The Calgary Roughnecks (5-10) took a big step forward in the National Lacrosse League’s playoff race by kicking off its home-and-home series with a 9-8 win against the Edmonton Rush (9-5) in front of 14,108 fans at the Roughhouse on Friday night.
The win puts the Roughnecks in playoff position after the Vancouver Stealth (4-10) fell to fourth place in the West Division standings after a loss to the league’s top team in the standings, the Toronto Rock (12-4). This is also the first time this season the Riggers have managed to string together two wins.
“It’s nice, it’s different obviously,” said Roughnecks forward Curtis Dickson who had five points (4+1). “It was one of those things where we’ve got to keep it rolling, we were able to do that last year…That’s something we’ve got to do right now especially going into the playoffs, it doesn’t matter what your record is going into the playoffs it’s how you play during the playoffs…it’s a whole new season once we’re in.”
The first half was a defensive battle between the two teams. However, in the end it was the Riggers that dominated the half with goals off the sticks of Dickson, Jeff Shattler and Shawn Evans. The Rush managed to answer back with goals from Ben McIntosh (3+1), Robert Church (1+3) and Mark Matthews (2+2). The Roughnecks that many people had expected to see from the start of the year was shining through tonight.
“We’re playing with an urgency now, it’s an 18 game schedule, and we didn’t get off on a good foot… we plan on putting a veteran group together, and the veteran group is coming through right now,” Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky said.
An outstanding defensive play by the Riggers tonight helped the team succeed, and goaltender Frankie Scigliano was seeing the ball well, making 41 saves tonight.
“It was massive,” Dickson said. “It gives us so much confidence as an offense, to know we don’t have to score every time we’re out there. They’re making stops and Frankie stood on his head, it was huge obviously.”
The Rush managed to make it just a one goal game in the fourth, putting five past the ‘Necks in off the sticks of, McIntosh, Zack Greer(1+0), Adrian Sorichetti(1+0), and Matthews.
“It’s never easy against those guys, they always play us tough. Especially in our building we haven’t had a lot of success against them, it was nice to build up and early lead, obviously they came back a bit but we managed to weather the storm,” Dickson stated.
“It’s a little deflating obviously it’s just one of those things where you got to just shake it off, and say what’s next, I think we did a good job of that,” he added.
For the Rush, it was too little too late, after a scoreless third quarter, a five-goal come back in the fourth could not grasp them a win. Coaching staff will be looking to see the fourth quarter effort from their team tonight in the full sixty minutes of tomorrow’s game.
“Well I just thought that we started playing harder,” said Rush GM & head coach Derrick Keenan. “We got in the middle of the floor a little bit more, and created through that. We ran the floor harder; created some turnovers on defense as well. It really came down to compete, I didn’t think for most of the game we competed hard enough, and later on we did. I just thought they took it to us in that part of the game, for most of it, and we need to get better at that part of it tomorrow night”
After a frantic final minute that saw Calgary kill half the time off the clock before Edmonton threw several scoring chances at the net, it was close but the Roughnecks came out on top. Shots on goal were 49-42 in favor of the Rush.
“I just thought they were by far the better team tonight,” Keenan admitted. “They worked us, they won a lot of the battle…I thought they ran us at times and they played desperate; we figured they would. We didn’t really match them until late in the game…We need to be a lot better tomorrow night.”
The Roughnecks will now travel to Edmonton tomorrow, facing off against the Rush in less than 24 hours at Rexall Place. A win like this is bound to give the ‘Necks some momentum. Both teams now have its sights set on preparing for the fourth installment of the Battle of Alberta.
“We’re going into a hornets nest tomorrow night, and that’s what we’re focusing on. But it’s just nice to get this one,” Malawsky concluded.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Frankie Scigliano
2) Curtis Dickson
3) Greg Harnett
By Laura Bates (@RoughnecksBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Brad Watson.