The Calgary Roughnecks had an early-game surge, and despite the arena losing power late in regulation, Calgary never lost the lead in an 11-6 rout over the Colorado Mammoth in the West Division Semifinal before a crowd of 16,027 at Pepsi Center in Denver on Saturday night.
“The guys battled hard tonight,” said Roughnecks head coach and assistant GM Curt Malawsky. “We did the little things that it takes to win and to be successful in the NLL. Our offense moved the ball, shared the ball. Defensively, we were in the lanes and we had very, very strong goaltending from Scigliano. When you put all those aspects together like that, and play a full 60-minute game, you’ll have a lot of success.
“The guys earned that one, it wasn’t easy. That’s a very good Mammoth team and we had to battle for everything. Our guys competed really well.”
It was the eighth time Colorado and Calgary have met in the postseason, and the fifth consecutive time the Riggers delivered the Mammoth an early playoff exit since 2009. In total, the game marks the eighth one-and-done by the Mammoth since 2006, their championship season.
“We couldn’t get the momentum,” said Mammoth coach Dan Stroup. “We matched them in shots but didn’t have the right shots. It’s disappointing; it’s not the way we wanted to end our season. Right now, the guys are feeling it.”
Frank Scigliano proved to be the hero on the backend for Calgary, stopping Colorado time and time again on the doorstep en route to a 45 save performance.
“The team played great,” Scigliano said. “We prepared Friday night, and obviously it transpired over to tonight. Every time Colorado had an opportunity, I think we found a way to bounce back. I thought that was a big part of it.”
“You’ve got to hand it to him…he played well, I tip my hat off to him,” Stroup added.
Offensively, NLL scoring champ Shawn Evans and Curtis Dickson followed up their one-two punch in team leading regular season points with five-point (3+2) performances each.
A big key to Calgary’s victory was keeping the crowd and momentum of the Mammoth at bay. As Colorado pocketed one, so too did Calgary moments later. On top of taking an early lead and never looking back, it was a recipe for disaster for the boys in burgundy from the get-go.
“That was a big part of it, it’s a game of runs,” Malawsky commented. “I think tonight did a good job of managing possessions and managing the clock, and essentially manage those five-minute increments.”
“Every time our defense let in a goal, we had an answer,” echoed Scigliano.
Sean Pollock picked up the opening goal against his former team off a rebound by Dillon Ward into a wide open net just over a minute into the game. The Mammoth responded later in the quarter off a power play score by Drew Westervelt. Calgary matched that with a man-up goal of their own to close out the first.
In the second, Evans netted back-to-back scores for the Riggers, including a short-handed opportunity. He would pick up the hat trick later in the half, highlighting a six-goal quarter by Calgary, and chasing Ward from net in the process. At the half, the Riggers held a comfortable 7-3 lead.
Colorado came out storming in the third quarter with a goal by Joey Cupido 12 seconds into the stanza. But the momentum left just as quickly as it came as Calgary matched the Mammoth goal for goal straight into the final minutes.
Jeremy Noble led the Mammoth in goals, scoring two on the night with no assists. Eli McLaughlin, Drew Westervelt and John Grant Jr. each registered three points (1+2). Adam Jones, Colorado’s top points getter, was kept off the scoreboard for the first time all season despite leading the team with shots on goal on the night. Dillon Ward registered just under 28 minutes in net and 21 saves before being relived for Buque, the third time in as many games to finish the year. Buque faced five less shots on goal than Ward and finished with 19 saves.
A power surge struck Pepsi Center with roughly seven minutes remaining in the contest, due to weather in the Denver area. The game was delayed about 25 minutes before play resumed after the lights were restored.
Down four however was a hole the Mammoth could not overcome. Even then, the home team was met with a standing ovation to close the book on their 2015 campaign while the Roughnecks continued their incredible turnaround after an 0-6 start to the regular season.
Eyes now shift to Alberta, where the Roughnecks will meet the Edmonton Rush in a rematch of last year’s West Division Finals. Game 1 will take place in Edmonton on Friday, May 15 before the series shifts to Calgary for Game 2 the weekend of May 22-24.
“They are a great team, very well coached,” said Malawsky about their next opponent. “We have a lot of admiration and a lot of respect for their coaching staff. They’ve put a real good young team together, and they’re hungry…It’s a tall order, we will prepare in the week and see what happens on Friday.”
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Frankie Scigliano
2) Alex Buque
3) Shawn Evans
By Nick Salen (@MammothBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Jack Dempsey.