CALGARY — The champ’s guard had dropped. His chin was there, in range.
With a crowd of 13,558 exhorting them on, though, the Calgary Roughnecks failed to deliver a senses-sapping knockout punch, that one from down-near-the-shoetops uppercut to deposit the Saskatchewan Rush on the canvas.
And keep them there.
“It seemed,’’ sighed sniper Curtis Dickson, reflecting on a 15-11 loss to the back-to-back Champions Cup holders Saturday evening at the Scotiabank Saddledome, “like we ran out of gas.
“We were there through three quarters, going shot-for-shot. Then just a couple lucky bounces, a couple transition goals, and …
“Offensively we weren’t nearly in the second half where we’d been in the first. That’s a big contributor there because our defence stepped it up.
“It’s our job to get us back in that game, pull ahead and hold onto a lead.”
Tellingly, through the second half the Rush outscored the ‘Necks 8-3, decisively 6-3 over the homestretch fourth quarter.
Disappointing, particularly considering Calgary, riding a three-game win streak, had torched Saskatchewan for three in a 42-second brushfire during a goal-happy opening 15 minutes.
“We knew we had to play a full 60 minutes,’’ sighed Necks’ captain Mike Carnegie. “We knew we had to stay composed. We knew it was going to be a process. Step-by-step. Brick-by-brick.
“And to be honest, we fell apart there.
“Lacrosse is a game of runs. They had theirs late, we didn’t respond appropriately and that was the tale of the game.
“Yeah, I thought we strung together three pretty quarters but that doesn’t mean much when the game’s on the line and you have a couple mental letdowns. Me included. In the fourth quarter I let Jonesy (Adam Jones) get past me for a goal.”
Collectively, much of the self-recrimination was centred on the tweak of a Bill Murray film:
Lost in transition.
“We had a couple back-breakers where we’d get back in the game and then offensively give up some transition goals,’’ acknowledged Calgary’s Wesley Berg.
“Bad shots,’’ echoed Dickson, “lost us the transition opportunities on their part. It’s our job to either get off or get back on defence.
“If we’re not playing well offensively the very least we can do is stop the transition and not let them get those goals.
“We didn’t do that tonight. So that’s on us.”
The locals clawed back to 10-10 at 3:36 of the final quarter on Dickson’s third tally of the game (to go along with four helpers), but Saskatchewan reeled off the next three goals and five of the closing six.
Typifying the ‘Necks night, Berg’s absolutely sensational behind the back poison dart with just over two minutes to go was chalked off due to a crease violation.
After being swept the four-game season series last season as well as the two-game playoff debate, the Roughnecks are Calgary’s last win over the two incarnations of the Rush franhhise can be traced back in the second game of the 2015 West final, 12-9 before losing the decisive mini-game 4-1.
“We’ve been close,’’ said second-year man Berg. “They’ve obviously had our number since I’ve been in the league.
“They’re a good team, defending champs for a reason. But we always play them close. We’re right there. We’ve just got to beat them.”
Easier said than done, obviously.
“I really don’t care who we play, to be quite honest with you,’’ countered Calgary coach Curt Malawsky. “It’s about the Roughnecks and getting better week to week. When you play a champion like that … out of their 15 goals they had six 5-on-5 through a 60-minute game, which is huge.
“They had eight goals in transition and broken bench plays, something off the face-off and we only let in one power play goal.
“If you clean that stuff up, it’s real good. That’s the best part from a coaching perspective, (those things) are in our control.
“So we really don’t care who we play.”
The bitter rivals are now snuggled together at 3-2 atop the division.
They next collide February 25th at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon.
“We were in first place coming into this game,’’ reminded Dickson. “Brand new year. We’ve got new guys, they’ve got new guys.
“We were 3-1, they were 2-2. Clean slate. Just another team we’re trying to pull away from in the West.
“They just played a better second half than we did and buried their chances.
“We know these guys are defending champions and they’ve beat us, what?, six or seven times in a row. We wanted a crack at them.
“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to come away with a win. There are things we’ve got to learn from and come ready for next weekend.”