Looking like a rejuvenated group, the Roughnecks gave the Rush a run for their money on Saturday.
With newly acquired Mitch Wilde in the line-up and rookie Christian Del Bianco between the pipes, the Riggers brought their A-game. Holding a lead for the majority of the game, it would come down to overtime and a broken play that left Adam Jones alone in front to decide the winner.
Here’s five things we took from the game:
1) GOING YOUNG
It’s not often a 19-year old is called upon to take the reins in net in the NLL, but that’s exactly what happened on Saturday. Roughnecks coach Curt Malawsky made the move to start the youngster after three straight losses.
Del Bianco was much better in this start than his first, where he gave up seven goals on 18 shots in just over 15 minutes of play. After giving up a quick early goal, he settled in and made some big saves, helping Calgary grab and hold a lead for most of the game. In just over 61 minutes of play, the Coquitlam, B.C., native made 35 saves on 47 shots.
The young goalie was active outside of his crease, as he would run behind his net or into the corners to grab loose balls. He was also intent on collecting the ball after each save and launching it up the floor in a hurry. With precision passes, he hit Roughnecks transition players on the run, helping create scoring chances for a team that had struggled to score in recent weeks.
2) THE DEFENCE
Anyone who watches lacrosse knows about the overpowering Saskatchewan Rush defence that has helped them win back-to-back championships. But did you see the Roughnecks defence go shot-for-shot with the reigning champs?
Playing a great game from start to finish, the Riggers back-end was physical, aggressive all night long. They were also getting up and down the floor with purpose, being involved in five Calgary goals.
The Rush found it difficult to get to the net all game long and when they did get into the middle, they routinely paid for it. If the Roughnecks defence can continue to play at this level, opposing forwards won’t be so hasty to work the ball into the high-chance areas.
3) GETTIN’ WILDE
Making his Roughnecks debut, Wilde made an instant impact.
Six minutes into the game, he led the charge in transition before turning to pass the ball to his former college roommate Tyler Digby, who snapped it top corner.
Wilde got on the board once again in the third quarter, when he rifled a long-distance pass right to Dane Dobbie who buried on a breakaway opportunity.
While he did earn two assists in the game, he wasn’t just recognizable for his offence. He was stout defensively and added some more grit to the Roughnecks back-end. With his combination of defence and transition skills, look for Wilde to be a constant contributor moving forward.
Prior to the game on Saturday, many Roughnecks fans predicted that Curtis Dickson would be the first Rigger to score in the game. In all likelihood, every Roughnecks fans expected him to score at least one goal in the game.
It’s not a bad expectation, he does lead the NLL in goals.
However, the Rush found a piece of Kryptonite as they were able to hold Superman without a goal in the contest. While he did get some quality chances, Saskatchewan was very concerted in their effort to double-team Dickson at any opportunity, even if that meant providing open looks for Wesley Berg or Tyler Digby.
5) DANE DOBBIE
When you pull out goals like this (see below), you deserve your own section.
When you have 313 career goals, some of them are going to be awesome. This happens to be one of them.