely stingy Vancouver defense.

Eric Penney earned first star honours for stopping 48 of 53 shots faced. The second star was awarded to Jordan McBride for his two goal performance and Sam Clare earned the third star after registering his first NLL goal, assist, and caused turnover on the night.

In his post-game interview Clare credited his big night to both his teammates and the defensive system that the Warriors have put in place: “We did the things that make everyone successful and I was the beneficiary of it tonight. There are so many other guys who were doing their job. We kept [Colorado] to five goals.”

Logan Schuss, who was put on the IR list earlier this week, sat in the press box to watch the game. When asked about the health status of his assistant captain, coach Gill said that “[Logan] should be ready to go for the next game in New England. Just a minor thing. We’ll watch some video and reevaluate, but we’re happy with his progress.” If Schuss is as spirited on the bench as he was in the press box last night, the Warriors are getting back a teammate who cares deeply for the success of his peers and brings an unbridled enthusiasm for the sport of lacrosse.