Congratulations to the Colorado Mammoth, the 2022 NLL Champions. The three games of the finals were outstanding in their excitement and entertainment levels, and an upset in the Championships always adds to the drama. The only thing that sucks about the 2022 NLL Playoffs is that they’re over.
The Mammoth only had their regular season scoring leader Ryan Lee for one game in the playoffs, but Eli McLaughlin, Zed Williams, and Connor Robinson stepped up to fill the gap. Then in the finals, they lost McLaughlin for games two and three but again, the rest of the offense stepped up and got the job done. How good was McLaughlin? He set NLL records for goals and points in one post-season despite missing two of his team’s games.
The defense was excellent in causing turnovers and just preventing shots in general. Robert Hope was every bit the leader on the defense we’ve come to expect but Jeffrey, Sullivan, Gilles, Joaquim, Lintz, Carnegie, Cupido all played very well. When the shots did get through, Dillon Ward was amazing (see below).
They won game 3 on the road in front of a packed house in Banditland, probably the hardest barn in the NLL in which to do that.
We got used to it during the regular season, but they came back in the playoffs as well:
- Western Final game 1: They were down 3 at halftime and won
- Western Final game 2: They were down 3 in the second and tied it before losing in overtime
- Western Final game 3: They were down 4 at halftime and won
- Finals game 1: They were down 4 in the second and tied it in the fourth before losing on a last-minute goal
- Finals game 2: They were down 3 in the second and won
- Finals: They were down 1-0 in the series before winning games 2 and 3
Ward was on my “awesome” list for several different playoff articles this year. He set a new record with for saves in a Championship game with 55 (third all-time in playoff games), and also set records for most saves, minutes, and wins in a post-season. As good as he was in game 2, he was even better in game 3. He was aggressive in coming out of the net to cut down angles, his rebound control was excellent, and what I found most amazing was his reading of behind-the back shots. NLL players are really good with those and many times, it’s simply not possible for the goalie to stop them because you just can’t see them coming. But the Bandits tried a number of them and it seemed like Ward could see them coming and knew where to be to stop them.
We had a sell-out in Buffalo. Attendance was listed as 19060, which is the 9th highest all time. A few seats must have been removed from the arena because there are four other Bandits games that had exactly ten more people than this one. The only other games with higher attendance were a game in Calgary from 2019, and 3 Championship finals (2005 & 2001 in Toronto, 2004 in Calgary).
Intensity on the floor
Every player on the floor knew this was it. Not only was it the playoffs and so everyone was working their hardest to bring the Cup home, but since it was game three of the finals, they all knew this was the last NLL game of the year, win or lose. Many players also play in the PLL or WLA or MSL (assuming that even happens this year) so it’s not like they won’t be playing lacrosse again until NLL training camps begin in November, but everyone was determined to hold nothing back and leave it all out on the floor. As a result, we had an exciting, intense game.
Other teams congratulating the Mammoth
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this before but several NLL teams posted on social media after the game to congratulate the Mammoth on their victory. Oddly, not all of the teams did. I saw postings on twitter from Panther City, Albany, San Diego, Halifax, Vancouver, and Saskatchewan. I thought that was classy and very sportsmanlike. In particular, the Saskatchewan and San Diego tweets were awesome.
During stoppages in play, a guy with a camera immediately jumped out on the floor and got some amazing shots of players walking to and from the benches and talking to other players, coaches, and refs, and stuff like that. It doesn’t sound like thrilling content but it was all done with camera angles you don’t usually see. It was novel and very well done.
NLL Chatter readers
Thanks to all of you for not only reading, but also commenting, liking, and sharing my articles, whether you agree with my takes or not. I do this for fun, and it’s certainly a lot more fun when it’s more of a conversation than me just spewing my thoughts into the ether.
Buffalo fans booing
Most of the Bandits fans in the arena had left by the time the NLL Cup was awarded but there were still a lot there. When Brian Lemon congratulated the Mammoth on their victory and called Robert Hope up to get the trophy, there were a fair number of boos coming from the crowd. Not cool, Banditland. The Mammoth didn’t cheat, they didn’t steal a victory unfairly, they weren’t being unsportsmanlike, those are things you can boo. A team that played their hearts out and just beat the team you cheer for does not deserve to be booed.
Even worse were the homers on Facebook. For some reason, Facebook fans are much worse for being homers than Twitter fans. I saw Buffalo fans screaming about how Colorado should have gotten dozens of penalties while everything called against the Bandits was unfair. Then Matt Vinc steps out of his crease and sucker punches a Mammoth forward who’s pinned against the boards by two Bandits defenders, but that’s OK because Vinc is a competitor.
Note that in this case I’m calling out Bandits fans, but only because they’re the ones doing this right now. They are by no means the only team’s fans that do this. I’ve seen fans of every other team do the same thing.