The Calgary Roughnecks couldn’t be any hotter heading into the 2019 NLL Playoffs.
In front of a sold-out Scotiabank Saddledome crowd of 19,289, the Roughnecks (now 10-8) took down the visiting Saskatchewan Rush (now 10-7) by a dominant 18-8 score in the final game of the season.
“I think we’re getting hot at the right time,” said Roughnecks forward Tyler Pace.
“We just sort of sent a message. We’ve had two games now against Saskatchewan where we kind of beat them up a little bit, and they’re not used to that. If it comes down to a battle in the West between Saskatchewan and Calgary, I think we have the upper hand right now.”
Pace had one of his best offensive efforts of the season, finishing the night with six points (four goals, two assists).
After opening the scoring 1:33 into the first quarter, Pace tallied his second marker of the night at the 8:43 mark of the opening quarter, which gave the Roughnecks the lead for good, and appeared to significantly spark the offense.
“Typically, Saskatchewan puts up five or six on us to start the game, so for us to get a start like that with the crowd on our side the way it was, it was huge for us,” said Pace.
“It’s what we need going forward. We’re on a run right now, so getting into the playoffs on that note is awesome for us.”
The home crowd had plenty to cheer about, especially in the second quarter where the Roughnecks lit up the scoreboard for a 14-5 lead heading into the break.
While players like Pace, Dane Dobbie (four goals, four assists), and Jesse King (two goals, four assists) all contributed big offensively, the Roughnecks offense was spread throughout the lineup with nine players finishing with multi-point efforts.
“You don’t win in this league if you don’t have that (offense-by-committee),” said Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky.
“If teams come in and think they can shut down Dobbie and Dickson, we need our secondary scoring, and we got that. We played a good, heavy game and created a lot of opportunities, and guys were able to put the ball in the net.”
The sold out crowd on hand at the Scotiabank Saddledome was the first sell-out in Roughnecks franchise history.
Malawsky said playing in front of crowds as big as they get in Calgary provides a big lift to the team and said it was nice to finish things off in the fashion they did.
“The guys really cherish being here, being a part of this organization, and this great culture we have here in Calgary, and the fans just top it off,” said Malawsky.
“We had a couple stinkers early and the last couple games we were able to give back to the fans.”
With his eight-point night, Dobbie further extended his lead atop the NLL scoring race, leaving him as the likely winner come season’s end.
But while Dobbie’s season was one for the Roughnecks record books, he said he’s just happy he can help the team win.
“I just aim to try and make the team better,” said Dobbie.
“I come out here, try and do the best I can, and contribute the best I can to help put wins on the board.”
The Roughnecks have now done their part to have a chance of hosting a home playoff game, but will still need some help. The Roughnecks will need the Rush to lose next weekend to the Colorado Mammoth as well as the San Diego Seals to defeat the Buffalo Bandits.
Dobbie said he hopes the strong finish to the season will be just what they need to make a run in the playoffs, home game or not.
“I hope the guys build off this and we don’t get too confident,” said Dobbie.
“We just have to worry about what we have in this dressing room right now. We got something good here and we just have to keep going out and putting the work in.”