Jeff Shattler scored the game-winning goal, while Frankie Scigliano made the biggest save of his National Lacrosse League career.
Shattler scored his fourth goal of the game at 9:49 of the fourth quarter to lead the Calgary Roughnecks to a thrilling 14-13 win over the Vancouver Stealth in front of 4,833 fans at the Langley Events Centre on Saturday.
“Playing for the boys in the room, that’s what we’re playing for,” said Shattler, who finished the game with eight points. “I love that feeling where we’re pretty much living on the edge. If we lose this one we’re done I like the big games where you can give everything you got. Where everything’s on the line, that’s usually where a lot of our guys excel.”
Scigliano then made a clutch leg save to stop a shot from the slot by Stealth sniper Rhys Duch with 10.6 seconds left on the game clock to secure the victory and earn the Roughnecks (7-11) a post-season berth for the 13thconsecutive season.
“It comes down to one shot and Scigliano made the save and we get the ball the last possession and we got the win,” said forward Shawn Evans, who had a hat trick and four helpers. “Wow, that was a playoff game right there. No team wanted to lose that game.
“There was big swings,” continued Evans, who finished the season with 83 helpers to tie an NLL record set just one night earlier by former Roughneck and current Toronto Rock forward Josh Sanderson. “We went down 4-0 off the beginning. It looked scary for us really, but we stuck together and kept our composure and battled back. Our guys didn’t want to go home. This team didn’t want to stop playing. We battled back – big saves by Scigliano and we had big timely goals.”
Scigliano made 33 saves for the Riggers, who now move on to face the Colorado Mammoth (9-9) in the opening round of the NLL playoffs next Saturday night at the Pepsi Centre in Denver.
“These guys battled hard and we’re feeling good about ourselves,” said Calgary coach Curt Malawsky, who praised his players for their gutsy effort in a do-or-die situation. “We’re just excited to be moving on and we’ll re-evaluate (the Mammoth) come tomorrow morning.”
Karsen Leung also had a strong game with two goals and one assist, while Curtis Dickson (1g, 5a), Sean Pollock (1g, 2a), Curtis Manning (1g, 1a), Dane Dobbie (1g, 1a) and Geoff Snider (1g) also scored.
“A little nerve-wracking, a little strenuous, but obviously we came out with the win,” said Dickson when asked to sum up his thoughts about the game. “That’s what we came in here to do. It was a playoff-like atmosphere tonight and obviously a one-goal game.
“We found ourselves on the wrong side of these too many times this year to win this one especially with the magnitude of this game. We’re going to celebrate this one tonight, but we’re looking forward to Colorado next weekend.”
Duch was dangerous all game for the Stealth (5-13) as he finished with a sock trick (six goals) to go with a pair of assists. Tyler Digby had a hat trick and an assist, while Corey Small (2g, 5a), Logan Schuss (1g, 5a) and Ilija Gajic (1g, 4a) also had multiple-point performances.
Vancouver goalie Tyler Richards kept his team in the game by stopping 51 of 65 shots he faced.
“Richards made big saves to keep them in it,” Evans said.
Things didn’t start well for the Riggers, who surrendered the first four goals of the game. Duch opened the scoring at 1:57 of the first quarter before Small converted a nice feed from Schuss 42 seconds later.
Digby then counted a pair of goals 19 seconds apart before Dobbie responded with a power-play marker for the ’Necks followed by Snider’s fourth goal of the campaign to close out the scoring in the opening quarter.
Calgary had several great chances early in the second quarter but weren’t able to sneak a shot past Richards, who made nice saves to thwart scoring attempts by Dickson, Shattler and Pollock.
Like he did in the opening frame, Duch opened the scoring in the second quarter when he fired a long-range shot past Scigliano at 2:30.
Leung scored in transition five minutes later when he took a pass from Shattler in the slot before bouncing a quick shot through Richard’s legs.
After Schuss fired a no-look goal past Scigliano, Evans responded with a pair of goals 30 seconds apart to pull the ’Necks within a goal.
Duch then completed his hat trick at 14:12 of the second when he drove hard to the net before going airborne and flicking a shot past Scigliano to give the Stealth a 7-5 lead heading into the halftime intermission.
Following a breakaway goal by Gajic 64 seconds into the third quarter, the Riggers reeled off five goals in a span of 8:02 – three of them by Shattler and one each off the stick of Dickson and Pollock – to take a 10-8 lead.
After Digby completed his hat trick, Evans and Manning scored late goals in the third quarter to put Calgary up 12-9.
Duch then notched a natural hat trick by the 4:47 mark of the fourth quarter to knot up the score at 12-12 before Leung counted an unassisted marker at the 7:03 mark of the final frame.
Small then scored at 9:21 before Shattler bounced a shot around Vancouver defender Chris O’Dougherty and through Richard’s legs just 28 seconds later to put the Riggers up for good.
“Just look at the character we’ve got in that room,” Malawsky said. “It’s 100 per cent testament to the players that Mike Board’s put together, that the organization’s put together. Those guys are winners. They’re champions.
“They’ve got big hearts and they’ve got a lot passion for the game. They’ve won a lot of championships. There’s a lot of championship pedigree in that room. At the end of the day those are the guys that are going to war and those are the guys that deserve the credit.”
Calgary now travels to face the Colorado Mammoth in a single-elimination opening round of the NLL playoffs Saturday, May 9 at 7 p.m. MT. The winner will face the Edmonton Rush in the West Division finals in a two-game home-and-home series.