By: Laurence Heinen – 30.12.23
Josh Sanderson earned his first NLL victory as a head coach on Saturday at the Rough House in front of 13,405 appreciative fans.
After dropping a pair of road decisions earlier in December, the Roughnecks (1-2) responded in a big way for their new coach as they downed the Las Vegas Desert Dogs 17-11 in their home opener on WestJet Field at Scotiabank Saddledome.
“I’m just happy for the guys,” said Sanderson, who helped the Roughnecks win an NLL championship title back in 2009 as a player. “We put the work in over the break. It was a little tricky coming off three weeks. They put the work in and played a way better 60 minutes than the first two, I thought.”
Haiden Dickson scored four goals and added an assist, while captain Jesse King chipped in with a hat trick and six helpers.
Josh Currier and Thomas Hoggarth had two goals apiece, while Tyler Pace, Dan Taylor, Tanner Cook, Liam LeClair, Shane Simpson and Seth Van Schepen also scored.
Goalie Christian Del Bianco stopped 34-of-45 shots he faced to pick up the win and chipped in with an assist as well.
For the third straight game, Dickson opened the scoring for the ’Necks at 3:04 of the first quarter to even things up at 1-1.
After falling behind 2-1, the Riggers responded with three straight goals by Currier, Hoggarth and Cook to take a two goal lead.
King converted a great pass from Taylor late in the opening frame to give the home side a 5-3 advantage.
After Pace scored 55 seconds into the second quarter, the visitors replied with two quick tallies to pull within a goal.
Simpson then took a long-range pass from Del Bianco (it has to rank up there as one of the reigning NLL MVP’s longest and most accurate passes of his career) and scored a highlight-reel breakaway goal to put the Riggers up 7-5.
The see-saw scoring affair continued as the Desert Dogs responded right back before Hoggarth notched his second of the night.
After another goal by the visitors, the hometown favourites caught fire as King and LeClair scored late goals in the first half before the Riggers continued their six-goal run with goals by King, Josh Currier, Van Schepen and Dickson early in the third.
The Dogs responded with a three-goal run of their own before the ’Necks put the game away in the final frame by outscoring their opponents 3-1 as Dickson, with two more, and Taylor did the damage.
“I loved playing here and I also liked coming in as a visitor just because of the atmosphere in the rink. I’m just really happy to be back on the home side for sure. I thought the crowd was great. I thought they really helped us with some momentum – especially we get that one and then we get another one. Hats off to the crowd. It was just a great win for us. We’re going to enjoy New Year’s.”
“Obviously we didn’t want to dig too deep of a hole here. We’ve got another bye coming and a couple tough games after that. We wanted to take care of business at home and then reset on the bye week again and then get back to work.”
BY THE NUMBERS:
Jesse King 3g, 6a
Haiden Dickson 3g, 1a
Josh Currier 2g, 2a
Thomas Hoggarth 2g
Tyler Pace 1g, 5a
Dan Taylor 1g, 3a
Tanner Cook 1g, 3a
Liam LeClair 1g, 1a
Shane Simpson 1g
Seth Van Schepen 1g
Zach Currier 1a, 8 loose balls (3 away from 1,000 for his career)
Bennett Smith 1a (first NLL point)
Jeff Cornwall 1a
Ethan Ticehurst 1a
Christian Del Bianco 34 saves, 1a
“It’s definitely good to get the first goal, obviously, but it’s just like, we’ve got to keep going. That’s just going through our plays and everything like that. Everyone’s working as a team, so it was good.” – Haiden Dickson
“It’s wild in (the Rough House). It was super loud, so it’s a great experience when you first get out there. I think the last time I was here was in 2019 with Buffalo, when we lost in the finals, and it was electric then. So I was quite happy to be on the other side this time. It’s honestly like having an extra player out there because they’re cheering so loud, and I think we feed off that.” – Thomas Hoggarth
After ringing in the New Year in style following their first win of the season, the Riggers will enjoy a bit of a break before they travel to Vancouver to face former coach Curt Malawsky and the Warriors at Rogers Arena on Saturday, Jan. 13.