CALGARY, AB – With a 10-7 win over the Rochester Knighthawks on Saturday, the Calgary Roughnecks moved one step closer to capturing their third Champion’s Cup in franchise history.
Dane Dobbie had a hat trick and an assist to lead the Roughnecks to victory in Game 1 of the National Lacrosse League final series in front of 16,541 boisterous fans at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday.
“We’ve got the best crowd in the NLL,” said Calgary coach Curt 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.”
Dobbie agreed with his coach’s assessment.
“What an atmosphere tonight was,” Dobbie said. “We have the best crowd in the league, bar none. What a game, what a ride it was.”
With his four-point performance, 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.
“Tracey’s one of my favourite guys I’ve ever played with here,” Dobbie said. “He taught me a lot about this game my first few years in this league. What a character guy and a heart-and-soul guy. If I take just a couple things that Tracey taught me, I should be successful. I love the guy. He was an unbelievable captain for us for many years. I never knew I beat that record, but it’s good stuff.”
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 just trying to break his wrists,” Malawsky said. “They’re not trying to dislodge the ball. They’re trying to break his wrists and break his arm. 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 warrior’s do.”
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 three 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), Cory Vitarelli (1g, 2a), Cody Jamieson (1g, 2a), Johnny Powless (1g, 1a) and Stephen Keogh (1g) also scored. Matt Vinc made 31 saves in a losing cause.
Shattler scored a quick-stick goal early in the first quarter when he converted a feed from Evans before Ranger notched a shorthanded goal at 9:35 of the opening frame to put the Riggers up 2-0.
After Keogh counted a power-play goal for the K-Hawks, Dickson scored late in the first before Ranger added another for the ’Necks early in the second.
Powless and Point then scored for Rochester before Dobbie replied with back-to-back goals 34 seconds apart to putt Calgary up 6-3.
“You’ve got to work hard and you’ve got to get to the dirty areas of the floor to make plays,” Dobbie said. “I think we really bought into that. Guys were taking a hit to make a play tonight and sacrificing to bodies and it paid off.”
After Dickson scored at 13:49 of the second to put the Riggers up by four goals, Walters responded with a goal for the K-Hawks 18 seconds later.
Although they outshot the K-Hawks 12-11 in the third, the ’Necks couldn’t find a way to solve Vinc, while Vitarelli and Point fired shots past Poulin to pull Rochester within a goal heading into the fourth quarter.
Dobbie completed his hat trick at 2:07 of the final frame before Carnegie and Evans added goals to put the Riggers up 10-6.
Jamieson scored with 9.9 seconds left in regulation to pull the K-Hawks within three goals, but that’s as close as they would get.
The Roughnecks will now travel to Rochester for Game 2 next Saturday (6 p.m.) at the Blue Cross Arena. 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).
“From the young guys to Mike Poulin being our best player tonight, we’re really playing solid lacrosse as a team,” said Calgary captain Andrew McBride. “We’re believing in each other and we’re believing in the guy beside us. Whenever you have that feeling in the locker room that you don’t want to let someone down beside you, it’s a good feeling to have and we’ve got to continue that next week in Rochester.”
With a Knighthawks win at home next Saturday, the two teams will play a 10-minute mini-game immediately following Game 2 to decide the 2014 league champion.
“The job’s not done,” Malawsky said. “It comes down if you win your last game, you’re a champion. All we’ve actually done is earn ourselves an opportunity to compete for that last win. We know there’s still a long road ahead of us and we’re going to take this one and get ready for Rochester next weekend.”