The Calgary Roughnecks struck first in the West Division Finals with a 12-11 comeback overtime home win over the Edmonton Rush in Game One at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday night. The Roughnecks, who edged the Colorado Mammoth in overtime in last weekend's West Semifinal, played host to this year’s top-seeded team this week in front of 13,618 screaming fans for the "Battle of Alberta" at the 'Dome.
“This is far from over,” said Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky. “There’s a lot of work ahead of us and those guys know we have to keep our work boots and hard hats on and continue to push forward.”
The Rush won the season series 3-1 this year and have only met the ‘Necks twice before in the playoffs, winning both. The Roughnecks knew it was going to be a tight game but are no strangers to pressure situations.
“We’ve been responding pretty good under pressure lately, and the guys just keep on believing,” said Malawsky. “This league is so tight, such a fine line between winning and losing in this league and our guys just seem to stick to the process. It’s a testament to them and they just refuse to lose.”
The Roughnecks started the game off on the right foot, scoring the first marker just over three minutes into the game when Jeff Shattler made a beautiful one-handed feed to Scott Ranger for the 1-0 lead. That’s all the Riggers could muster though, as the Rush went on four-goal run and shut down the Roughnecks high-powered offence.
“I thought we played well enough to win to be honest,” said Rush head coach Derek Keenan. “I thought we played a real good game, right from start to finish, and in all areas of our game we were good.”
The Rush went into the half with a 7-5 lead and outshooting the Riggers 32-21. None of that mattered in the second half though as the ‘Necks were able to claw their way back into the game and take the lead 9-8 after three quarters of play.
“You never lose until you give up," said Malawsky. "And this group definitely doesn’t give up."
Edmonton tied it up in the fourth after a hard shot from Curtis Knight and then they took the lead when Riley Loewen put his first of the game past Poulin.
It didn’t seem to faze the ‘Necks as over 13,000 faithful started shaking the ‘Dome and it seemed to work as Curtis Dickson received a nice feed from Shawn Evans and put it behind Bold to tie the game at 11-11.
“I love the home crowd,” said Malawsky. “It was so loud in there and our guys are used to it in the ‘Dome. I’m sure it’s going to be a loud place up in Edmonton but that’s that extra player on the floor. We love our fans and they were a big part of this win tonight and we want to thank them very much.”
With only 1:24 left in the fourth, Zack Greer quieted the crowd and got his second of the game, puting his team up by one.
The excitement didn’t stop there as the Riggers were awarded a penalty shot with only 21 seconds remaining when the Rush were penalized for an illegal substitution in the final minute with the Too Many Men penalty resulting in an automatic penalty shot. Coach Keenan doesn’t agree with the call.
“I guess we had too many,” he said. “It’s the last two minutes, it’s a penalty shot which is fine, I don’t have a problem with that, except the fact they had about nine guys on the floor too. If they’re going to call it on us, they should call it on them too, or not call it. It was ridiculous; it’s just a tough way to lose a game for sure.”
Curtis ‘Superman’ Dickson went down and Bold and beat him over the shoulder with a great move, the ball squeaking over the line, tying the game and sending it to overtime.
"I’m glad coach Curt had faith in me,” said Dickson. “It was pretty nerve racking, but I’ve been in that situation before. You need that goal late to tie it up or get a win, so I just did what I know how to do, saw my spot, took the shot at the opening and obviously lucky enough it went in.”
Edmonton had the first opportunity in overtime when they thought they had won the game but the goal was disallowed because of another crease violation making it their third disallowed goal of the game. It’s a game of breaks said Keenan.
““I thought both teams played really well, played hard and it just came down to some breaks, that’s the way it goes.”
Only 40 seconds later, the ball took a bounce off the backboards behind Bold right to Jeff Shattler, who made no mistake by burying the ball for the mid-air overtime winner.
“I had no idea what I was doing,” said Shattler. “To tell you the truth, it bounced off the boards, Boldy looked the other way and he left the open net. I shot it without even looking at the net because I saw he was looking the other way. He gave me the opportunity, he was hot on me all night and I couldn’t score any goals, but I finally got one when it counted. I was happy to help my team.”
Coach Malawsky praised his forward after the game.
“Anyone who follows the team for a long time knows Jeff Shattler is at his best when it comes to crunch time, especially in the playoffs. It was a big goal for him and an even bigger goal for the team.”
Coach Keenan has no doubt that his team will bounce back from this loss and be ready to go in Edmonton.
“If we play that way again, we’ll get an opportunity to win, for sure,” he said. I thought we were really good, I have no issues on how we played at all.”
The ‘Necks take a 1-0 series lead and head to Edmonton to try and finish it off on Friday, May 16 at 10 p.m. ET at Rexall Place. If Calgary wins, the Roughnecks advance to the NLL Championship. If Edmonton wins, the two teams will play a 10-minute mini-game immediately following Game Two to determine the winner of the series.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Mike Poulin
2) Curtis Dickson
3) Mark Matthews