Lacrosse

Mammoth Defeats Defending Champs

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The Colorado Mammoth was without its leading scorer, Adam Jones, and its captain, Dan Coates. But that didn’t stop the Mammoth from defeating the defending-champion Saskatchewan Rush, 9-7, on HealthONE Field at Pepsi Center on Thursday.

Colorado managed twenty fewer shots on goal than Saskatchewan, and didn’t even throw a shot that got to Rush goalie Aaron Bold in the first nine-plus minutes of the game. But Mammoth netminder Dillon Ward kept his team in the contest, shedding 15 shots in the first 15 minutes. And he never looked back!

“Fantastic,” said Coyle of his goaltender’s performance. “We know he’s our number-one goalie and he’s playing like he knows he’s our number-one goalie. Without him, I don’t know if we win that game tonight.”

Ward improved to 4-1 on the season and pushed the Mammoth to 5-2 overall, the best record in the NLL. Colorado is now one game ahead of Saskatchewan after ending a five-game losing streak to the Rush (which dated back to 2014).

“They won the championship last year, they’ve been atop the division for the last few years,” said Ward, who made 47 saves. “We seem to struggle with them at times. To play them tight the first game [a 12-10 loss] and then come out here with a victory tonight is huge for us.”

He didn’t steal the show all on his own. Defenseman Ilija Gajic, who scored his first goal of the season five days ago, had two goals in a row in a third-quarter-stretch that saw Colorado bury five straight.

“Our coaches give us the green light to run down the floor and freedom to shoot,” said Gajic, who also gathered six loose balls.

Rookie Josh Sullivan is another defender who benefited from the coaches’ system, scoring his first-career NLL goal. Defenseman Joey Cupido tallied on a breakaway as well.

Forward Eli McLaughlin finished with two goals and one assist, while John Grant, Jr. had a goal and two helpers. Callum Crawford, who leads the NLL in assists, scored one goal and played a role in four others. Chris Wardle scored once as well.

“We didn’t play our best game and we beat them,” said Coyle. “It makes us realize that we’re in the elite in this league.”

The Mammoth travels to Calgary to take on the arch-rival Roughnecks (3-3) on Saturday at 7pm MT at Scotiabank Saddledome.

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