For the first time since 2009, the Calgary Roughnecks are NLL champions.
The Roughnecks defeated the Buffalo Bandits 14-13 in overtime Saturday night to sweep their best-of-three series and hoist the NLL Cup in front of 17,038 screaming fans at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“The roof almost blew off this place. It’s just unbelievable to play in front of,” said Roughnecks forward Dane Dobbie in the post-game press conference.
“It’s something you dream of and you constantly keep dreaming of it. You want to be in that game seven, you want to be in that overtime game. I remember taking shots in the backyard trying to get that game winner, and tonight we did it. This is what we live for.”
Heading into overtime, the stage was set for one Roughnecks player to become the hero and Rhys Duch took the role and ran with it.
After multiple big saves by Christian Del Bianco at the start of the overtime frame, Duch fired home his second goal of the game 1:12 into the period to send the Saddledome into a frenzy.
“It was our time. I think it was truly our time,” said Dobbie.
“We deserved this. Our guys worked hard, our guys deserved this, our young kids came in and played hard this season and they were great. I’m just super excited right now and can’t wait to get back in the room with them.”
With 55 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, it appeared Dobbie may have given the Roughnecks the lead for good with his fourth goal of night, but the Bandits managed to find one more goal, silencing the crowd with a Corey Small marker with 28 seconds remaining.
With seven points (four goals, three assists) in this game and six points (three goals, three assists) in game one, Dobbie was named the NLL Finals MVP.
Upon accepting his MVP trophy, Dobbie was quick to acknowledge the play of Del Bianco throughout the playoffs and regular season.
“I love the guy, man. He’s our backbone. I was constantly saying if I had a chance this (trophy) would be going to him and his name would be right here,” said Dobbie.
“He’s going to be here for a long time, and we’re looking forward to it.”
The Roughnecks opened the game’s scoring with Dobbie’s first of the game off a beautiful behind-the-back pass from Jesse King on the power play.
The two clubs would then exchange markers before the Bandits went on a run late in the first quarter with three straight goals by Chris Cloutier, Chase Fraser and Corey Small. Curtis Dickson would add his first of the night for the Roughnecks to close the gap to 4-3 heading in the second quarter.
The Bandits would find the back of the net first in the second frame with Shawn Evans’ second of the evening, but it was all Roughnecks for the rest of the quarter.
King kick-started a five-goal run for the Roughnecks with a rocket of a shot from the point. Zach Currier, Tyler Burton, Tyler Pace and Riley Loewen also added markers in the run that saw the Roughnecks take an 8-5 lead. The Roughnecks and Bandits would exchange goals to close out the second quarter, giving the home side a 9-6 lead heading into the break.
After a slow start to the third quarter, the Bandits brought the momentum back into their corner, scoring three straight goals in under two and a half minutes to deadlock the score at 9-9. The Roughnecks answered back with a Dobbie power play marker a short time later before the Bandits put another past Del Bianco to tie the game 10-10 heading in the final quarter.
Right up until Duch’s overtime marker touched the mesh, the Bandits displayed an endless supply of relentless determination, something head coach Rich Kilgour amended his club for.
“I’m very proud of them for coming back. We just couldn’t get the one to get us over the hump,” said Kilgour in the post-game press conference.
It was a disappointing end to what was an impressive season for Bandits who went 14-4 in the regular season, good for first place in the entire NLL.
But despite not being able to bring the series home for a deciding Game 3 in Buffalo, Bandits captain Steve Priolo said there was a lot to be happy about and a lot to look forward to down the road.
“It was fun to be a part of; it was really cool. It was fun to play with all these guys. I thought we had it,” said Priolo in the post-game press conference.
“But we’re not done. We’ve got Vino (Vinc) for a couple more years, and we got our whole team that’s going to stay together. We’re not done. We’ll be back.”
Game 2 of the NLL Finals will be re-aired in the United States by Stadium, premiering at 8:00 pm ET on Tuesday, May 28.