The Calgary Roughnecks (9-5) started off their weekend road trip by clinching a playoff spot in the West Division after powering through the Philadelphia Wings (5-10) with a 13-9 road win at Wells Fargo Center on Friday night.
The Wings looked like they were going to miraculously pick up their third-straight win with forward Pat Saunders racking up four consecutive goals to put Philly back in the game during the third quarter, after they had been trailing Calgary for the previous two, however were still not able to outscore them. The goals from Saunders included assists from forward Ryan Ward, who recorded his 400th career regular season assist.
Wings goalie Evan Kirk also hit a milestone during the night, achieving his 1,000 career regular season save.
“Yeah, we didn't play very well offensively,” Wings head coach Blane Harrison said. “Our power play was very anemic and we gave up three shorthanded goals to them. It's hard when you’re a man up and you're not scoring and they score three against you, and that to me was a big difference in the game.”
All season long, the inexperience of the Wings has seemed to be a constant factor in what has cost them numerous games this year, however, Harrison blames this one on the veterans.
“We've been close on a number of games and we can continue to talk about our inexperience all day long," he said. "But it was the more experienced guys who went to slide when they should’ve slid and didn't pick up a guy coming off the bench."
The first two quarters of the game were dominated by the fantastic play of Roughneck’s goalie Mike Poulin, who shut down the fired up offense of the Wings early in the first quarter. Winning the first quarter, Calgary scored three goals in a row, despite being outnumbered in shots by Philadelphia.
Racing out on a huge breakaway, Calgary’s Karsen Leung scored a beautiful diving goal into the right pocket of Kirk’s net, with Philly’s defense nowhere within 10 feet of him.
Although Brett Manney came up big for the Wings with his blocks on defense, Roughnecks forward Jeff Shattler impressed with an alley-oop goal to make the score 2-0, only minutes before forward Shawn Evans destroyed the Wings on the defensive end with a shorthanded goal, assisted by goalie Poulin.
Jordan Hall however, finally found his way into the net of the superb goaltending on the power play, after cycling the ball around well with Ward, who took the assist.
“Obviously, we found ourselves behind pretty early in the game,” Hall said. However, speaking about the continuous resiliency of the Wings, he added, “Something that we pride ourselves on is helping each other out, but we have to make a big push, our record is behind right now and we realize that so we won't play like it’s 0-0, we’ll play like it's 5-10.”
The Wings seemed to be a bit more cohesive in the second, able to string together two quick goals by defender John Ranagan and transition wing Brodie Merrill. Ward’s assist on Ranagan’s goal, achieved him his 400th assist milestone.
With Poulin standing on his head for two quarters in a row, the Wings still couldn’t capitalize on several scoring opportunities, leaving room for Calgary to sneak in with two more before the quarter finished. The Roughneck’s goals came from forward Dane Dobbie and Evans.
However, rising up at the end of the second and continuing into the third, Wings forward Pat Saunders began to command the field as he went on a four-goal streak, putting Philly in the lead for the first time of the game as he consistently fought his way to breakdown the defense of Calgary.
With the Wings leading 7-5 in the third, forward Curtis Dickson found his way into the net of Philly, but not long after the Wings answered back with a goal from CJ Costabile— marking his first career goal.
But the Roughnecks didn’t let up. Tying it up, Evans gave his team the motivation they needed to take back the game— and that’s exactly what they did.
“It’s one of those games that when it starts to slide away, it's very frustrating,” Harrison said. ”And there's not much you can do because it's some of our veteran guys at that point, that need to step up.”
Dobbie demonstrated his talent, picking up two quick goals for the Roughnecks, the second of which was shorthanded, followed by another man-down goal from Shattler. However, veteran forward Tracey Kelusky sniped the ball into Poulin’s net with under five minutes left, cutting the lead of the Roughnecks to two, 11-9.
But it wasn’t enough as Dobbie came back out at it again with his fourth goal to give the Roughnecks a comfortable lead of 12-9 with two minutes left in the game. Transition player Geoff Snider scored into the empty net with Kirk well out of place, to complete the game with a 13-9 score in favor of the Roughnecks.
With this win, Calgary has clinched a playoff spot, leaving the Philadelphia Wings with no option for a loss next weekend in their quest for a playoff spot. The Roughnecks travel to Buffalo tomorrow night to take on the Bandits live on TSN2 in Canada and ESPN3 in the U.S.
“I think the next game is do or die,” Hall said. “It'll be an interesting one for us and we’ll be ready.”
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1. Dane Dobbie
2. Pat Saunders
3. Mike Poulin