BRING ON THE KNIGHTHAWKS: For the Calgary Roughnecks to capture their third National Lacrosse League championship title, they’ll have to go through the two-time defending Rochester Knighthawks. The Riggers will host Game 1 of the Champion’s Cup final on Saturday (7 p.m.) at the Scotiabank Saddledome. The Knighthawks will then host the second game of the series on Saturday, May 31 at 6 p.m. at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y. In the event of a series split, a 10-minute tiebreaker game will be played immediately following the conclusion of Game 2 to determine the 2014 NLL champion. “They are a very physical, very big team,” said Calgary coach Curt Malawsky in regards to the Knighthawks. “They’re two-time champs. They’ve got the experience on their side as well. It’s going to be a big challenge for our guys. We’re excited to start back in the ‘Dome. We’ve been playing very well there and we’ve got a lot of confidence right now.” Rochester bench boss Mike Hagen said his players are excited to get the series underway against Calgary. “We don’t see them often but we have been watching them on film lately,” Hasen said. “We’re just looking forward to getting out to Calgary and getting going on this and we know it’s going to be a tough battle right from the get-go.”
WHAT A RUSH: The Roughnecks punched their ticket to the Champion’s Cup final series by virtue of a 2-1 win in a 10-minute tiebreaker game against the Edmonton Rush on May 16 on the road at Rexall Place. The Rush, which lost Game 1 of the West Final 12-11 in overtime in Calgary on May 10, forced the mini-game after edging the Roughnecks 15-13 in Game 2 at home six days later. Shawn Evans scored twice before the three-minute mark of the mini-game to give the ’Necks an early 2-0 lead before Zack Greer replied for Edmonton to pull the Rush within a goal. Calgary goaltender Mike Poulin stood his ground to stop nine of 10 shots he faced in the tiebreaker game to preserve the victory for the Riggers. “The big thing was to grind and grind and grind and that’s our motto was to grind them down and remember who we are,” Malawsky said. “The guys did that. That wasn’t and easy game for those men and I’m proud of them.” Edmonton netminder Aaron Bold made four saves during the mini-game in a losing cause. At one point in the first half of Game 2, Calgary trailed Edmonton 11-2 before going on a four-goal run to narrow the gap. The Rush still led 12-6 at halftime and 14-10 through three quarters before the ’Necks scored three times in the final frame to pull within one. With Poulin on the bench for an extra attacker, Nik Bilic scored into an empty net to force the tiebreaker game. Evans finished Game 2 with three goals and three assists, while Dane Dobbie also had a hat trick to go with one helper. Scott Ranger and Daryl Veltman had two goals and two assists each, while Curtis Dickson scored once and set up four others. Jon Harnett and Jeff Shattler chipped in with a goal and an assist each, while Karsen Leung finished with two helpers. Mark Matthews led the Rush with a hat trick and an assist, while Greer and Curtis Knight chipped in with two goals and a helper each. Bilic also had two goals, while Riley Loewen, Chris Corbeil, Jarrett Davis, Ryan Dilks, John LaFontaine and Cory Conway also scored. Poulin and Frankie Scigliano combined for 35 saves in the Game 2 setback, while Bold made 31 stops for the Rush.
FIVE ALIVE: The Roughnecks won their first Champion’s Cup on May 7, 2004 when they beat the Buffalo Bandits 14-11 in the NLL championship game at the Saddledome. Five years later on May 15, 2009, the Riggers downed the New York Titans 12-10 at the ’Dome and hoisted the Champion’s Cup for the second time. Now five years following their second league title, the ’Necks have a chance to capture their third Champion’s Cup in franchise history.
ROUGHNECKS VS. KNIGHTHAWKS: Calgary and Rochester met once in the 2014 regular season back on Feb. 22 at the Saddledome and it was the Riggers who prevailed over the K-Hawks 11-10 in overtime thanks to a clutch goal by Dobbie. Dickson and Shattler each scored twice in the final frame before Dobbie’s hat-trick goal in OT stood up as the game winner to the delight of the 9,207 boisterous fans in attendance at the ’Dome. “The game’s never over until it’s over,” said Dobbie, who surpassed the 400-point plateau with his third point of the game, an assist on a goal by Shattler five minutes into the fourth. Calgary trailed 9-6 after three quarters before Shattler scored twice to set the stage for the thrilling finish. After Dickson notched two goals 19 seconds apart, Dobbie finished off his hat trick to put the ’Necks up by a pair at 11:51 of the fourth. Cody Jamieson scored with 58 seconds left in the game to pull Rochester within a goal, but that’s as close as the K-Hawks would get. Poulin made 39 saves to backstop the Riggers to their third straight win. Shattler also had an assist to finish with a three-point night, while Veltman (1g, 3a) Leung (1g, 1a), Garrett McIntosh (1g) and Curtis Manning (1g) also scored. Evans finished with four helpers. Stephen Keogh led the way for Rochester with a hat trick and three assists, while Jamieson scored twice and set up five others. Joe Walters (2g, 2a), Johnny Powless (2g, 1a), Joel McCready (1g, 4a) and Dan Dawson (4a) also had multiple-point performances, while Rochester goalie Matt Vinc finished with 32 saves.
DID YOU KNOW?: The Roughnecks and Knighthawks have never faced off against each other in the post-season. The two teams have met a total of eight times in the regular season and have compiled a record of 4-4 against each other. Calgary has gone 3-1 at home against Rochester, while the K-Hawks are 3-1 at their home arena against the Riggers.
MOUSE’S MUSINGS: Having won a Champion’s Cup as a player with the Roughnecks in 2009, Malawsky would love to capture another NLL title, this time as Calgary’s coach. “As a coach, if you’re successful, all the hard work that you put in you get rewarded for it,” said Malawsky, who’s in his second season as Calgary’s bench boss. “But, at the end of the day, it’s about the players. You want those guys to go through the exhilaration and the joy and the long-lasting friendships that you went through when you were able to win. Those are the things as a coach that you work for so they can enjoy some of the [positives] that come out of winning a championship. It’s all about the men on the floor and the men on the floor are going to decide the championship in the next two weeks.” Malawsky is being assisted once again this season by Bob McMahon as offence coordinator and Bruce Codd as defence coordinator. It’s the fourth season for McMahon with the ’Necks, while Codd is in his second season on the Calgary coaching staff.
CAPTAIN’S COMMENT: Veteran Calgary captain Andrew McBride said the Riggers definitely have a lot of respect for the two-time defending champion K-Hawks. “Anytime a team can climb the ladder of your league two years in a row, it just shows as a franchise and an organization, how good they are,” McBride said. “We’re really excited for the challenge. We’re really excited to get to be starting at home. It’s going to be an electric atmosphere and hopefully we can key on that and really jump off to a good start.”
DOMINANT DOBBIE: Dobbie’s three-goal performance during a 14-8 road win for Calgary against the Vancouver Stealth on April 26 helped him break the previous regular-season franchise record of 50 set by Lewis Ratcliff in the 2007 season. Dobbie finished the 2014 NLL campaign with 51 goals in 18 games to lead all players in that category. “It’s nice to get three goals and set that (record), but it has a lot to do with our offence and guys moving the ball and finding me when I was open,” Dobbie said.
OH CANADA: When the Canadian Lacrosse Association announced the 24 players selected to the Canadian National Men’s Field Lacrosse Team, it included a pair of Roughnecks. Dickson and Geoff Snider were among the group of players chosen to compete for Team Canada at the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championships on July 10-19 in Denver, Colorado.
PLAYOFF MILESTONES WITHIN REACH
– Dane Dobbie is within striking distance of a pair of franchise playoff records. Tracey Kelusky currently holds the franchise marks for both post-season points (60) and goals (34). With three more points, Dobbie will surpass Kelusky, while he needs to score six times to take over the career playoff goal-scoring lead.
– Jeff Shattler is also within striking distance of Kelusky’s franchise record for post-season points. With 57 career playoff points, Shattler is just one behind Dobbie (58) and four away from surpassing Kelusky’s career totals with the Roughnecks.