February 4, 2012

Colorado 5-0, Ties Franchise-Best Start to Season

from press releases

DENVER – In a sport where the best goaltenders average 10 or more goals-against per game and save 80 percent of their shots or less, Chris Levis stood tall for the Colorado Mammoth on Saturday night.

Levis made 37 saves and the Mammoth finished strong with four goals in the final five minutes to defeat the Edmonton Rush, 11-7, at Pepsi Center.

"He is a good goaltender and I don't think he gets enough credit throughout the league," said Colorado head coach Bob Hamley of Levis. "We talk about getting respect and he is quickly earning it."

The victory improves Colorado to 5-0 on the season, tying its best start to a National Lacrosse League campaign with the 2008 team. The Mammoth remains as the only undefeated team in the league.

After Colorado could only muster one goal on a five-minute power play in the first quarter, a Gavin Prout high-sticking penalty five minutes into the second period gave Edmonton the chance to grab momentum with its own five-minute, man-up chance.

Instead, Levis and the Colorado defense stood strong, denying every shot the Rush took on the power play, keeping the game tied at three.

"You can only take it one shot at a time with a five-minute power play," Levis said of the penalty kill. "You just have to be calm and make those guys beat you. That is what I did tonight."

Hamley said it was great to see the man-down unit stepping up during what perhaps was the turning point of the game.

"We've worked hard on it. We worked hard on it early in the season. We worked hard on it in practice," Hamley said. "We've spent a lot of phone calls and video on it and credit to the guys, they have taken pride in it and we really buckled down."

Edmonton finished with two goals on its five power-play opportunities, while Colorado scored on both of its extra-man chances.

Colorado went into the second half up 4-3 after a late second-quarter goal by the NLL's Player of the Month for January, John Grant Jr. Grant finished with three goals and five assists in the game, improving his season total to 45 points (19 goals and 26 assists) – which is tops in the league.

"He is a great guy to have and to watch and see what he does," said Mammoth rookie Jordan McBride of Grant. "His confidence is through the roof and it trickles down to everyone. It is awesome."

McBride finished with three goals in the game, including back-to-back tallies in the third quarter, breaking a 5-5 tie.

Adam Jones, the NLL's Rookie of the Month for January, joined McBride and Grant with three-goal games.

Edmonton tied the contest at seven midway through the fourth quarter, but goals from Jones, Grant, Dan Coates and Jarett Park in the final 4:50 allowed the Mammoth to pull ahead and stay there.

Edmonton's Shawn Williams was given a delay of game penalty just under nine minutes into the final stanza to provide the extra-man advantage for Colorado's game-winning tally.

"The whole game changed at 7-7 with a terrible call," said Rush head coach/GM Derek Keenan, who disputed the penalty against Williams. "It allowed them to go on the power-play and it changed the game."

With his club's lowest offensive output of the season Keenan was also unhappy with the finish from his front-end scorers. "We had a ton of scoring chances and we just didn't shoot the ball well tonight," he said. "Seven goals isn't going to cut it in this league."

Scott Evans led all Rush scorers with three goals and one assist while Aaron Wilson had two goals and one helper. Edmonton goaltender Aaron Bold finished with 35 saves on 46 shots as the Rush dropped to 1-2 on the season. Rush forward Ryan Ward recorded the 500th point of his career on Scott Evans' fourth-quarter score.

The Mammoth improves to 13-5 all-time against Edmonton and a 7-3 mark over the Rush at home.

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