The Edmonton Rush pulled off an upset of epic proportions by beating the Calgary Roughnecks 19-11 in front of 11,161 fans on Saturday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
The Riggers finished the 2012 National Lacrosse League campaign with a 12-4 record and earned home-field advantage throughout the playoffs while the Rush entered the post season with a 6-10 record.
The Rush will face the Minnesota Swarm at 9:30 p.m. ET next Saturday night at the Xcel Energy Center in a game shown live on CBS Sports Network. Minnesota reached the division final with a 14-10 win over Colorado earlier on Saturday.
The winner of the Edmonton-Minnesota matchup wiill go to the Champion's Cup for the first time against Toronto or Rochester.
“Credit to them. They were the better team on the night,” Calgary coach Dave Pym said of the Roughnecks’ provincial rivals. “I still think we’re the better team. If we’re in a series, then we get a different result in the series. Unfortunately, we didn’t do what we needed to do at the time.”
Edmonton had gone 0-4 in the regular season against Calgary. The playoffs, though, have been a different story – in the only previous matchup, the Rush defeated the Roughnecks 11-7 in the opening round of the postseason in 2010.
“Timing is everything and we picked the right time to beat them,” said the Rush’s Ryan Ward, who had five goals and six assists Saturday. “We’ve peaked at the right time and everybody contributed, and now it’s off to Minnesota.”
Corey Small also had a strong game for the Rush with five goals and three assists. Tom Johnson had a hat trick, Zach Greer registered five points (two goals, three assists) and Aaron Bold turned away 39 of 50 shots.
Calgary got four goals from Scott Ranger and three from Dane Dobbie. Mike Poulin, who came back after missing the last two regular-season games with a lower-body injury, made 33 saves on 46 shots in 38:31. Rookie Frankie Scigliano also saw time – giving up seven goals on 13 shots – and took the loss.
“They just worked harder than us,” Ranger said. “They got the bounces they needed and we didn’t get the bounces and we weren’t working hard enough. It’s unacceptable and our season’s over because of it.”
Ranger opened the scoring 81 seconds into the game before the Rush reeled off four straight goals.
“We got the first goal of the game on the power play, so we had a bit of a momentum thing there,” Pym said. “Once it happened, we had mistakes out on the floor that we just didn’t have happen in our system. Some of our best players weren’t out best players at that particular time.”
Ranger then notched his second of the contest to pull the Riggers within two before Shawn Willams and Johnson replied to give Edmonton a 6-2 lead after one quarter. After Edmonton’s sixth goal, Pym replaced Poulin with Scigliano.
Shawn Evans took a long pass from Peter McFetridge and scored on a breakaway as Calgary trailed 9-6 at halftime.
“We were in it at the half, down three goals, and it just seemed every time we needed a stop we couldn’t get one and they get getting those ones they needed to,” said Riggers captain Andrew McBride. “That’s what lacrosse is all about. It’s a game of runs and stopping those runs and we couldn’t do that tonight.”
As he did in the first half, Ranger opened the scoring in the second half. Small then scored to put the Rush back up by three. After Ward and Johnson beat Scigliano, Pym went back to Poulin between the pipes.
Calgary responded by scoring three of the next four goals, but John LaFontaine scored late in the third quarter to give the Rush a 14-10 lead after three.
The teams traded goals in the fourth before the Rush scored the final four over the last 3:26 of the contest.