Colorado's Next Man Up Mentality Sets Up NLL Finals Game 3


Zed Williams led the Mammoth with seven points in an 11-8 win in Game 2.

The 2021-22 National Lacrosse League season is set to go the distance. The Colorado Mammoth needed a massive fourth quarter to make sure that happened.

Down 8-6 to the Buffalo Bandits early in the fourth quarter Saturday night, the Mammoth staved off defeat in the NLL Finals by scoring the final five goals for an 11-8 triumph. The late burst, which extended the team’s second-half scoring run to 7-2, forced a winner-take-all Game 3 next Saturday in Buffalo.

Colorado, already without its regular season leading scorer Ryan Lee, found out hours before Game 2 that it would also be without its playoff leading scorer, Eli McLaughlin. Still, the shorthanded bunch was able to outlast the league’s top seed.

“Everyone stepped up, next man up,” Mammoth forward Zed Williams said.

Williams led the way with seven points, while rookie Brett McIntyre accounted for six. Four others had four points each — Chris Wardle, Tyson Gibson, Dylan Kinnear and Connor Robinson.

“I feel like that’s sort of been the theme with our team for the last half of the year,” Mammoth head coach Pat Coyle said. “We have our big guys that are going, like Zed and Connor, but our supporting cast is always chipping in.”

Williams netted the equalizer four minutes and four seconds into the fourth quarter to make it 8-8. Just over a minute later, Kinnear gave the squad its first lead since midway through the second quarter. Dillon Ward, who secured first star honors, made sure that was enough by shutting out the Bandits for the final 14 minutes and 14 seconds. He made 40 saves.

“Dillon was awesome,” Coyle said. “For us to win, I think we need that from Dillon. And what an opportunity for him to be going head-to-head with. You see so much press about [Matt Vinc] being like the best goalie in the league, which man he is awesome too, but we’ve always felt that our goalie is the best in the league.”

Buffalo took a three-goal lead twice in the second quarter, first when Chris Cloutier made it 5-2 and then when Josh Byrne pushed the Bandits’ advantage to 6-3 in the final minute of the first half. Robinson responded for Colorado with just two seconds on the clock to keep the deficit manageable.

The lead shrunk to one after a rather quiet three-goal third quarter before Colorado mounted its comeback in the fourth.

“We have a week now to prepare,” Bandits captain Steve Priolo said. “We need to fix the mistakes.”

Byrne had two goals and two assists for Buffalo, while Dhane Smith had two goals and an assist. Vinc made 33 saves.

The NLL Finals will go to a Game 3 for only the second time since the league moved to a series format in 2015. The only other occurrence came in 2018, when the Saskatchewan Rush outlasted the Rochester Knighthawks.

Both squads are gunning for their first championship in over 10 years. Buffalo last won in 2008 when it defeated the Portland LumberJax, while Colorado upended the Bandits for its only title in 2006.

Game 3 is set for 7:30 p.m. Eastern on Saturday in KeyBank Center.

“We’re ready to go,” Coyle said. “It’s one game. One game for the NLL championship. We just try and play the same way no matter where we are.”


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