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Rush To The Cup: Edmonton Tops Calgary To Win The West

After dropping Game 2 of the West Finals 12-9, the Edmonton Rush bounced back in the 10-minute tiebreaker Game 3 with a 4-1 win over the Calgary Roughnecks in front of 12,785 fans at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday night. With the win, the Rush advanced to the Champion’s Cup Finals for just the second time in team history.

“Wow, those games are a complete crapshoot,” said Rush general manager and head coach Derrick Keenan about the tiebreaker. “(Calgary) had a bit of momentum but we just said to the guys, ‘you know what? Forget that. Move on.’ This is a 10-minute battle really, and we made some plays.”

It was Curtis ‘Superman’ Dickson who opened the scoring in the first quarter, after flying in on a breakaway getting the momentum rolling for the Riggers. Jeff Shattler then scored his 19th of the 2015 season, followed by a goal off the stick of Dane Dobbie to give the Riggers the start they had hoped for. This was just the beginning of the rollercoaster of a game that followed, Edmonton would then go on a seven-goal streak to end the first with a score of 7-3.

“Tonight’s whole game was all about runs,” said Rush forward Robert Church. “They got a three-nothing lead, we come back with seven.”

The Riggers managed to refocus in the second quarter. “Superman” Dickson was the one to end the Rush’s seven-goal streak, followed by Shawn Evans’ first of the night after he bounced one past Aaron Bold. Dobbie then flew across the crease to close the gap in the score even more. It was then the Roughnecks show for the rest of the second, with Dobbie earning a hat trick on the PP, and Evans sniping another past Bold from the point. Eight seconds later Geoff Snider put one in right after the face-off, to give the Riggers a two-goal lead at 9-7 at the end of the quarter as Calgary led in shots, 28-24.

“I mean we got upset, second quarter,” Keenan stated. “I felt that if we scored on our transition opportunities, which were numerous, with Poulin in net I thought we could’ve buried them. But he made saves so we didn’t have the ball very long, and then they would go down and they would score. They had good possessions and they scored and they put a big run together there.”

The second half of the game was a tight and equally matched battle. Continuous back and forth play by both sides but for the majority neither party could manage to score a goal.

“Second half was real tight, not a lot of space out there, not a lot of room not a lot of up and down,” Keenan said. “It was just real tight and then they made some plays real late to win it and then we got our composure back to win it.”

The defensive performance on both sides was strong enough to prevent any scoring by either team for the rest of the quarter. Mike Poulin who entered the game in relief after the Rush’s seventh goal, stood tall and managed to stop 10 shots by Edmonton while Bold shut the Riggers out in the third after blocking nine shots on goal.

The fourth quarter was another defensive battle as both teams matched each other’s momentum, and couldn’t seem to put one past either goalie. But ultimately after a few quick goals by the usual suspects, Shawn Evans and Curtis Dickson, the Roughnecks took Game 2 of the West Finals.

“We were kind of slow for the second half of the game,” Church admitted. “So it was all about getting that run in the mini-game and we ended up getting four goals and came out on top.”

It was onto the tiebreaker game, which was kicked off by a quick stick goal from Dobbie. Mark Matthews then made the appearance most were expecting by answering back with five minutes left in the game with a pretty swim dodge goal, followed by another off the stick of Jeff Cornwall on the break to give the Rush its crucial lead. The rest was history as the Rush moved on and avenged its loss to the Roughnecks in last year’s West Finals.

“You know what, they got the first goal, so then again they continued their momentum,” Keenan said. “Then Mark, you know he had a tough night, but then he made a huge play to tie it. And then I just thought Jeff Cornwall was a beast all night and I thought he made a heck of a play to get the go-ahead goal.”

Edmonton will face off with the Toronto Rock for the first-ever All-Canadian Champion’s Cup Finals, with Game 1 in Toronto set for Saturday, May 30 at 7 p.m. ET. New for this year, the Champion’s Cup Finals will feature a full best-of-three series with Toronto hosting Game 1 and Game 3 (if necessary). Game 2 is in Edmonton on Friday, June 5 at 9:30 p.m. ET while Game 3 would take place on Saturday, June 13 if the series is tied 1-1. 

“We’ve played (Toronto) twice this year,” Keenan said. “Great defensive team, they did a great job shutting down Rochester today, and so we know what we’re up against there. We’re going to have to have our best.”

In the Roughnecks locker room was a stark contrast to the Rush’s, after an 0-6 start to the season, the team made it further than most expected. What they are focusing on doing now, is taking away the positives of the season.

““We’ve fought from behind,” said Roughnecks goaltender Mike Poulin. “We started this year 0-6 and I feel like every win we’ve had this year, we’ve found ourselves in a hole. So it’s just been par for the course for this team.”

“We did good, we didn’t win, but I don’t call this year a failure,” he added. “It showed a lot of character. There’s a good group of guys in that room and it was a character year. Tt’s tough to put it any other way.”

Although the Roughnecks aren’t walking away from this game with a ticket to the Champion’s Cup Finals, they are satisfied that they played the best game that they could.

“I thought we battled hard, we showed a lot of character, that what our team’s about,” said Roughnecks captain Andrew McBride. “Comes down to 10 minutes and we couldn’t finish, but I thought we saw a lot of character from our guys. We’ve had that all year, down 7-3 starting the game hot, we never panicked, we never wavered. I’m really proud of this group of guys how they battled. It’s a tough pill to swallow. You see how much those guys care in that room, that’s always the toughest thing.”

“I think guys can take one of these things and really look themselves in the mirror, there’s some games you can look yourself in the mirror and say you know we just didn’t have it. But I think every guy can look themselves in the mirror and like what they see back.”

Three Stars of Game 2 as selected by the media:

1) Mike Poulin
2) Andrew McBride
3) Curtis Dickson

Three Stars of Game 3 as selected by the media:

1) Mark Matthews
2) Aaron Bold
3) Dane Dobbie

By Laura Bates (@RoughnecksBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Brad Watson.