Seals collapse in second half, eliminated after 15-13 loss

Credit: Josh Jimenez/ EVT Sports

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Credit: Josh Jimenez/ EVT Sports

The Seals led at halftime by four goals. They’d just gone on a 6-1 run. They were 30 minutes from their first NLL final appearance in franchise history.

After a dramatic collapse, controversy from the referees, and a frantic effort to rally, they fell just short. The Mammoth won 15-13, eliminating the Seals.

The game started feisty, as Seals captain Brodie Merrill got into it with the Mammoth, as each side picked up a penalty for roughing. The early tension set the tone for a highly competitive game. The Mammoth struck first as defenseman Erik Turner opened the scoring. San Diego goalie Frank Scigliano made a pair of spectacular saves to stop the Mammoth from striking again. It was a slow start from the Seals, but they evened the score six minutes into the matchup. Zack Greer found the back of the net from close range as the Seals took advantage of a delayed penalty.

After Greer’s goal, the momentum shifted to San Diego, who were denied by the post, before finding themselves on the power play shortly thereafter. However, as quickly as momentum flew to the Seals, it went back to Colorado. They found success on the penalty kill before Zed Williams put them ahead with a laser from long-range. However, Greer found his second of the game, evening up the game at the end of the period.

The second period started poorly for the Seals, as superstar Austin Staats picked up a penalty for slashing. It took less than 30 seconds for the Mammoth to take advantage, putting them back in front. However, San Diego answered on their next three possessions. Wesley Berg, Casey Jackson, and Austin Staats all scored in quick succession, shooting the Seals into the lead. Connor Robinson scored on a fluke shot, where he was hit as he shot, but it did not stop the Seals’ momentum. Patrick Shoemay, who did not score in the regular season, scored his fourth goal in as many playoff games on a counterattack.

Berg put his second off the night two minutes later, extending San Diego’s lead to three. Dane Dobbie, who was the hero in the Seals’ win in Game Two, scored as well. The Mammoth finally quelled the bleeding with an Eli McLaughlin goal, but Tre Leclaire struck with a minute left in the half. San Diego led by four goals, scoring nine times, with seven different players putting their names on the scoresheet.

Credit; Josh Jimenez/ EVT Sports

After the second quarter was all Seals, the second half was all Mammoth. Neither team scored in the first five minutes of the half, but Colorado found themselves on the power play. The Mammoth took advantage, with Eli McLaughlin scoring his second of the night. They rode the offensive wave for two more goals. Connor Robinson scored his second of the evening before McLaughlin completed his hat trick to cut the deficit to one. San Diego composed itself for the remainder of the period, but the worst was still yet to come. 

Once the fourth quarter got underway, the Mammoth hit quick and fast. Robinson completed his hat trick to tie the game at nine before Joey Cupido’s counterattack goal put Colorado ahead. McLaughlin found his way through again, scoring Colorado’s sixth consecutive goal. Wesley Berg was denied by the crossbar, as everything was going wrong for the Seals. They finally caught a break, as a Mammoth penalty gave Berg the opportunity to score on the power play. The Pechanga Arena crowd erupted as the Seals ended a 28:41 scoreless streak.

Before the crowd had stopped celebrating, the Mammoth reinstated their advantage, with Jalen Chaster striking seven seconds later. Zed Williams’ second of the night put the Mammoth ahead by three. The game was not over yet, as the Seals found life. A penalty shot was awarded to San Diego as a result of an illegal substitution. Dane Dobbie scored before Austin Staats scored on a counterattack just 37 seconds later. After looking down and out, the Seals trailed by just one with four minutes remaining.

Credit: Josh Jimenez/ EVT Sports

With just under three minutes remaining, Wesley Berg appeared to have tied the game. However, his foot was ruled to have been in the crease, resulting in the goal being ruled out on the floor. Eli McLaughlin scored on the Mammoth’s ensuing possession, but the play was reviewed as a result of Berg’s goal/no goal. Despite video evidence that appeared to show Berg was not in the crease when the ball left his stick, the play was not overturned. Had Berg’s goal been reversed, the game would have been tied. Instead, the Mammoth had a two-goal advantage. The crowd showered the field with “Ref, you suck!” chants, but it made no difference. McLaughlin struck again with under a minute left before Berg’s fourth goal of the night proved to be nothing more than a consolation.

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After a hard-fought and impressive season, the Seals came up just short. They won their first division title, as well as their first playoff game. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get it done in the playoffs. 

It was a frustrating game that will leave a sour taste in the player’s mouths for the entirety of the offseason.

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