EDMONTON, AB — After falling short 15-13 on a furious second half comeback attempt, the Calgary Roughnecks carried their momentum into a ten minute mini game tie-breaker and edged the Edmonton Rush 2-1 to advance to the 2014 NLL Champion’s Cup at Rexall Place in Edmonton on Friday.
The Roughnecks trailed 11-2 early in the second quarter after the Rush rattled off five goals in 1:30 — an NLL record for the fastest five goals — before their furious comeback attempt began.
“Just to be down 11-2 and to show the resiliency at half time and to show the resiliency on the bench,” captain Andrew McBride said. “We truly believed that we were going to come back in that first game. A lot of teams would have packed it in and quit. The Roughnecks teams in the past maybe wouldn’t have believed in our abilities. We chipped away, we never gave up.”
Calgary would strike four straight times near the end of the half to get within five of the Rush. Dane Dobbie closed out the Riggers scoring in the half with back-to-back goals. First, capitalizing on the powerplay with an outside bounce shot and then taking a cross-crease feed from Shawn Evans and quick-sticking it into the open corner. Curtis Knight tally shortly after with his second of the game, restoring Edmonton’s six-goal cushion.
The rally continued in the third quarter as the Roughnecks out-scored the Rush 4-2. Shawn Evans completed his hat-trick driving inside putting in the corner to get the Riggers trailed by four, 14-10.
Scott Ranger scored two goals in the final quarter and got the Roughnecks to within a goal with just under two minutes remaining. The Rush deposited an empty net goal shortly after, edging the Roughnecks 15-13, forcing a 10-minute “mini’ game to decide the West Division Champion.
Calgary carried the momentum from their strong play in the second half into the mini game.
“I think that just showed a lot about our group of guys,” Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky said. “I’ve been on teams where we feel like we just can’t get it done and we have a fall-back with the mini game but these guys want nothing to do with it. We just had to chip away. We really wanted to earn it in the two games but Edmonton is one heck of a team — they’re league champions for a reason.
“We wanted to continue to build the momentum and continue to battle. There was some holes in that defence. The big thing was to grind and grind and grind and that’s our motto was to grind them down and remember who we are. The guys did that. That wasn’t and easy game for those men and I’m proud of them.”
Evans continued to deliver a clutch performance in the extra game with two goals, an outside shot which eluded Aaron Bold and a gutsy drive to the Edmonton goal in which the ball ended up in the net and Evans ended up on his back.
“Shawn is a winner. He’s won at every level,” Riggers netminder Mike Poulin said. “He’s won a Minto Cup, he’s won I don’t know how many Mann Cups, he’s won Championships — everywhere he goes, he wins. In this type of game you want the ball in his stick because he’s going to do something special and he certainly did tonight.”
Mike Poulin turned aside 31 shots in Game 2 including all 11 he faced in the final quarter. He stopped 9 shots in the mini game to earn the victory
“Honestly, it’s one of the greatest feelings of my life right now,” smiled Poulin from outside the Roughnecks’ locker room at Rexall Place. “It was a hell of a night. I’m really proud of the way we responded and the game we played. The first half — we let it slip away a little bit — but we showed a lot of character.
“We played a good forty minutes of Lacrosse after that to win the West.”
Frankie Scigliano took to the crease for 9:39, facing 5 shots and allowing one goal.
The Roughnecks offence was led by Evans who had three goals and three assists. Dane Dobbie registered three goals and one assist. Scott Ranger and Daryl Veltman each picked up two goals and two assists. Jon Harnett (1g, 1a) and Jeff Shattler rounded out the scoring for Calgary.
The Rush attack was fueled by Mark Matthews hat-trick performance while Curtis Knight, Nik Bilic and Zac Greer each had a pair of markers. Riley Loewen (1g, 2a), Chris Corbeil (1g, 1a), Ryan Dilks (1g, 0a), John LaFontaine (1g, 1a), Jarrett Davies (1g, 1a) and Cory Conway (1g, 2a) completed the scoring for Edmonton.
Calgary will advance to the Champion’s Cup Finals against the winner of the East Division Finals, either the Rochester Knighthawks or Buffalo Bandits. If Rochester prevails, the Riggers will faceoff on May 24 at the Scotiabank Saddledome for Game 1 and the following weekend for Game 2. If Buffalo advances, the Riggers will host the final game of the NLL season on May 31.
“It’s about the Calgary Roughnecks right now, and it’s no disrespect to anybody who comes out of the East,” Malawsky said of going to the NLL Champion’s Cup Finals. “We’re a confident group of guys that believe in each other, we’ve got a lot of trust going on amongst each other and that’s a dangerous animal. The big message was ‘let’s not let this ride to end’. We have such a good time as a family and we’ve been together every week.
“We don’t want it to end and I think the guys really took that and ran with it and played with each other. You bleed with each other and you get hit with each other and yo”u go to war with each other and you really do become a family in games like that.
“Right now we’re just going to go back and heal up and regroup and remember who we are. We’re excited to be coming home.”