Sunday, January 19, 2014

Buffalo Bandits 16 at Colorado Mammoth 9 (NLL) - January 18, 2014

When my friend Meg was able to get me a ticket to the AFC Championship game, I had to hurry to get plane tickets to Denver. I needed to fly Saturday and wanted to arrive in time for a National Lacrosse League game that night at the Pepsi Center. A return ticket had become too expensive, so I bought a one-way ticket from Denver back to New York and resorted to miles to get there. There was only one option that arrived by 5:30: a three-leg journey from La Guardia to Philadelphia, then Columbus, then on to Denver. Every leg increases the risk of a problem, either through a delay or a missed connection. The whole trip would take just under 7 hours, with an hour layover in each connecting airport. I expected the worst, but amazingly everything went better than expected.

The only major problem was a bag check going through security at La Guardia. I was bringing along a router for Meg and expected that to cause them to search my bag, but that was not the item that caught their attention. Rather it was bananas. Not crazy, I mean actual bananas, the yellow curved fruit. I had bought a bunch a couple of days earlier and realized they would probably rot while I was away, so I brought them with me. Once the TSA agent saw (or smelled) that they were, in fact, bananas, I was free to go on my merry way.

Despite a persistent drizzle in New York, the flight to Philly left just a few minutes late, and even after a long wait on the taxiway, we arrived pretty much on time. The flight to Columbus (that's the plane leaving Columbus above) was at the next gate, so I had time to buy a Sports Illustrated and some snacks. That flight left on time and arrived nearly 20 minutes early. The scheduled layover was just 36 minutes, which had me concerned because I did not want to spend the evening in Ohio’s capital city. Fortunately, there was no problem and we left on time again, and arrived at 5 pm in Denver, just as the sun was setting giving me some nice views from my window seat (below).  After picking up the rental car, I drove downtown, parked, and walked into the Pepsi Center at 6:30, in plenty of time to see the game.

Meg had picked up tickets which were a good deal: $14.50 for an upper deck seat (view below) with a beer included and $5 off at the team store. Almost like seeing the game for free. It was Military Appreciation Night as well, so the Mammoth wore camouflage uniforms.

See that scoreboard above. It's a new addition, being added this past offseason. It spans the distance between the two blue lines when hockey is being played.

The Buffalo Bandits were the visitors with Anthony Cosmo (above, checking out a ball behind the net) getting the start in goal. Colorado came in having played the night before in Vancouver, losing by a goal. I think the back-to-back got to them as they fell behind early, giving up 4 goals in the first 8:38, a couple of them quite weak as Tye Belanger simply was not on his game. Colorado got on the board at the 12:22 mark but just 37 seconds later Steve Priolo added his third of the period and Belanger was yanked, replaced by Dillon Ward (in net below).

Ward didn't have much luck either, giving up a goal just 51 seconds into the second quarter. Down 6-1, the Mammoth finally found life as John Grant Jr. and Adam Jones scored 4 of the next 5 and then both assisted on a goal by Sean Pollock to get within one at 7-6. But Buffalo's Dhane Smith scored his second of the contest with 43 seconds left and the Bandits had an 8-6 advantage at the break. 

Ten of the 14 goals were scored in one net and that continued in the third quarter as the teams changed ends again and Buffalo had the advantage, peppering Ward throughout the period, adding 6 markers, while Colorado managed just 1. After three quarters it was 14-7 and the game was pretty much over.

They have to play the whole thing though, and although the Mammoth scored a couple early in the fourth frame to get fans' hopes up, Buffalo's defense and Cosmo came up big the rest of the way. They added two of their own to make the final 16-9, a blowout by lacrosse standards.

Not a particularly entertaining game, but a chance for me to check another venue off the list, this being #465. This was my 4th NLL venue, with two of them (Portland, Orlando) no longer in existence. Given the great crowd tonight though, I don't think we need to worry about the Mammoth following them into extinction.



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