Dreams came true for three former St. Albert Miners lacrosse players last month as the Colorado Mammoth won the National Lacrosse League (NLL) championship.
John Lintz, Josh Sullivan, Erik Turner, and their Mammoth teammates defeated the Buffalo Bandits 10-8 in game three of the three-game final series. The last time the Mammoth were league champions was in 2006.
For NLL veteran Lintz, 36, who's currently the head coach of the Junior A Miners, the 2022 championship is the fourth over the course of his career. He previously won the league title in 2009 with the Calgary Roughnecks, in 2015 with the Edmonton Rush, and in 2016 with the Saskatchewan Rush.
This year is the first time Sullivan, 32, was able to reach the league finals in his seven-year NLL career, all of which has been spent with the Mammoth. Sullivan, who still resides in Red Deer where he was born and raised, played his Junior lacrosse with the Miners and is back playing for the Senior B Miners team this summer.
Turner, meanwhile, put his name in the history books in just his first full season in the NLL. The 29-year-old transition player played his youth lacrosse with the St. Albert Rams, and junior lacrosse with the Miners where he and Sullivan were teammates.
"To have the experience of the success that we had in the first year was pretty incredible," Turner said in an interview. "I feel very privileged, and it was just so cool to be part of the group that was ready to win."
"We felt like we had a chance to win, and we just stayed focused on the process and we were able to fight our way through some adversity through the whole season and then obviously got the result that we did.”
Turner said it was nothing less than a special experience being able to win the NLL championship with teammates he has known for years in Lintz and Sullivan. When Turner was in high school, he said, Lintz was once a coach of his.
"Just to share that experience with guys from this community and show our next generation of players … that you can come out of this community and have a really successful career in lacrosse is really special,” said Turner.
“It’s neat to be able to share those experiences and to have a leader and a teammate like [Lintz] who has so much experience in the league and has had such a successful career."
The Mammoth finished the regular season with a record of 10-8, enough to secure a western conference playoff birth. In the first round, the Mammoth knocked out the defending champion Calgary Roughnecks team in a one-game playoff with a final score of 16-12.
In the semi-finals the Mammoth defeated the San Diego Seals in a three-game series before facing the Bandits in the finals.
No rookie jitters
“You have some expectations going into it and you try to have an idea of what it’s going to be like, and I think this year really exceeded all that for me," Turner said, reflecting on his rookie season.
"[It was] something that I’ve worked towards for a really long time."
The year 2020 was set to be Turner's first season, but it was cut short about halfway through, he said.
"I think the shut down and being away from it for as long as we were just gave me an additional level of appreciation for every moment that we got to have.”
In 17 regular season games in 2022, Turner registered two goals and six assists, and he scored once through the seven playoff games.
With another year remaining on his contract with the Mammoth, Turner said he's already looking forward to next season.
“It’s a really awesome place to play; awesome organization," he said, adding, "Our fan base is spectacular as well — they refer to our home arena as the ‘loud house.'"
For the summer, Turner will be playing with the Senior A Coquitlam Adanacs in British Columbia, where he will also be coached by the Colorado Mammoth head coach Pat Coyle.