The Vancouver Stealth were narrowly defeated in their season opener Saturday night losing a close back and forth game with the Colorado Mammoth 13-12. The Mammoth relied on some big saves late from goaltender Dillon Ward who came in to relieve Tye Belanger of duties for the second time in two games.
Colorado opened the scoring with back to back Drew Westervelt goals that looked almost identical from John Grant Jr. and Jordan McBride and Grant Jr. and Jamie Lincoln. The Stealth would answer back when Rhys Duch ﬁred a side arm shot off a screen from Tyler Digby and Tyler Garrison. The Stealth would appear to score immediately after when Ilija Gajic broke free in transition but booth review would determine the ball never went in. The Mammoth would go up another when Cameron Holding scored on a breakaway after picking off a cross ﬂoor pass intended for Duch. The ﬁrst period would end with Vancouver on the penalty kill and down 3-1.
After a great penalty kill by Tyler Richards and the defense, the Stealth would build some momentum to start the second quarter. Alex Gajic would beat Belanger high with a rocket and Cliff Smith would score a nice “quickstick “ goal from a cross crease pass to tie the score at 3-3. Tyler Digby would get his ﬁrst ever goal and second point of the night with a blast from the outside, sprung off a pick. After three quick goals Mammoth goaltender Tye Belanger was yanked in favor of Dillon Ward. At the other end of the ﬂoor Richards would make a fabulous save off Grant Jr. who was tiptoeing the crease. The Stealth would transition down the ﬂoor and score a beauty when Cliff Smith would beat Ward behind the back pipe and in. Coloradoʼs Ward would step up and make a huge save off Jeff Moleski and in transition, the Mammothʼs Dan Coates would score low short side on a well placed shot.
Vancouver would score next making it 6-4 when Duch would put one past a helpless Ward off a shot off the post by Vancouverʼs Mike Grimes. A frustrated John Grant took a 2 min illegal cross check penalty and Tyler Richards would make a dramatic diving save to end the second. After a slow start Vancouver seemed to really get it going behind T Rich and a big penalty kill. Duch would open the scoring on the ﬁrst shot of the third quarter to put Vancouver up 7-4.
Both teams exchanged some offensive possesions that contained less than quality scoring chances and some great work defensively by the Stealthʼs Matt Beers frustrating big Drew Westervelt while the Mammothʼs Joey Cupido kept Lewis Ratcliff awfully quiet. Sean Pollock would go far side on Richards to get the crowd back into it when he would score his ﬁrst of the year from Coates. Duch would pot his fourth of the night when he would take an overhand shot popping off a hard pick beating Ward low.
Some really great offensive series there using multiple shot clocks resulted in a 8-5 Stealth lead. The Colorado captain “Junior” would bury next from Westervelt and Holding on a great individual effort by Cameron Holding getting through two Stealth defenders. Sean Pollock scored again to pull the Mammoth within one, but Vancouverʼs Tyler Digby would score his second on a questionable short side bouncer. The Mammoth would immediately claw back when the inspired Pollock would get his natural hat trick on an outside blast that would ﬁre up the Pepsi Center. Behind the ﬁred up fans, Colorado would get the next two goals with Jones scoring on a post up backhand feed from Grant and face off specialist Bob Snider scoring with just 5 seconds left in the quarter. Mammoth lead by one 11-10 after a great effort by Sean Pollock and Dillon Ward.
After some rough moments to end the third Lewis Ratcliff would tie things at 10 apiece with a PP goal corralling a rebound and putting it in past a down and out Ward. At times it looked as if Joey Cupido was really in Ratcliffʼs kitchen and did a great job holding him to no goals even strength. The Mammoth would take the lead once again when Westervelt would score a highlight reel goal that was a nice “Air Gait” impersonation. Legit goal, very exciting.
This would really pump up the crowd and the rest of the team, the Mammoth were really beginning to dictate the play until Stealth rookie Cody Bremner would ﬁght through three men from the corner en route to the cage and score career goal No. 1 in a spectacular effort. Adam Jones of the Colorado Mammoth had been quiet up until this point and there had been speculation of possible ankle injury. Coming off a 4 goal effort week 1, Jones decided to get on the board. The Ontario native would create a turnover and score a huge goal off his own rebound to take the 12-11 lead for the home squad. He would go out two shifts later and beat the Stealth goaltender again on a blast from the outside ﬁring up the fans and home bench. Tyler Digby would score to bring the Stealth within one but two big saves by Dillon Ward including shutting the door on Duch point blank would seal the deal for the Mammoth. Hard fought game by both teams, very entertaining action.
The Stealth host the Minnesota Swarm on Saturday, January 11th in their home opener where they hope to improve to 1-1.