CALGARY, AB — Despite a late rally, the Calgary Roughnecks dropped a 12-9 decision to the Saskatchewan Rush in front of a raucous sold-out crowd of 15,192 fans at the SaskTel Centre on Saturday.
After falling to the Rush 16-10 at the Scotiabank Saddledome one week earlier, the Roughnecks needed to win Game 2 of the NLL’s West Division Final in Saskatoon to force a 10-minute tiebreaker game.
“We battled all the way to the end,” said Calgary goalie Mike Poulin, who stopped 36 of 47 shots he faced in a losing cause. “We gave it everything we had. The ball dropped for them and we couldn’t seem to get the breaks ourselves. They outworked us and they earned tonight’s win.”
Trailing 12-6 in the fourth quarter, the Riggers rallied to pull to within three thanks to a goal by Dane Dobbie and two off the stick of Tyler Digby, including his fourth of the night with 50 seconds left in regulation.
Unfortunately for the ’Necks, their rally came up short as the defending NLL champs hung on for the victory to move onto the best-of-three Champion’s Cup final series against the Buffalo Bandits, who knocked out the New England Black Wolves earlier on Saturday by virtue of a two-game sweep in the East Division Final.
“It’s disappointing,” summed up Calgary coach Curt Malawsky. “I thought we had a good game plan going in. I thought their goalie played well. I’m not making any excuses, just a matter of fact – we had six goal posts. Maybe those go the other way, you talk about shifting momentum and that would be the best way to do it is score.”
’Necks captain Mike Carnegie concurred with Malawsky’s assessment.
“I thought we battled really hard,” Carnegie said. “I honestly thought it was a really good lacrosse game to be in. It was fast and it was high tempo. We just kept getting chances and chances and we ran the floor well. Every D guy had a shot on net.
“We hit like a zillion post, but those are the breaks right. In a playoff game, I thought if we got a couple it may have changed the tide, but hats off to Saskatchewan, obviously a fantastic team. There’s a reason they’re the champions.”
Dobbie finished the game with a pair of goals and one assist, while Reilly O’Connor had four helpers. Wesley Berg and Curtis Dickson tallied a goal and two assists each, while Peter McFetridge scored once and set up another.
Zach Greer scored four times and assisted on two others for Edmonton, while fellow Rush forward Mark Matthews led all scorers with seven points on two goals and five helpers.
Robert Church and Ben McIntosh had two goals each, while John LaFontaine and Adrian Sorichetti also scored for Edmonton, while goalie Aaron Bold finished with 39 saves.
After Church opened the scoring for Edmonton at 4:11 of the first quarter, Bold stood his ground to make a pair of nice saves on Dickson and Dobbie to keep Calgary off the board.
Not to be outdone, Poulin stopped a bounce shot off the stick of McIntosh a short time later.
Digby then snapped a shot to the short side past Bold at 11:47 of the opening frame before Poulin made a leg save to turn aside a penalty shot attempt by Greer 1:27 later.
Greer and Matthews scored goals 25 seconds apart early in the second quarter to give the Rush a 3-1 lead before Berg fired a shot from the slot past Bold to pull the Riggers back within a goal.
Church scored his second of the game for Edmonton during a man advantage for the Rush before Dobbie responded with a power-play goal for the ’Necks.
McIntosh then converted a feed from Church with 48 seconds to play in the first half to give Edmonton a 5-3 lead.
After LaFontaine and McIntosh scored for the Rush in the third quarter, McFetridge replied for Calgary by flicking a shot past Bold while on his knees.
Sorichetti answered right back for Edmonton before Dickson whipped a sidearm shot past bold for a power-play goal for the Riggers at the 13-minute mark of the third.
Digby snuck a seeing-eye shot to the top corner past Bold at 2:04 of the final frame before the Rush went on a four-goal run – three of them by Greer – to take a 12-6 lead.
“We got one to get to 8-6,” said Malawsky. “That was an opportunity where we need to keep that momentum going. They’re a good team. They bounced right back.”
Unwilling to go down quietly, the Riggers made a late push to knot up the score and force a tiebreaker game, but they were unable to accomplish that mission.
“To beat these guys you’ve got to play a full 60 and tonight I don’t think we pulled off a full 60,” said veteran Riggers forward Jeff Shattler, who finished the game with two assists. “We battled right to the end and that’s why I love this team and I love these guys.
“We never gave up – no quit attitude and we went right to the very end. That’s why I think we’re going to be a dominant team coming into next year. That’s all we can say. We have to look forward to next year and put this behind us. It hurts a lot.”