CALGARY, AB — He’ll likely forget the score of the game, but Holden Cattoni will always remember his first National Lacrosse League goal.
His Calgary Roughnecks trailed the Vancouver Stealth 7-3 in the second period on Friday when Cattoni took a pass from Riley Loewen in the offensive zone before going to work.
Cattoni, Calgary’s first-round selection (5th overall) in the NLL Draft on Sept. 26, faked a pass and then made a quick swim move to slip past former Roughneck Peter McFetridge.
“I was actually going to fake the shot and put it up top, but their defender played a little high, so I went underneath, took a little bit of space and just found myself in a little bit of a gray area,” said Cattoni, who shot the ball around Vancouver defender Matt Beers and past goalie Tyler Richards to the far post. “The goalie comes out and has a hard time finding his net after that, so I just tried to put it in a good spot and luckily it went in.”
A goal scorer’s goal by a rookie NLLer who has scored at every other level he’s played.
“He shoots the ball well,” said Calgary coach Curt Malawsky of Cattoni, who tallied 16 goals and added 15 assists in his first Major Series Lacrosse season with the Tracey Kelusky-coached Peterborough Lakers this past summer.
“It’s a fast league (the NLL). It’s good to get off the Schneid early in the first game of the year. There’s some little things that maybe he can do that we’ll work on from an away-from-the-ball dynamic, but a first-round draft pick, we don’t want to put a lot of pressure on him.”
Cattoni doesn’t mind the pressure. He faced it during his college career while putting up 78 goals and 18 assists in 59 games for the Johns Hopkins University Blue Jays.
The 5-foot-11, 205-pound lefty, who hails from nearby DeWinton, Alta., grew up idolizing Roughnecks legends like Kelusky and Kaleb Toth.
Now 22, Cattoni has fond memories of being a ballboy for the Roughnecks along with his brother Taite back when Kelusky and Toth were terrorizing opposing goaltenders.
“I was a ballboy for a long time here and my brother was a ballboy here,” said Cattoni, who graduated from Calgary’s West Island College before heading off to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. “In warmup looking at the ballboys and thinking that was me before was kind of an awkward moment.”
That awkward moment quickly turned into excitement for Cattoni, who noticed several familiar faces in the crowd of 11,510 fans on hand for Calgary’s home opener at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“I looked up in the stands in warmup and in the game and a couple of my high school friends had seats right behind the bench,” he said. “I saw some close family friends right next to the tunnel and some more just scattered throughout the crowd. It was a special moment and something that I’ve really looked forward to and that I’ll cherish.”
Only one thing would have made the night even more special – a win.
That nearly happened as the Riggers rallied from a 12-7 deficit with four straight goals in the fourth quarter to pull within one before ultimately suffering a narrow 12-11 setback.
“It would have been nice to get one more, but it’s not at the end of the game,” said Cattoni, sounding more like a seasoned NLL veteran than a wide-eyed freshman. “We need to find one more in the first three quarters and specifically work on our starts.
“We just can’t go down five goals and expect to win the game. We’ve got to come out with a little bit more angst and be ready to go.”
Cattoni and the Roughnecks will get that chance when they head west for a rematch against the Stealth next Saturday (8 p.m.) at the Langley Events Centre.