CALGARY, AB – For the second straight game, the Calgary Roughnecks were edged in overtime, this time to the Saskatchewan Rush, which prevailed 12-11 in front of 10,005 fans at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Sunday afternoon.
The Roughnecks (3-6) built an 8-2 lead in the first half before the Rush (5-3) battled back in the second half, outscoring Calgary 9-2 in a run that started in the second quarter.
The contest was a mirror image of Calgary’s overtime setback to the Vancouver Stealth last week. The Riggers held a big lead at the half, was forced to tie the game late and lost in overtime.
“The NLL is a game of runs. You go look through the history of the NLL and teams go on big runs,” said Riggers coach Curt Malawsky, who played 12 years in the league. “They went on a three-goal run, we scored one, they went on a couple more three-goal runs and then just at the end I was proud of our guys to tie the game late.”
Zach Greer tallied the overtime winner after Calgary was whistled for an over-and-back violation and the Rush took possession. Greer sent a shot at Mike Poulin from the side of the net which careened off the post, bounced off Poulin’s leg and into the net to hand Saskatchewan their third win of the season over Calgary.
“We had some great chances late and in overtime,” Malawsky said. “Some of those guys are hanging their heads and they want those chances back but from a coach’s standpoint we look at the process. The goalie made some big saves when he needed to. Even on the winning goal, our defence was great, pushes him on the goal line, Poulie gets a piece of it, goes off the post and bounces off his equipment and goes in the net.”
Roughnecks’ rookie forward, Wesley Berg and 24-year-old Tyler Digby paced the Riggers’ offence with three goals each while Riley O’Connor, Curtis Dickson, Jeff Shattler, Karsen Leung and Tyler Burton, who scored his first goal in a Roughnecks uniform after inking a deal on Feb. 19, rounded out the scoring for Calgary.
“You look at Wesley Berg, he had three goals and he was a big part of the game,’ said coach Curt Malawsky. “Riley O’Connor had a big one early, had some chances late and he distributes the ball really well. That’s another big side of it, you look at young (Tyler) Melnyk, he’s a Calgary guy and he battling and competing. You want to say he deserved better, he had some great chances and didn’t stop moving his feet all game. That’s encouraging. Digby is a young guy who is only 24-years-old. We have a young offence and when you’re rebuilding your offence and re-tolling it, it’s very encouraging to see your young guys step up.”
Mike Poulin got the start for the Roughnecks and went wire-to-wire. The veteran goalie was stellar, turning aside 48 shots including a wide open opportunity for Mark Matthews with 57 seconds remaining and a Chris Corbeil breakaway chance with 34 seconds left to preserve the tie.
“I thought Mike Poulin played really well for us,” said captain Mike Carnegie. “I thought he was really good in net, gave us some good minutes. What you want from your goalie is a chance to win and I think Poulie gave us that tonight”
“It was nice to get the start but the game overall, it’s hard to be optimistic when you lose a game that puts you at 3-6 but we battled,” Poulin said. “Once again we let the other team in. We just need to work on the things that will allow us to close out teams better.”
Saskatchewan took their first lead of the game with just 2:07 left when Mark Matthews muscled his way to the front of the net and, with a pair of Calgary defenders draped all over him, managed to get a shot off while on his knees to beat Mike Poulin between the legs.
The Riggers tied the game just 47 seconds later when rookie forward Berg accepted a pass from Digby and ripped a sidearm bounce-shot between Rush goaltender Aaron Bold’s legs to send the match into an extra session.
Curtis Knight and Robert Church each recorded hat-tricks while Matthews and Greer had two-goal games. John LaFontaine and Jeremy Thompson also scored for the Rush, which is second in the West Division after the win.
“They are a great team. We play them well, I think and we play them hard,” Poulin said. “We should take the positives out of this in terms of good stats, it’s just a matter of closing it out. We have a good Rochester team coming in next week that we need to be a lot better for.”
Bold stopped 33 shots in goal for Saskatchewn and picked up his 4th win of the season.
Calgary was without sniper Dane Dobbie, who missed his third straight game due to an injury.
“I was proud of the guys. The message was positive,” Malawsky said. “It’s not okay, we lost in overtime again but we are betting better and better. I’ll reiterate, we are a young team and were are without our 40-goal scorer. We had some looks late in the game and I think if [Dobbie] is on the floor I think that might be a goal. And that’s not be belly-aching and whining, that’s a fact.”
“You take some goals out of the lineup it hurts you, especially in overtime games. You can do the math on that in a one-goal league. It’s tough but we’ve never been an organization that makes excuses. There’s a lot of ways we can turn it but nobody feels sorry for the Roughnecks.
O’connor, who had 10 points in his last 5 games coming into the game, opened the scoring with an outside bounce-shot in the inside of Bold’s left to give the Riggers the lead. Berg and Digby followed up with a goal each before the Rush found the scoresheet for the first time with 1:40 left in the quarter, courtesy of Greer.
The Roughnecks outscored the Rush 5-3 in the second quarter. Berg started things off when he took a flip pass from Dickson and then ripped a sidearm shot past Bold.
Digby scored his second of the game when he scooped up a loose ball in front of the net and dropped it over Bold’s shoulder to give the Riggers a 7-2 lead.
Leung struck shorthanded after he ran the ball the length of the floor and bounced off a check then beat Bold.
Jeff Shattler finished off a nice three-way passing play between Dickson and Digby. Digby faked the shot and dumped to Shattler who quick-sticked it into the net from the side of the crease.
The Rush settled in before the first half expired when they scored back-to-back markers to cut the Riggers lead to 8-4. First it was Chruch and then Knight, who came through to the middle, took a pass and beat Poulin to the top corner.
Dickson, who counted five goals in his last outing against the Stealth, put and end to the Rush’s goal run and scored his first of the afternoon and 25th of the season when Greg Harnett spotted him streaking down the floor and hit him for a breakaway pass. Dickson made no mistake and the Riggers regained their four-goal advantage.
Digby completed his hat-trick when he found the back of the net on the powerplay to add some insurance and extend Calgary’s lead to 10-8.
The Rush finally drew even when they rattled off two goals in 13 seconds with just under six minutes remaining. First it was Thompson who ripped a hard shot and beat Poulin low and then Knight scored his third of the game.
Next up, the Riggers will host the Rochester Knighthawks at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday, March 5.
“I think we move forward. We’ve had two tough losses,” Carnegie said. “I made my point at the start of the season we just have to move on. We can’t dwell om the past, we can’t change anything that’s happened in the past but we can move forward and we can get better.”