NLL: Williams, Mammoth keep repeat hopes alive

31 March 2023: Colorado Mammoth vs Las Vegas Desert Dogs. (Credit: John Harrison/NLL)

The Loud House was extra loud Friday night. The playoff vibes were flying as the Colorado Mammoth were back on their home floor and were making a serious push for the playoffs and even a possible repeat. Las Vegas came to Denver for the first time in team history, also looking to boost their playoff chances.

Does anyone know SportsCenter’s phone number? Seriously, someone call them and keep them on the phone, because there were an absurd amount of Top 10-worthy goals in this game. Colorado’s big three in Zed Williams, Eli McLaughlin and Ryan Lee combined for eight of Colorado’s 11 goals. The Mammoth used a monster second half to beat the Desert Dogs 11-9. Do yourself a favor and rewatch this one; a few of these goals were bananas.

Did you find the phone number? Because Williams started this one off with a BANG. Just 28 seconds into the game, Zed found himself with the ball and started backing down a defender. Normally, he would step back and fire a shot, but instead he fired a behind-the-back laser that beat Landon Kells. As if the Loud House wasn’t loud enough. Zack Greer answered back for Las Vegas as he shot through the middle and faked out Dillon Ward. The next three were every other type of scoring. The first was a one-timer by Eli McLaughlin, answered by Jon Phillips, which was answered by “flyin” Ryan Lee. How do you silence the Mammoth and their crowd? A four-goal run for the Desert Dogs. Scorers in that run were Greer, his second, which was a penalty shot, Charlie Bertrand, Erik Turner and Jack Hannah. Stunned silence in Denver. 6-3 Vegas after one.

Las Vegas continued their run to start the second as Rob Hellyer notched his first of the night. Cover your eyes Vegas fans, this is where it all went downhill. Colorado went on to score the next six goals of the game. To close out the second quarter, the Mammoth rattled off four of those six. Scorers were McLaughlin twice, giving him a hat trick, Chris Wardle, and Williams’ second on the power play. After a shocking turn of events, we sat at 7-7 going into the break.

The scoring flurries definitely took the cake in the first half. But, let’s give some love to the goaltenders, as they saw their fair-share of shots. Kells had a phenomenal first quarter, but struggled in the second. He made 13 saves on 20 shots. Ward struggled late in the first quarter, but was world-class in the second. Ward stopped 14 of 21.

“They’re defending champs, a great team,” said Greer at the half. “We know it’s going to be a game of runs in here tonight, so we gotta get our feet moving, swinging the ball, get inside out. We know it’s a game of runs, we just have to weather them.”

Have you been able to catch your breath from that wild first half? Good, because the chaos came to a screeching halt in the third quarter. Only one goal was scored in the frame, and it was goal five of six in that run for Colorado. Williams got his hat trick at the 9:26 mark with his patented step back bullet. 8-7 Mammoth going into the fourth.

Colorado’s final goal of the run was courtesy of Evan Downey just five seconds into the fourth quarter. Las Vegas hadn’t scored in over 30 minutes of game play, but these next two were something special. Someone get SportsCenter back on the horn. The first was from Hannah, his second, which was shorthanded. It had to be reviewed, but Jack took the ball around the back of the net and jumped and dunked one-handed. That goal was followed up by Phillips, who received a pass from Hellyer. Phillips caught the pass with both feet off the ground and finished the quick-stick shot still in the air diving and falling at the side of the net. Absolutely silly. Vegas should hold on to those two goals tight because that was it for their scoring. Connor Robinson notched his first and Lee got his second on the power play to close this one out. Your final from the Loud House, 11-9 Colorado.

Players of the game for Colorado were Williams (3+3), McLaughlin (3+5), and Lee (2+2). Ward was absolutely spectacular in the second half, stopping 39 of 48 in total. For Las Vegas, Greer (2+2), Hannah (two goals), and Phillips (two goals) led the way. The middle of the game is where it really got away from Kells. He made 36 saves on 47 shots.

“Every game right now is tough,” said Lee after the game. “It was back-and-forth and we came out on top.” Regarding the Vegas scoring drought, Lee said “we have the best goalie in the league, so that’s how that happens and the best d, so it starts there.”

Colorado (7-7) continues to move in the right direction for the playoffs and a possible repeat of last year. They stay home as Vancouver (4-10) comes to town this Saturday at 9 pm. Las Vegas (5-9) needs to pretty much win out and hope for some help in the standings. They travel back to Sin City as San Diego (11-3) comes in for their contest this Saturday at 10:30 p.m.