ONE WIN AWAY: Following a 10-7 win over the Rochester Knighthawks at the Scotiabank Saddledome last Saturday, the Calgary Roughnecks are one win away from capturing their third National Lacrosse League title. The K-Hawks will host Game 2 of the NLL’s Champion’s Cup at Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night (6 p.m.). If the Riggers win, they’ll hoist the Champion’s Cup for the third time in franchise history (the others were in 2004 and 2009). “We’re coming in to play 60 minutes of hard lacrosse and we’re playing against a world-class lacrosse club,” said Calgary coach Curt Malawsky. “We’re going to need to be at our best. We need to be better than we were the previous Saturday. It’s a big mountain to climb and our guys are prepared and confident and we’re excited to play.” If Rochester wins, the two teams will play a 10-minute tiebreaker game immediately following Game 2 to determine the 2014 league champion. “We know we’ve got to come into our rink and play a heckuva lot better than we did last week,” said Rochester bench boss Mike Hasen. “We need to be so much better in order to be able to compete. If we’re able to get to that 10 minutes, then we’ll see and go from there. But it’s concentrating on that first faceoff, those first five minutes and going from there.”
RIGGERS DRAW FIRST BLOOD: Dane Dobbie notched a hat trick and an assist to lead the Roughnecks to victory in Game 1 of the Champion’s Cup final in front of 16,541 boisterous fans at the Scotiabank Saddledome last Saturday. “We’ve got the best crowd in the NLL,” said Malawsky. “I don’t care about what anybody else says. They were our extra guy on the floor. We play with seven guys every night because we’ve got that crowd behind us.” Curtis Dickson scored twice and set up another, while Shawn Evans had a goal and four assists. Scott Ranger also scored twice, while Jeff Shattler (1g, 2a) and Mike Carnegie (1g, 1a) also scored. Daryl Veltman chipped in with four assists. Calgary goalie Mike Poulin was solid in between the pipes as he stopped 36 of 43 shots he faced to pick up the win. “Everybody showed up and I couldn’t have asked for a better time for everybody to play their best game,” Poulin said. “Defensively, I thought we managed the pace of the game. We set the tone and it helps when you’re offence is clicking right away.” Craig Point had two goals for the K-Hawks, while Joe Walters (1g, 3a), Cody Jamieson (1g, 2a), Cory Vitarelli (1g, 1a), Johnny Powless (1g, 1a) and Stephen Keogh (1g) also scored. Matt Vinc made 31 saves in a losing cause.
DANGEROUS DOBBIE: With his four-point performance last Saturday, Dobbie set a franchise record for career playoff points with 62 (32 goals, 30 assists in 14 games). He surpassed the old standard of 60 points previously set by former Roughnecks captain Tracey Kelusky, who finished his career in Calgary with 34 goals and 26 helpers in 13 post-season contests. “It feels good,” said Dobbie of setting the new standard. “I never want to play for another team in this league. There have been a lot of great players through this franchise and there are still a lot of great players here. I’ve played seven years here and I’ve only been to one championship. That’s all that matters to me is winning with these guys in the room.” Malawsky praised Dobbie’s willingness to go to the tough areas to score clutch goals. “You’ve got people that are probably a foot and a half taller than him just trying to break his wrists,” Malawsky said. “All that does is fuel Dobbie’s fire. You want to take his head off, he’s going to go right of the middle of the floor. That’s what competitors are. That’s what warriors do.”
ROUGHNECKS VS. KNIGHTHAWKS: Calgary and Rochester met once in the 2014 regular season on Feb. 22 at the Scotiabank Saddledome and it was the Riggers who prevailed over the K-Hawks 11-10 thanks to a clutch goal by Dobbie. Dickson and Shattler each scored twice in the final frame before Dobbie’s hat-trick goal stood up as the game winner to the delight of the 9,207 fans in attendance. “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. 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) Karsen Leung (1g, 1a), Garrett McIntosh (1g) and Curtis Manning (1g) also scored. Evans finished with four helpers. Keogh led the way for Rochester with a hat trick and three assists, while Jamieson scored twice and set up five others. Walters (2g, 2a), Powless (2g, 1a), Joel McCready (1g, 4a) and Dan Dawson (4a) also had multiple-point performances, while Vinc finished with 32 saves.
DID YOU KNOW?: Until this year, the Roughnecks and Knighthawks had 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 in the regular season against Rochester, while the K-Hawks are 3-1 at their home arena against the Riggers.
WHAT A RUSH: The Roughnecks punched their ticket to the Champion’s Cup final 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. 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. 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 was our motto, to grind them down and remember who we are,” Malawsky said. 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 Dobbie also had a hat trick to go with one helper. Ranger and Veltman had two goals and two assists each, while Dickson scored once and set up four others. Jon Harnett and Shattler chipped in with a goal and an assist each, while 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 Scotiabank 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.
MOUSE’S MUSINGS: Although the Roughnecks opened the Champion’s Cup final with a win in Game 1, Malawsky said his squad hasn’t accomplished anything yet. “There’s zero comfort level in that,” Malawsky said. “You walk into that game (in Rochester on Saturday) thinking you’ve got a buffer, you might as well not even show up to play. We’ll take the experience that we had in the playoff round against Edmonton. We’re going to use that to our advantage – take the positives out of the situation we were in before.” 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 he and his teammates will be in for a tough battle at the Blue Cross Arena, where the K-Hawks have compiled an 8-1 record this year. “Obviously, one of the toughest barns to play in in the NLL and that’s evident by the Rochester Knighthawks’ home record,” said McBride, who helped the Riggers win both of their previous NLL titles in ’04 and ’09. “It’s going to be a really tough test. Their big bruising defence really went to work (last weekend) and it was a close game down the stretch. We’re going to have to be prepared in a hostile environment and be ultra-focused right off the bat to get the job done. We expect nothing but the best from the two-time champs. Champions show their will when they need to, so it’s going to be a big test for us and we’ll be ready.”
PLAYOFF MILESTONES WITHIN REACH
– Having set a new standard for post-season points, Dane Dobbie is within striking distance of yet another franchise playoff record. Tracey Kelusky still holds the franchise mark for post-season goals with 34. With three more goals, Dobbie will surpass Kelusky in that category as well.
– Jeff Shattler is right behind Dobbie in the race to finish the post-season as the franchise record holder for playoff points. With 60 career playoff points (21g, 39a), Shattler is just two behind Dobbie, although he has played in three more career post-season contests. Shattler has already set a franchise record for career playoff assists.
– Shawn Evans is five points away from setting a new NLL record for points in a single playoff year. Dan Dawson set the current standards for goals (15), assists (16) and points (31) in a single playoff year in three games with the Portland LumberJax in 2008. Through five post-season games this year, Evans leads all players with 11 goals (tied with Dobbie and just one ahead of Curtis Dickson) and 16 assists for 27 points. By setting up one more goal, Evans will surpass Dawson’s record of 16 playoff assists, albeit in more games played.