CALGARY, AB – The Calgary Roughnecks appeared to be cruising to a win over the Vancouver Stealth in their National Lacrosse League home opener on Saturday night.
Then the Stealth stunned the 11,563 fans in attendance at the Scotiabank Saddledome by scoring 11 straight goals to build up a 15-9 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The ’Necks responded with goals by Curtis Dickson and Shawn Evans to pull back within four goals before eventually suffering an 18-14 setback.
“Maybe our guys, it’s a bit of a reality check early in the season,” said Calgary coach Curt Malawsky. “You get back in the ’Dome, you think you have a comfort level and thinks like this come to you. I think that’s a big lesson learned and not that we needed it. Hard work gets things done, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing. If you come out there and expect to win and are not willing to win, you’re going to come out on the short end.”
Jeff Shattler recorded a natural hat trick in the second quarter to give Calgary a 9-4 lead over Vancouver, a team that the Riggers beat all four times they played them last season.
“We had a game plan and we executed it in the first half it felt like,” said Shattler. “I think offensively we have to get off (the floor) a little bit faster. They had a lot of transition goals and they capitalized on some bad shots from the outside. Myself included, I think we were just a little bit lazy on the front end and they capitalized on the back end. They’ve got some fast guys that took a lot of breakaways on us. They really capitalized on it and took the lead and they never looked back.”
Led by four goals and five assists by Rhys Duch, the Stealth found a way to end their losing streak against their Canadian NLL rivals. The same two teams will face each other three more times this season including a home-and-home affair on Feb. 14 that Vancouver will host at the Langley Events Centre and a rematch a week later at the ’Dome.
Dane Dobbie led the Calgary scoring attack with four goals and one assist, while Curtis Dickson had a hat trick and three helpers. Shawn Evans scored twice and set up five others, while Geoff Snider (1g, 2a) and Mike Carnegie (1g) also scored.
“Losing is not fun and we’ll see how these 25 guys rebound from it,” Dobbie said. “We didn’t pull our weight up front and that’s one thing we’ve got to look at during the week and respond next week.”
Mike Poulin and Frankie Scigliano combined to make 30 saves in the Calgary net, but Roughnecks captain Andrew McBride refused to blame them for the setback.
“I think we hung our goalies out to dry a few times,” McBride said. “We allowed a lot of easy shots, a lot of transition shots, a lot of scrambling and breakaways and power plays. That’s the difference in this league. When you don’t come and execute on the special teams … you’re not going to be successful.”
Tyler Digby and Ilija Gajic each had a hat trick and assist for the Stealth, while Vancouver goalie Tyler Richards stopped 48 of 62 shots he faced to record the win. Tyler Hass, Caleb Wiles and Tyler Burton each scored twice, while Lewis Ratcliff and Joel McCready also scored.
A great defensive play by Carnegie led to the first Calgary goal of the 2015 season at 1:35 of the first period. Carnegie intercepted a pass in his own zone before running the length of the floor and snapping a shot past Richards.
Justin Salt had a great chance to tie things up a short time later for the Stealth, but his hard shot rang off the post behind Poulin. At the other end of the floor, Richards stood his ground to stop a shot fired his way by Matthew Dinsdale.
Dobbie put the Riggers up 2-0 when he converted a nice feed from Evans for a quick-stick goal at 7:32 of the first. Then, with Garrett McIntosh in the penalty box serving a high-sticking major penalty, Dickson gave the ’Necks a 3-0 lead when he drove hard to the net and snuck a shot past Richards for a short-handed goal.
After Digby and Duch cut into Calgary’s leads with a pair of power-play goals, Snider replied with another short-handed marker after he won the faceoff, kept the ball and scored what the announcer referred to as a ‘selfie.’
With McIntosh still in the box serving his major penalty, Malawsky pulled Poulin for an extra attacker and the move paid off as Dobbie scored to put the Riggers up 5-2 with 39.8 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
Hass then scored at 2:19 of the second quarter for the Stealth before Dobbie completed his hat trick with yet another short-handed goal 89 seconds later.
Duch replied with a power-play goal for the Stealth before Shattler scored a trio of goals in a span of 1:42 – the last two just six seconds apart – to increase Calgary’s lead to 9-4.
Undeterred, the Stealth battled back with three straight goals of their own by Burton, Wiles and Gajic to cut the deficit to just two goals before the half-time intermission.
Vancouver then pulled even early in the third quarter with back-to-back goals five seconds apart by Digby and Burton before McCready put the Stealth up 10-9 at 8:18 of the third when he converted a nice feed from Johnny Powless.
Digby, Duch and Wiles counted goals late in the third quarter for Vancouver before Haas and Gajic scored early in the fourth to put the Stealth up 15-9.
Calgary refused to give up as the Riggers scored five of the next seven goals – two each by Dickson and Evans one by Dobbie – to pull within three, but that’s as close as they could get.
Next up, the Roughnecks will head south to Denver for a game against the Colorado Mammoth next Saturday night before returning to the friendly confines of the ’Dome on Jan. 24 when they’ll face off against the Edmonton Rush.
“This is a veteran group of guys,” McBride said. “There’s not going to be any panic. There’s not going to be any finger pointing. You’ve just got to look inside yourself and be ready to go.