The defending National Lacrosse League champion Calgary Roughnecks had not looked much like champions since their opening week victory. Of course, part of that was due to the absence of 115-point scorer and 2019 NLL MVP Dane Dobbie. Following the season opening win, the Roughnecks have lost four of six, with Dobbie being suspended for all six contests. On Saturday night, his suspension was up, and he would be back in the lineup.
Dobbie’s return figured to play a prominent role in the script of Saturday night’s game, and he did not disappoint. Nor did he want to make his presence felt.
Within the first five minutes of play, the Roughnecks found themselves up 3-0 in Infinte Energy Center over the Georgia Swarm and Dobbie had two assists and a goal of his own to contribute to all of the Roughnecks early scoring.
The player perhaps most eager to see Dobbie return was Curtis Dickson, and it showed. Blessed with more room to operate thanks to the return of his partner in crime, Dickson scored two of the first three goals, including the one to put them up 3-0 on a beautiful spin move.
Finally, halfway through the first quarter, the Swarm got on the board as Brian Cole scored his fifth goal of the year. While not quite the story the return of Dobbie was, Cole himself had missed the past month due to injury, and his return was a welcome sight for an offense that already was full of potential scorers.
The goal appeared to spark some new energy for the home team, who dug themselves an early hole. Feeding off that energy Myles Thompson scored his 12th goal of the year, and his 23rd point, pulling the Swarm back within a single goal.
And then it was Dobbie’s turn to answer, and he did. His second goal of the night and the lead was back to 4-2 and the Swarm appeared lost for answers on how to keep Calgary out of the net.
Rhys Duch became the first Roughneck not named Dobbie or Dickson to score, taking advantage of the defensive attention paid to Dickson to score his 400th career goal. One of the league’s all-time leading scorers, Duch made sure he wasn’t taking too big a back seat to the other two stars on his club.
Moments later, Shayne Jackson took a slashing penalty giving Calgary a man advantage, an advantage they immediately took advantage of as Duch became the third Roughneck to score a pair of goals.
The home crowd was silent, and the energy on the home bench seemed to have completely evaporated with that 6th goal, creating a four-goal difference.
A Calgary penalty early in the second quarter seemed to possibly provide a window for the Swarm to get back in the game, but the combination of a recently struggling power-play unit (46%) and outstanding goaltending by Christian Del Bianco kept the score at 6-2, and kept Calgary in complete and total control of the game.
Despite over a dozen shots on goal, the Swarm were only able to put two in the back of the net during the game’s first 20 minutes, as they struggled mightily with not only the physical play of the Roughnecks, but their defensive execution.
Zedd Williams hit double figures in goals for the year with his own spin move that was met by a delayed reaction from the Calgary defense. Calgary challenged the goal however, but the goal was upheld.
After the delay to review the goal, the Swarm scored again, this time Randy Staats, the second leading scorer on the team (41) scored his dozenth goal of the year as the Swarm crept closer, bringing the crowd back into the contest as well.
Following a penalty on MacIntosh, it looked like Calgary might be able to extend the lead going into the locker room. Instead, the Swarm took off in transition following a missed Roughrider goal and Myles Thompson scored the third shorthanded goal of the year for the Swarm, and suddenly that 6-2 game became 6-5.
The Roughnecks were not going to remain shut out for the quarter as Dane Dobbie got his third of the evening by going five hole on Mike Poulin and the lead was back up to two. Dickson followed that with his own goal from the top of the lane, firing a shot down to Poulin’s left that pushed the lead back to a trio of goals.
Desperate to keep within striking distance, Staats took advantage of a powerplay opportunity and made the game 8-6.
But Calgary continued to have answer after answer. The Swarm defense seemed to fall asleep after perhaps some miscommunication among the refs as to who possessed the ball after it went out of play, and Calgary goalie Del Bianco delivered a gorgeous full floor pass that facilitated a goal for Zach Currier.
The Currier goal was the final bit of scoring in the half, and the Roughnecks took a 9-6 lead into the break.
The Swarms continued struggles on faceoffs continued to open the half, leading to an immediate Calgary goal and 10-6 lead, with the Swarm on the precipice of falling behind by an insurmountable deficit.
After Rhys Duch earned himself a hat trick, Poulin was lifted three minutes into the second half and replaced with Kevin Orleman.
The Swarm refused to go away and with just under 6:00 in the third Zed Williams scored his second goal of the night, the team’s second of the quarter and pulled the Swarm back to within three at 11-8.
Williams scored again just over a minute later, reinvigorating the crowd and Swarm bench and enabling the Swarm to enter the final quarter down just a pair of goals.
Zed Williams continued putting on a show and began the scoring in the fourth quarter scoring off a handoff and pulling the Swarm to within a goal for the first time since the game was 1-0.
The momentum carried the Swarm all the way back to a tie game, with Jordan Hall delivering a clever behind the back pass to Shayne Jackson, the team’s leading scorer, and Jackson delivered the equalize while the Swarm were on the powerplay.
But with 11:29 left, Dickson got back on the board for Calgary with his fourth goal of the evening and scored the first goal allowed by Orelman. Despite the goal, Orelman went nearly a full quarter of game time without allowing a goal to get the Swarm back into the game.
But just as quickly as the Roughnecks untied the game, they went up a by a pair as Dobbie delivered their 13th goal of the contest.
Myles Thompson had an answer, rifling a right hander over the left shoulder of Del Bianco, pulling back within one, and giving Thompson a fourth point of the evening. Williams then tied the game with a laser from the point.
But like clockwork, the Roughnecks had another answer, and again, it was one of the 3-D triumvirate of Dickson, Duch and Dobbie. Dickson’s goal was his fifth of the night, and the Roughnecks took a 14-13 lead with still over 8:30 to play.
The thrilling back and forth contest continued, with Jackson this time doing the scoring, his second of the night, and tying the game up yet again, at 14.
But it took less than a minute for Calgary to retake the lead as Dan Taylor added their 15th goal of the night.
Following the script of the second half the Swarm countered right back. Jordan Hall set two screens that enabled Randy Staats to get a clean look that tied the game at 15, in a battle that was quickly approaching game of the year territory.
The Swarm were still unable to seize the lead however, and Duch fired from the left wing for his fourth goal and seventh point, putting Calgary back on top with just 3:40 left.
Haiden Dickson delivered what appeared to be perhaps a dagger goal to put the Roughnecks up two with 2:00 left, but a crease violation nullified the goal after a review, the third review on a goal of the night.
The Swarm took advantage and Staats added another goal to his total, his fourth of the game, notching the score at 16.
To the surprise of perhaps, absolutely no one, Calgary had yet another answer, and shockingly it was Dobbie with his fifth goal to serve as the go-ahead goal. Would it be the game winner? There were 50.6 seconds left to determine that.
Lyle Thompson won an extremely critical faceoff and coach Ed Comeau called a timeout with :39 left to set up the critical possession, and to employ an extra attacker. A dozen seconds later, Thompson turned the faceoff win into a tie game and ultimately forced overtime.
Overtime followed the same script the second half had followed, however. Every equalizing goal by the Swarm was met by another go-ahead goal by the Roughnecks, and overtime was no different. And with the sudden death format of overtime in the National Lacrosse League, the 18th goal of the night was the final goal required. Appropriately, it was Dobbie scoring his 6th goal of the night, and it was Dickson on the primary assist with his 10th point.
The Swarm saw their three-game winning streak snapped, falling to 5-4, while the victory for Calgary moved them back to .500 at 4-4. More importantly, with Dobbie back in action, the Roughnecks showed to more closely resemble the team that won the league title a year ago, something that should inspire fear throughout the rest of the league.
Calgary will host San Diego next Saturday night while Georgia will make their longest trip of the year to travel to Vancouver, as tonight’s combatants will take on the two teams at the bottom of the west division standings.