CALGARY, AB – Down by a goal with less than a minute to play in the fourth quarter, the Calgary Roughnecks didn’t panic.
Instead, they rose to the occasion to eventually earn a wild 12-11 win over the Edmonton Rush in Game 1 of the West Division Finals in front of 13,618 fans at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“We’ve been responding pretty good under pressure lately and the guys just keep on believing,” said Calgary coach Curt Malawsky. “This league is so tight – such a fine line between winning and losing in this league – and our guys just seem to stick to the process. It’s a testament to them and they just refuse to lose.”
Curtis Dickson scored the tying goal on a penalty shot with 21.6 seconds remaining in regulation, while Jeff Shattler notched the game winner 46 seconds into the extra session.
“It was a great experience for me,” said Shattler, who couldn’t recall scoring a bigger goal in his National Lacrosse League career. “It was awesome to see all the boys run out to the floor. It was just a great experience all around.”
Dickson finished with four goals and two assists for the Riggers, while Shawn Evans scored once and set up five others. Jeff Shattler ended up with two goals and two assists, while Daryl Veltman (1g, 1a), Karsen Leung (1g, 1a), Scott Ranger (1g), Dane Dobbie (1g) and Greg Harnett (1g) also scored.
Calgary goalie Mike Poulin set a personal best for a playoff game performance by stopping 45 of 56 shots fired his way.
“He made some phenomenal saves,” Malawsky said. “He just keeps us in that game. Sometimes when we bend a little bit, he’s there to make sure that this team doesn’t break.”
“You can’t ask for anything more exciting than that,” noted Poulin. “It’s a lot of fun to be a part of. Sometimes when you let a soft one in, you feel like you need to make a few extra for the guys. I was lucky enough to be able to contribute tonight and that’s all you can ask for.”
Mark Matthews led the Rush attack with a hat trick and four helpers, while Robert Church scored a pair. Zack Greer had two goals and two assists, while Curtis Knight, Riley Loewen, John Lintz and Nik Bilic also scored. Aaron Bold finished with 28 saves in the Edmonton net.
The Roughnecks trailed by a single goal with 22 seconds left to play when Edmonton was whistled for illegal substitution. Because the infraction occurred with less than a minutes to play, the Riggers were awarded a penalty shot. Dickson promptly converted to send the game into OT.
“You don’t really see many penalty shots in the NLL … especially in a playoff game in that scenario, down one,” Dickson said. “I’m glad coach Curt had faith in me and I’m glad I put the ball in the net. It was pretty nerve-wracking, but I’ve been in situations before where you need that goal late to tie it up or get the win.”
In the extra session, Shattler darted across the crease to quick-stick a rebound off the back boards past Bold to send the fans into a frenzy.
“I had no idea what I was doing to tell you the truth,” Shattler said. “He left the open net. I shot it without even looking at the net because I saw he was looking the other way. He gave me the opportunity. He was hot on me all night. I couldn’t score any goals, but I finally got one when it counted, so I was happy to help my team.”
The Roughnecks took an early 1-0 lead when Ranger drove hard to the net and converted a feed from Shattler at 3:06 of the opening frame.
Lintz and Matthews responded with goals 21 seconds apart before Church notched back-to-back goals to give Edmonton a 4-1 lead through one quarter of play.
After Matthews scored during an Edmonton man advantage early in the second, the Riggers responded with a power-play goal of their own by Dobbie.
Shattler scored at 9:55 of the second when he made a nice move to cut to the front of the net before bouncing a shot past Bold. Just 13 seconds later, Dickson fired a sidearm shot to the top corner to pull the Riggers to within a goal.
Greer and Matthews replied with goals for the Rush before Greg Harnett scored a power-play goal for the ’Necks with 39 seconds left in the first half.
Calgary outscored Edmonton 4-1 in the third quarter on goals by Leung, Evans, Veltman and Dickson. The Rush then counted three of the next four goals in the final frame before taking the illegal substitution penalty that led to their demise.
“We showed our resilience being able to come back,” said Calgary captain Andrew McBride. “There was no panic on the bench, same story with overtime.”
The Roughnecks will now travel to Edmonton for Game 2 next Friday (8 p.m.) at Rexall Place. If the Riggers win, they advance to the NLL Champion’s Cup series. With a Rush win, the two teams will play a 10-minute mini-game immediately following Game 2 to decide the series winner.
“This is far from over,” Malawsky said. “There’s a lot of work ahead of us and those guys know we have to keep our work boots and hard hats on and continue to push forward.”
“We haven’t won anything yet,” cautioned McBride. “We’ve got to really come back and focus. It’s a nice position to be in, but we’ve got to travel to a hostile environment where they’re crowd’s going to be fired up for their first-ever playoff game.”