2013 NLL MVP Shawn Evans scored the game-winning goal 1:23 into overtime to lift the Calgary Roughnecks past the Colorado Mammoth by a score of 16-15 in the West Division Semifinal before a crowd of 12,375 fans at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday night.
“Evans is a big game player, he was MVP of the league last year and just fell short of the scoring title this year, and he’s our floor general,” said Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky. “When the game's on the line, he feels it. And for a small guy, he has one of the biggest hearts and plays like he’s 10-feet tall out there. That’s just Shawnny Evans, he’ll slay anyone and we’re real happy to have him on our team.”
Calgary will now face the Edmonton Rush in the West Finals for the next chapter in the "Battle of Alberta" rivalry after the thrilling OT win.
Mike Poulin must be seeing rubber as he made 50 saves for the Roughnecks tonight allowing just 15 to go past him.
“It’s a funny sport, you can give up 15 and you can give up six, but at the end of the day, a win’s a win,” he said.
The Mammoth won two out of the three previous meetings this season against the 'Necks, Colorado came into the playoffs on a three-game winning streak while the Roughnecks headed into the postseason winning six of their past seven outings.
The first quarter saw the 'Necks break the ice first when Dane Dobbie hit the twine just under two minutes into the frame. Colorado responded with three unanswered goals of their own, while the Necks’ were able to pot one more before the end of the quarter when Geoff Snider, who left the game early due to injury missing both the fourth quarter and overtime, got his first of the game making it 3-2 Mammoth after one.
“It’s not the way we designed it to be for a playoff game but sometimes it’s gotta be a wild shootout,” said Malawsky. “We made a few plays we probably want back but instead of it having a negative effect on our team. We just said 'you know what? let’s move on.' And that just shows our guys got character and they're able to battle through adverse situations and keep rolling.”
The second quarter was a shoot-out as fans witnessed a total of 14 goals in the frame. The Mammoth extended their lead with two quick goals beating Necks’ tendy Mike Poulin, but from that point on, it was a back-and-forth affair. Colorado had a 6-3 lead before the Riggers ignited for three goals in just 38 seconds, tying the game.
From there, Colorado would score two, and Calgary would answer with two of their own until Dobbie had the final say of the quarter, getting his hat-trick, and making it 10-9 Mammoth at half.
The combined 19 first-half goals were the most in an NLL postseason game since 2006.
Both teams continued where they left off before the half as the Necks’ came out netting three, making it four unanswered goals and taking the lead for the first time since the start of the game.
Coach Malawsky didn’t think his team had a great first half and expected a better start from his team.
“I don’t think we started well, a lot of guys were passengers out there and they would be the first ones to admit it,” he said. “Somebody has to step up and own a little piece of the pie, and if everyone owns a little bit of it, we’ll start rolling.”
But Colorado wasn’t to be outdone as the Mammoth came right back scoring four to the 'Necks’ two in the final nine minutes of the quarter, making it all tied up once again 14-14 going into the final quarter.
The fourth quarter started like all the others when Jones for the Mammoth got his fifth of the game just 41 seconds in, puting his team up by one. That score stood until the six-minute mark when Curtis ‘Superman’ Dickson brought his team even with his third of the game making it 15-15.
Only two goals were scored in the fourth quarter with the Roughnecks holding the Mammoth off the scoresheet for the final 15 minutes and 42 seconds of the game.
“Poulin started playing a lot better and it’s not about how many he gets, it’s about when he makes them,” said Malawsky. “He’s been our backbone when the game is on the line and it just shows he’s grown as an athlete and one of our leaders on the back end.”
The Roughhouse was going crazy as the fans were being treated to a battle on the floor. For the third time this season between the two teams, 60 minutes couldn’t settle it and we were heading to overtime.
In some crazy action with both teams having glorious opportunities to end it, the Roughnecks came out on top when Evans sealed it in OT.
Malawsky knew this game wasn’t going to be easy for his team; they were in a dogfight since the moment the game started.
“There wasn’t anything for free out there,” he said. “Hats off to the Colorado Mammoth, they went to war and our guys went to war. One shot wins it and we're fortunate enough being on the right side.”
The Colorado Mammoth staff was not available for comment but have no need to hang their heads as they gave the Roughnecks all they could handle.
The 'Necks advance to the West Finals against provincial rival Edmonton after outshooting the Mammoth, 60-50, which included the decisive final shot.
Calgary will host Game One on Saturday, May 10 at 9 p.m. ET before the series moves to Edmonton for Game Two, and possible mini-game if the series is tied, on Friday, May 16 at 10 p.m. ET.
According to Mike Poulin, him and his team have some unfinished business against the Rush and are looking forward to playing their province rivals.
“Can’t wait,” he said. “They're a [heck] of a team, we know the talents we're up against at 16-2, but I feel like we owe them. They got the better of us this year and we just need to remind ourselves this is a heck of a rivalry coming up, so it shouldn’t take too much to get up for it.”
Coach Malawsky believes with the new format and his squad being as confident as they are, the ‘Battle of Alberta’ is going to be a good one.
“They are a very, very good team and I’m not going to sit here and scream underdog and try to snowball anybody. We’re a very confident team, we got a good team and they got a good team. It’s a two-game final here for the Western Championship and I really think a true champion comes out of a two game final.”
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Shawn Evans
2) Adam Jones
3) Dane Dobbie