A Mammoth Comeback Sets Stage for Buffalo-Colorado NLL Final


Eli McLaughlin had 12 points in Game 3 of the West Final.

The National Lacrosse League Finals are set, and it has everyone thinking back to 2006. The Colorado Mammoth are off to play the Buffalo Bandits for a title for the second time in the franchise’s history after pulling off an impressive comeback Saturday night in San Diego.

The Mammoth entered the second half of the West Final’s winner-take-all Game 3 down 9-5. But, thanks largely to the efforts of Eli McLaughlin, Colorado mounted a six-goal run then never trailed again to complete a 15-13 triumph and secure its first trip to the title bout in 16 years.

“We just stuck to our gameplan,” Colorado goalie Dillon Ward said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Every game has been tight. When we went down, we kept fighting and found a way to win.”

McLaughlin finished with 12 points on five goals and seven assists to wrap up his monster series. He notched eight points in Game 1 and seven in Game 2.

“I just wasn’t ready to go home,” McLaughlin said. “Everyone else felt the same way."

He was involved in five of Colorado’s six goals during the decisive run, totaling two goals and three assists during the stretch. His efforts during the West Final were certainly necessary given the Mammoth were playing without Ryan Lee, the team’s leading scorer during the regular season.

“We lose our top player in Ryan Lee, but we found a way to keep going,” said Ward, who made 42 saves. “It’s the ‘next man up’ mentality.”

The Seals stuck around after McLaughlin put Colorado up 11-9 five-plus minutes into the fourth quarter but were never able to get the equalizer. San Diego got within a goal twice at 11-10 and 13-12, but both times Colorado responded with a two-goal run of its own.

In addition to McLaughlin, Colorado got eight points from Connor Robinson, five from Zed Williams and four from Tyson Gibson. The play of the night belonged to Joey Cupido, who pulled off a spectacular transition goal.

San Diego, the top seed in the West, was led by six points from Wes Berg. Jeremy Noble and Dane Dobbie each added five. The Seals will have to wait at least one more year to make their first appearance in the championship series.

“Our thought was we were destined for better,” Seals coach and general manager Patrick Merrill said. “I was really proud of the type of character we had in that room. It’s a great group of guys. To come up short like this is very disappointing and very heartbreaking.”

Colorado won its only championship the last time it played in the Finals, besting the Bandits 16-9 on Buffalo’s home turf. Doing that a second time will be a tall task, but Colorado did win the teams’ only regular season matchup 15-14 on April 2. That meeting notably ended a stretch of four games in eight days for the Bandits.

Buffalo is making a second straight appearance in the Finals after falling to the Calgary Roughnecks in 2020. The Bandits are aiming for their first championship since defeating the Portland LumberJax in 2008.

The teams will play the next three Saturdays, if three games are needed. The series opens in Buffalo this week, with faceoff set for 7:30 p.m. Eastern.


Most Recent

NLL Power Rankings: Seals Reclaim Top Spot After Rochester Falls

The Knighthawks took their first loss, opening the door for the Seals to climb.

Take Me Back: Goalie Talk With Brian Phipps and Brody Fuller

Fuller, one of Phipps' pupils, grills his goalie coach on life and lacrosse.

Knighthawks Answer Latest Test, Beat Bandits to Stay No. 1

Rochester is 6-0 and continues to answer every question thrown its way.

Steven DeNapoli Retires from Professional Lacrosse On Top

One-time U.S. team selection won 2022 PLL championship with Waterdogs LC.

Twitter Posts