NLL: Physicality continues, San Diego defeats Colorado in playoff preview

Colorado Mammoth at San Diego Seals 04.29.23

It’s a safe assumption that the San Diego Seals and Colorado Mammoth do not like each other. Two West Conference foes met up for another battle Saturday night at Pechanga Arena in San Diego, California. This would be the third matchup of the year between these two clubs, with each team having one win. Oh, and next week the playoffs start and what do you know, these two will see each other once again. San Diego took game three of the season series, 11-8 in front of their home crowd.

Before we get to the game, allow me to set the stage for you. On 1/28, these two met for the first time, and there were 19 goals scored and 50 penalty minutes. On 4/14, they met again, this time there were 29 goals and 81 PIMs. In the contest Saturday night, it was another 19 goal and 50 PIM performance from both clubs. To say this is becoming quite the rivalry, is an understatement. Now, to the action.

San Diego came out red-hot in this game. By the 12:11 mark of the third quarter, one would never think that this game would end up as close as it was. Stay tuned for that. Austin Staats continued his hot streak as he opened the scoring. Colorado wasted little time answering, as Zed Williams used a stiff-arm before firing a shot for his first of the game and 100th of his career. San Diego proceeded to blow this one open, as they scored the next three to close out the first quarter. Scorers were Staats, his second, Dane Dobbie, and Mac O’Keefe. Staats’ second was him flying across the crease, Dobbie’s was shorthanded, and O’Keefe’s was his patented low-to-low snipe. 4-1 Seals after one.

The Seals continued to put on the pressure to begin the second as Curtis Dickson scored his first, also a shorthanded goal. Colorado finally stopped the run courtesy of a power play goal from Connor Robinson. But here came San Diego once again. Staats got his hat trick on the power play and Wesley Berg got his first. Staats wowed the lacrosse world once again as he dunked from behind the net. Brett McIntyre got his first for the Mammoth to close the quarter out. 7-3 San Diego at the break.

Frank Scigliano was spectacular in net. As they said many times on the broadcast, do not let this man get settled in. Frankie stopped 12 of 15. Dillon Ward was on the opposite end, as it seemed like he couldn’t get into a groove. Ward made 10 saves on 17 shots.

“We needed a goal on the power play there and I made something out of nothing,” said Staats at halftime. “It helped us in a big way and hopefully we can continue this in the second half. We’re up 7-3 and we can’t let that get in the way and come out flat footed.”

It’s evident that San Diego was relentless in this game. They continued to put the pressure on to start the third quarter as Jacob Dunbar got his first and Staats got his fourth. After Dunbar’s goal, the physicality really picked up as a bunch of offsetting roughing penalties were called. Staats’ fourth was ANOTHER shorthanded goal, the Seals’ 21st of the season. Colorado must’ve had enough, as they went on to score the next five goals leaking into the fourth quarter. Williams started the comeback train with his second, on the powerplay, and his third, giving him a hat trick.

At the 4:45 mark of the third, things broke down. San Diego was upset about a few “no-calls” in their zone, so as Colorado was setting up their offense, things got chippy. No fights, but a ton of extracurriculars ensued. As a result, Eli Gobrecht and Matt Sykes ended up in the box and had a total of 18 penalty minutes called on them, giving Colorado a five-on-three for two minutes, then an additional six minute power play for Colorado. The Mammoth wasted no time cashing in on that, as Eli Mclaughlin got his first on the power play and McIntyre got his second, also on the powerplay. That was a lot, so my apologies. 9-7 Seals heading into the fourth.

Colorado’s fifth and final goal of that run, and unfortunately, the game, was courtesy of Robinson, his second. Patrick Shoemay scored the last two goals, the second an empty-netter, to pad the Seals’ lead, giving you your final, 11-8 San Diego. After Shoemay’s second goal, there were only three seconds remaining. On the ensuing faceoff, Kellen LeClair and Brett Craig dropped the mitts, presumably a boil over from the game as a whole and a prelude to next week’s playoff game.

Players of the game for San Diego were Staats (4+2), Shoemay (2+1), and Dobbie (1+3). Scigliano was a stud all game long, stopping 49 of 57. For Colorado, Williams (3+3), Robinson (2+3), and McIntyre (2+1), led the way. Ward seemed off all night, making 30 saves on 41 shots.

“We just stuck to the process,” said Scigliano after the game. “For me it’s easy, just one ball at a time, I don’t really overthink it, I just go out and do my job. We played 60 minutes tonight, we’ll see what happens next week. We’re going to give it our all.”

These two clubs run it back this Friday at 10 p.m., only this time, it’s a one-and-done playoff game. Mark it down, take the night off, do whatever you need to do to watch this one. We’re on the March to May, buckle up.