NLL: PCLC keeps playoff hopes alive with physical victory over Colorado

The net goes askew as the Panther City Lacrosse Club scores on the Colorado Mammoth. February 18, 2023. (Photo: PCLC/NLL)

Two West Division teams squared off Saturday night in Fort Worth, Texas. Literally. Colorado came into Dickies Arena looking for momentum to increase their chances of making this year’s playoffs. A young upstart Panther City Lacrosse Club had something to say about it. Both teams found themselves in the middle of the standings, so any win at this point in the season is crucial.

The PCLC faithful bought tickets to see a lacrosse game. They did see that, but they also saw their fair share of penalties as well. There were 20 combined goals scored in the game and 70 combined penalty minutes. Goals and fights and game misconducts, oh my! PCLC continued their playoff hopes with a gritty 13-7 win over Colorado. Someone pass Bruce Buffer the microphone. Let’s get ready to rumble!

Eli McLaughlin silenced the crowd with the first goal of the game courtesy of a cheeky twister shot. Will Malcom rectified that problem with his first, tying it up quickly. Colorado scored two straight, one from Jordan Gilles and the other from McLaughlin, his second, on the power play. Phil Caputo narrowed the deficit with a power play goal of his own, to make it 3-2 Colorado after one. Caputo’s goal was highlight-reel worthy as he scooped up a loose ball, head faked and dunked from behind the net.

PCLC used the late goal to end the first, to really turn it on to begin the second. PCLC popped off a four-goal clip in the first 3:51 of the quarter. Goals were scored by Jonathan Donville, Callum Crawford, Malcom and Mathieu Gautier on the power play. Whew, talk about a flurry in a hurry (sorry for the cheesy rhyme). Donville’s was an absolute laser, Crawford’s was a quick-stick goal, Malcom’s was a vintage rocket and Gautier’s was a great effort on a rebound. Gautier’s goal was at the 11:09 mark. The next goal wasn’t until Zed Williams buried his first with 1:40 left in the quarter. In the meantime, both teams utilized great transition and both defenses were extremely physical. Donville scored his second at the buzzer, to make it 7-4 PCLC going into the break.

“I was lucky to get a few to go tonight, that weren’t good shots frankly,” Donville demurred after the game.

Both goaltenders saw quite a bit of shots in the first half. Dillon Ward fought off a good portion, stopping 23 of 30. On the other side, Nick Damude was stout, creating a lot of transition scoring for PCLC. The young netminder made 14 saves on 18 shots.

“We’re just playing faster,” said Malcom about PCLC’s difference in play between the first and second quarter. “We were just getting the ball swinging and it started to work.”

Colorado drew first blood to begin the third quarter as Tyson Gibson tallied his first on the power play. PCLC answered with two straight, Crawford’s second and Patrick Dodds’ first. Connor Robinson got himself on the scoresheet with a power play goal of his own, but was answered by Donville’s hat trick. 10-6 PCLC going into the fourth. The physicality really ramped up in the third, which is probably why the fourth was as ugly as it was. Buckle up.

Seatbelts fastened? Here we go. There were four total goals scored in the quarter, as well as 50 total penalty minutes. Here’s even more: of those PIMs, 48 of them were in the final 11 seconds of the game.

Crawford got his hat trick under a minute into the quarter and was followed up by Gautier’s second. McLaughlin got his hat trick with 3:46 to play, and Josh Medeiros got his first with 2:49 to play. In the final 11 seconds, it was a physical mess. Penalties consisted of slashing, cross-checking, roughing, game misconducts and fighting. It was apparent all game long that tempers were going to boil over, finally resulting in Caputo and Gilles dropping the mitts at the end of the game. It could be said that cooler heads prevailed, but if there was another quarter, who knows how much more physical calamity would have ensued. Your final from Fort Worth, 13-7 PCLC.

Players of the game for PCLC were Donville (3+4), Crawford (3+4) and Malcom (2+4). Damude was an absolute stud all game long. The goaltender made an impressive 40 saves on 47 shots. Damude also eclipsed 1000 career saves with his performance.

“I just love this team,” said Damude after the game. “Hopefully there’s a lot more here in Fort Worth. This was a big statement, and we know we have to do it again next week.

For Colorado, McLaughlin (3+1), Williams (1+3) and Gibson (1+2) led the way. Ward seemed like he couldn’t get into a groove. The Mammoth netminder made 40 saves on 52 shots.

Callum Crawford moved into eighth place all-time on the points list, passing Gary Gait. With his performance, the veteran now sits at 1,166 career points.

“I didn’t know until I was in the locker room. I’m very honored,” Crawford stated.

If you couldn’t get enough of this game, have no fear, we have a rematch this week. PCLC (6-4) looks to continue their hot play as they travel to Colorado (4-5), this Friday at 9 pm. Round two anyone?