CALGARY, AB – The Calgary Roughnecks came up short in their bid for a second straight Champion’s Cup appearance on Saturday night.
After falling to the Edmonton Rush 10-8 at Rexall Place on May 15, the Roughnecks needed to win Game 2 at the Scotiabank Saddledome to force a ten minute tie-breaker game.
The Roughnecks accomplished part one of the task with a convincing 12-9 victory over the Rush in Game 2, but after taking an early 1-0 lead in the ensuing tie-breaking game, the Rush answered back with four straight markers to prevail and move on to the best-of-three Champion’s Cup Final series against the Toronto Rock, who knocked out the defending champion Rochester Knighthawks earlier with an 8-2 win in a ten minute tie-breaker game.
The championship series marks the first time in league history two Canadian teams will battle for the NLL title.
“We were right down to it and we couldn’t quite get one at the end,” Riggers’ coach Curt Malawsky said following the game. “We did our job, we never quit. We played with our heads and we played with our hearts all season long. To keep believing and have that resiliency and not get rewarded for it is going to take a long time to get over that.”
“I think these guys learned a lot about themselves because I sure did. It’s a special group of warriors we have in that room. It’s a tough way to end the season.”
Dane Dobbie scored the Riggers’ lone goal in the tie-breaker sending the 12,785 fans to their feet. That was all the offence Calgary could muster in the extra game as Mark Mathews – who was held without a goal in Game 2 – scored twice, once into an empty net to seal the series for Edmonton.
“He got held and dragging guys to the net all game long and he didn’t get deterred.” Malawsky said of Dickson. “He just kept doing his job and he’s a world-class player and a world-class person. For him to score that one at the end to clinch the first game was fitting.”
Rookie Ben McIntosh and Jeff Cornwall – with an empty netter – finished the scoring for the Rush.
“I think in a game like this everyone can look at themselves in the mirror and be proud of the effort they gave,” Roughnecks’ long-time captain Andrew McBride said, choking up. “It’s a tough break, sports is a cruel beast. You battle so hard and it comes down to ten minutes and you get the first goal and can’t get the job done.”
Curtis Dickson paced the Riggers offence in Game 2 with a four goal effort. Shawn Evans and Dobbie also recorded hat-tricks. Geoff Snider and Jeff Shattler rounded out the scoring for Calgary with one goal each. Evans also had four assists to finish with 7 points.
Edmonton’s attack was led by Robert Church – sidelined with an injury in Game 1 – with three goals. Riley Loewen and Zack Greer each had a pair of goals while Jeremy Thompson and Ryan Dilks scored once. Mark Matthews had three assists in the contest.
The majority of the offence in Game 2 came in the opening half. The Roughnecks took control early when Jeff Moleski found Dickson off the bench in transition. Dickson faked far-side and dumped the ball short-side to open the scoring. Calgary would find the net two more times to open up an early 3-0 lead. First, Shattler’s quick-stick beat a sprawling Aaron Bold and then Dane Dobbie – while shorthanded – broke through the middle and popped the ball over Bold’s shoulder for the three-goal advantage.
Edmonton would storm back and quickly erase their three-goal deficit in just 1:14. With Mike Carnegie serving a roughing penalty, Snider was called for checking-from-behind. When play stopped, Greg Harnett was whistled for roughing. The third infraction meant the Rush had an automatic penalty shot and Greer converted to get the Rush on the board while still holding a two-man advantage for a full two minutes.
Edmonton would capitalize twice on the powerplay – first it was Church and then Loewen with goals to draw even.
Edmonton didn’t take their collective feet off of the pedal scoring four more times before the opening quarter was complete. Loewen and Greer each scored their second of the game and singles from Thompson and Dilks opened up a four-goal lead for the visiting team.
That would end the night for starter Frankie Scigliano and veteran Mike Poulin – who hadn’t seen significant action since Apr. 11 – would replace him and finish out the game as well as shoulder all ten minutes of the tie-breaker.
Poulin was stellar in relief of Scigliano, only surrendering two goals on 31 shots in just over three quarters of play in Game 2.
“I thought Mike Poulin came in and played outstanding,” McBride said. “You want to talk about a character guy, you want to talk about a testament to a guy that stuck to the plan all year in a bad situation for himself. He wanted to be the starter. A character guy like that gets rewarded and he came out and absolutely saved the game for us.”
The Roughnecks responded in the second quarter with six unanswered goals. Dickson got things started when he struck with a knuckle-ball underhand shot that eluded Bold. Evans not only found the back of the net twice on hard outside shots but also had the assist of the night while sprawling behind the net managed to flip the ball to a streaking Dobbie who one-timed it in the corner.
With Greer in the box for roughing, Dobbie would complete his hat-trick with an outside bounce shot that also restored the lead for the Riggers making it 8-7. Geoff Snider then put the Roughnecks up by a pair and the Riggers took a 9-7 lead into the half.
Edmonton finally solved Poulin with the lone goal in the third quarter. Church buried his second of the game to give the Rush some life heading into the fourth quarter.
Evans completed his hat-trick and restored Calgary’s two-goal lead with another hard outside shot that beat Bold. Church would answer quickly for his third of the game when he spun off a Calgary defender and beat Poulin to make it a 10-9 game with less than ten minutes left.
Dickson then collected his hat-trick goal and added an empty netter with 14.8 seconds left to put the final nail in the coffin for the Rush and force the tie-breaker game.
“It’s tough coming of the high of winning that second game and then having to bear down in that ten minute overtime,” Dickson said. “We’ve been on both sides of that, last year we won one and lost one. You can’t complain, the format is the way it is and you’ve got to be able to regroup and come out and play well.
“It was a defensive battle in the second half and it carried over into the mini-game. They were able to stifle our offence and we weren’t able to put the ball past them.”