The Calgary Roughnecks edged the Rochester Knighthawks 15-14 on Friday to tie a franchise record with their sixth straight win.
Playing against his former team in front of 9,806 fans at the Scotiabank Saddledome, Shawn Evans led the way offensively for the Roughnecks (11-3) with a hat trick and six assists.
“It feels great,” said Evans, who was acquired from Rochester in an off-season deal that sent the fifth overall pick in the 2011 National Lacrosse League Entry Draft the other way. “Definitely I had mixed emotions going into that game. Thank god that we came out with the win. They battled back hard, but we stuck together. Good teams find a way to win.”
Dane Dobbie scored four goals for the ’Necks, who moved into sole possession of first place overall in the NLL past the idle Colorado Mammoth (10-3).
“Sometimes your offence has to win you games and really that’s what they did tonight,” said Calgary coach Dave Pym. “Guys like Dane Dobbie took an absolute pounding in the middle of the floor and kept going back and scoring big goals.”
Jeff Shattler (2g, 4a), Curtis Dickson (2g, 2a), Scott Ranger (2g, 2a), and Daryl Veltman (1g, 3a) also had strong performances for the Riggers. Travis Cornwall also scored, while defenceman Scott Carnegie set a career high for points in a game with three assists.
“He’s elevated his game the last three and was outstanding for us on that back end tonight,” said Pym of Carnegie.
Mike Poulin made 47 saves in the Calgary net, none more important than when he stood his ground to stop an over-the-shoulder shot by Rochester forward Cory Vitarelli in the game’s dying seconds.
“That series of saves that he made at the end there, that’s just all-star quality,” Pym said. “That’s the kind of things that he does. You’ve got to make those kinds of saves to win championships, so I was happy to see that.”
Johnny Powless, who the Knighthawks chose with the pick they acquired when they sent Evans to Calgary, led Rochester with three goals and four assists. Stephen Keogh also had a hat trick to go with three assists for the Knighthawks (5-8), who will play host to a rematch between the two squads next Sunday, April 14 in Rochester.
Cody Jamieson scored twice and set up three others for the Hawks, while Mike Accursi (2g, 2a), Vitarelli (2g), Craig Point (1g, 2a) and Ryan Cousins (1g) also got in on the action.
Rochester goalie Matt Vinc stopped 38-of-52 shots he faced, while Jake Henhawk made a brief appearance in net and allowed a goal on the only shot he faced.
Keogh had an early impact in the game for Rochester as he sent Calgary defender Jon Harnett flying to the floor with a heavy hit. Keogh then opened the scoring at the 7:46 mark of the opening frame when he bounced a shot past Poulin.
Evans and Ranger then sniped goals 21 seconds apart before Dickson scored to give the Riggers a 3-1 lead. After Keogh scored his second of the game, Veltman converted a feed from Shattler to give the ’Necks a 4-2 advantage.
Keogh completed his hat trick at 6:23 of the second quarter to pull the ’Hawks within a goal before Dobbie, Ranger and Dickson scored to give Calgary a 7-3 lead. Dickson’s goal was a highlight-reel, over-the-shoulder shot that fooled Vinc.
That prompted Rochester coach Mike Hasen to replace Vinc in net with Henhawk, whose time in goal didn’t last long. After Shattler scored on a breakaway, Hasen had seen enough and he put Vinc back in between the pipes.
Powless scored for Rochester before Evans replied to put the Riggers up 9-3. Dobbie then counted back-to-back goals to complete his hat trick before Vitarelli notched a power-play goal for Rochester with 33 seconds left in the first half.
Trailing by six goals, the Knighthawks mounted a furious comeback in the second half. Rochester outscored Calgary 4-2 in the third quarter before Jamieson, Powless and Accursi counted goals early in the final frame to pull the visitors to within a goal.
“Coming out of that half and then in the third quarter we were a little bit tired and a bit on our heels,” Pym said. “We were dictating the pace of play and whatnot in the first half and then we got on our heels in the second and it took a while for us to regroup.”
Cornwall then took a pass from Evans in the slot and fired a shot to the top corner behind Vinc to put the Riggers up 14-12.
Shortly afterwards, Poulin stood his ground to turn aside a breakaway attempt by Scott Self. After Shattler scored to put Calgary up by three, Point and Accursi responded for Rochester to set up a wild finish.
Looking for his third goal of the game, Vitarelli rang a shot off the crossbar and then was denied again by Poulin as the Roughnecks were able to hang on for the victory.
“(Vitarelli) had an empty net and he was unable to put the ball in the net but then Poulie made an unbelievable save to keep the ball out,” said Ranger, who praised Poulin for his efforts to preserve the victory. “We rely on him to make the saves that he should and he’s making the saves that he should right now, so that’s definitely a positive going into the playoffs.”