EDMONTON, AB — It was a game that featured nine lead changes, the majority of which came in the first half, but in the end, it was the Calgary Roughnecks who came out on top in round one of the Battle of Alberta, downing their provincial rivals Edmonton Rush 18-15 on Saturday night.
The win, the Roughnecks (3-2) third in a row, vaults the team to first place in the West Division above the Washington Stealth.
Head coach Curt Malawsky was pleased with his teams resiliency late in the game, holding off a strong last minute push from the Rush.
“The biggest thing a coach will tell you is they want the team to get better as the year goes on,” he said. “You don’t mind making mistakes early in the year but you don’t want to repeat them.
“That’s the biggest thing we are going to take from this game is that they came hard at the end and we battled back.
“We got better from week two and we are better in week four,” he added, alluding to a three-game winning streak, all of them on the road.
Neither team could gather a strong lead in the first half, with the Edmonton Rush holding the largest advantage at 6-3 mid-way through the first quarter. Roughnecks saw goals from Jeff Shattler, Joe Resetarits and Daryl Veltman, while the Rush responded with markers from Ryan Ward, Zack Greer, Jeremy Thompson, John LaFontaine and Alex Turner. Two snipes eight seconds apart with under a minute left from Geoff Snider and Curtis Dickson brought the Roughnecks back.
Much of the same occurred in the second frame, with Riggers goals from Shattler, Dane Dobbie, and Evans.
By halftime, both squads were deadlocked at 10 a piece.
Malawsky was not happy with his team’s performance in the first half, blaming the tie score on lack of focus.
“Our shoot-around was terrible, our focus was off and I think guys will take that to heart,” he said. “We were dropping balls in the shoot-around, we were dropping balls in the warm-up and we got it handed to us early in the game.”
The Rush picked up their last lead of the game part-way through the third at 12-11, when rookie sensation Mark Matthews making his debut on the scoreboard.
From there, back-to-back powerplay goals from Scott Ranger 24 seconds apart gave the Roughnecks the lead, one they would not let go.
Markers from Snider and Dickson extended the lead to four at 16-12, however the Rush started to chip away with five minutes left. Jarrett Davis broke a 20-minute shutout streak from goaltender Mike Poulin, and poured the Rush on offensively with snipes from Corey Small and Matthews.
That was as close at it came though, with empty netters by Jon Harnett and Geoff Snider sealing the victory for Calgary.
“We were shaky at moments,” opined Ranger. “I don’t think either played all that great tonight, but we played well enough to win. That’s all that matters in the end.”
Poulin faced a tonne of rubber on Saturday, seeing 60 shots thrown his direction while turning away 45 of them.
Aaron Bold started the game for the Rush but was pulled early in the second after allowing six goals on 12 shots. Brodie MacDonald filled in admirably afterwards, making 17 saves on 29 shots, many of the highlight reel variety.
Geoff Snider won 28 of 38 draws for Calgary, while scooping up 22 loose balls in the process and scoring a hat trick.
The two teams won’t have much of a break from each other, going back at it next Saturday night at 7 p.m. on the back end of a home-and-home series at the Scotiabank Saddledome.