NLL: McLaughlin, Lee carry Mammoth to first round victory over Seals 

Colorado at San Diego – 05.05.23

The second game of the one-and-done Friday night playoff slate was between two familiar foes. The defending champion Colorado Mammoth walked into Pechanga Arena and took on the San Diego Seals. We’ll save you all the details from the season series, but these two teams don’t play a boring lacrosse game and definitely seem to not like each other.

This game looked like it could have gotten out of hand early, as Colorado had a decent lead going into the second half. San Diego showed their resiliency and came back, however Ryan Lee and Eli McLaughlin took over. Colorado “upset” the West’s number one seed 13-12. Hold on to your seats because this game, quite literally, came down to the final seconds. Oh, and stay tuned for Dillon Ward’s outrageous performance. He wasn’t last year’s Finals MVP for nothing.

The beginning of the first quarter saw a feeling-out process, which was kind of a surprise considering these two teams saw each other three times in the regular season and in the West Finals last year. The first goal of the game took about five minutes, but Jordan Gilles finally broke the ice with a beautiful transition goal, courtesy of a home run pass from Ward. Chris Wardle and Dane Dobbie traded goals, but Colorado got the final marker of the quarter from Eli McLaughin, his first of many. 3-1 Mammoth after one.

The scoring pace picked up a bit in the second, but most of them were Mammoth goals. Zed Williams got his first as he drove to the net like a freight train, and was followed up by Ryan Lee’s patented dive across the crease. Curtis Dickson’s first stopped the bleeding, but only for a moment. Colorado rattled off two straight, one from McLaughlin and the other from Lee, giving them both two for the evening. Lee’s was a bullet from the restraining line. Kevin Crowley ended the first half on a good note for the Seals with his first on the power play. 7-3 Colorado going into the break. Keep in mind, San Diego was 1-3 in the regular season when trailing at half.

“He’s been playing amazing so far, hopefully he can continue to keep it going”, said Robert Hope about Ward’s performance. “It allows us to play a little more free in the defensive end and gives the offense a little more time with the ball. We’re just making sure we’re not giving them easy shots.”

Ward was incredible, there’s no other way to put it. “The Wall” as the Mammoth faithful call him, stopped 24 of 27. On the other side, Frank Scigliano seemed like he couldn’t settle in. Frankie, uncharacteristically, made 15 saves on 22 shots.

The third quarter saw a bit of a shift. San Diego outscored Colorado in the frame and the comeback was on. Austin Staats got his first of the game and was followed up by Wesley Berg. Tim Edwards stopped the run, but was quickly answered by Crowley’s second. Lee got his hat trick with a sick dunk from behind the net. At the 5:32 (ish) mark of the quarter, by far the save of the game was made by Ward, as he slid all the way across the crease to stop a one-timer attempt from Dobbie. Williams got his second and Mac O’Keefe got his first to close out the third. 10-7 Mammoth heading into the final frame.

San Diego needed to continue their slight momentum and come back, or their season would be over. Staats got his second of the game to start the quarter, but guess who, Lee had the answer for his fourth. The Seals then went on a three-goal run with goals from Berg, his second on the powerplay, Staats, his hat trick, and O’Keefe, his second. Believe it or not, at the 6:39 mark of the fourth quarter, this baby was all tied up. The deadlock lasted for about two minutes until McLaughlin broke the tie with his hat trick. A minute later, much to the pleasure of the San Diego crowd, Crowley got his hat trick. Once again we were all tied up with 3:16 to go. After some vigorous back-and-forth and stout goaltending from Ward and Scigliano, Colorado drew a penalty with thirty seconds left. After a timeout, Colorado set up shop and who other than McLaughlin buried the dagger with 1.8 seconds left. Wow, wow, wow. Your final, 13-12 Colorado. For the second year in a row, San Diego’s season ends at the hands of the Mammoth.

Players of the game for San Diego were Crowley (3+3), Staats (3+1), and Berg (2+2). Dickson also contributed six points. Scigliano was obviously defeated at the end of the game, but had a bounceback second half. He made 32 saves on 45 shots. For Colorado, it was their big three. Lee (4+5), McLaughlin (4+3), and Williams (2+3) led the way. Ward was unbelievable all game, making timely saves throughout, stopping 52 of 64 in total.

“We had our play run,” said McLaughlin after the game. “I was supposed to pass it from behind the net, but I said I’m going to take this myself. I missed two right before that, so I thought the third time’s a charm.”

“It’s playoff lacrosse,” said Ward. “It’s only one game, we don’t have to be the better team, we just have to be the better team tonight. Came out here, executed our game plan, weathered the storm at the end, and Eli’s as clutch as they come.”

Colorado moves on and continues to try and repeat as champions, and that journey starts tonight as they host the Calgary Roughnecks at Ball Arena at 9:30 p.m. ET. The game can be seen live on TSN and TSN+ in Canada and ESPN+ in the United States.