DENVER, CO — The Calgary Roughnecks have made a habit of beating the Colorado Mammoth in the first round of the National Lacrosse League playoffs.
Led by a hat trick of hat tricks by Shawn Evans, Curtis Dickson and Daryl Veltman, the Roughnecks did it again on Saturday as they jumped out to an early lead and cruised to a 11-6 win over the Mammoth in the winner-take-all West Division Semi-Final in front of 16,027 fans at Denver’s Pepsi Center.
“That was pretty much a complete game,” said Calgary coach Curt Malawsky. “I thought our offence did a good job of sharing the ball and I thought our defence battled hard and got in the shooting lanes. When they did get looks at the net, I thought the goaltending did a very good job. Our guys willed themselves to be successful tonight, so I was really proud of the way those guys competed.”
Dating back to 2008, Calgary has now won six straight playoff games – all in the opening round – over Colorado, four at home and two on the road.
With the win, the Riggers will now move on to face the Edmonton Rush, which finished atop the West Division standings with a 13-5 record.
“Playoffs is a brand new season,” Dickson said. “We’ve got to come out ready. We know they’re going to be hungry after last year (when Calgary beat Edmonton in the West Final) and we’re going to be the same. We’ve got a week to prepare here and we’ll be ready to get after it.”
Game 1 of the West Division Final will take place in Edmonton at Rexall Place on Friday, May 15, while the Riggers will host Game 2 on the weekend of May 22-24. If the series ends up being tied at one win apiece, the two teams will play a 10-minute mini-game immediately after Game 2 to determine who will move onto the best-of-three NLL championship.
“They’re an elite team,” said Dobbie of Calgary’s neighbours to the north. “They are the best team in the West for a reason. We played them tough every game we played them this year — except one, they blew us out. We know what they have, they know what we have. It’s going to come down to a battle. Who’s going to work the hardest is probably going to get the win. The coaching staff throws in the game plan mid-week and we go from there to get prepared.”
By virtue of compiling the best record in the West Division, the Rush earned home-field advantage over the ’Necks, but had to give it up due to lack of building availability on the weekend of May 22-24.
Both Evans and Dickson finished with five points as did Dane Dobbie, who scored once and set up four others.
“I think they moved the ball very well tonight,” Calgary goalie Frankie Scigliano said during a post-game interview on TSN. “Every time Colorado scored, we had an answer so that’s big at this stage. We’re going to focus on the next one now.”
Former Mammoth forward Sean Pollock also scored for the Riggers, while Jeff Shattler finished with five helpers.
Scigliano was once again solid in between the pipes for the ’Necks as he finished with 44 saves to record his first-ever playoff victory.
“He’s just been phenomenal,” said Dickson of Scigliano. “It’s week after week now. It’s just become a habit for him. He’s giving us a chance to win every night. Tonight he stood on his head. Holding a team like that with that offensive firepower to six goals it’s pretty phenomenal.”
Rookie Jeremy Noble scored twice for the Mammoth, while John Grant Jr., Drew Westervelt and Eli McLaughlin chipped in with a goal and an assist each. Joey Cupido also scored, while goalies Dillon Ward and Alex Buque combined to stop 40 shots.
Pollock opened the scoring 1:14 into the first quarter when he picked up a rebound in front of the Colorado net before snapping a quick shot past Ward.
After Westervelt responded with a power-play goal for Colorado, Dickson answered back with a goal during a man advantage for Calgary late in the opening frame to put the ’Necks up 2-1.
Evans scored a shorthanded marker 17 seconds into the second quarter before he added an even-strength marker a little less than three minutes later when he shook off a check before wiring a sidearm shot past Ward.
Dobbie then put the Riggers up 5-1 at 4:34 of the second when he took a pass from Daryl Veltman and snapped a low shot in behind Ward.
After McLaughlin converted a feed from Westervelt, Noble score his first-ever NLL playoff goal at 11:40 of the second to pull the Mammoth within a pair of goals.
Just 28 seconds after Noble’s goal, Dickson scored on a wicked sidearm shot before Evans beat Ward through the legs only 37 seconds later to put Calgary up 7-3 before the end of the first half.
Ward stopped 21 of 28 shots he faced in the Colorado net before being replaced by Alex Buque after Evans’ hat-trick marker.
On a breakaway 12 seconds into the second half, Cupido bounced a shot past Scigliano. A short time later during a Calgary power play, Veltman beat Buque to the top corner, stick side before Dickson rifled a low shot from the outside in behind Colorado’s backup netminder to put the Riggers up 9-4.
Noble scored his second of the contest at 10:11 of the third before Grant bounced a shot past Scigliano 3:53 into the final frame to pull Colorado within three goals.
Veltman then scored an almost identical goal to the one he notched a quarter earlier to put Calgary up 10-6 before the game was delayed due to a partial power outage at the Pepsi Center because of a spring snowstorm in Denver.
“We held it together and we stuck together and we came out with the win tonight,” Evans said. “I thought it was an all-around team effort.”
When play resumed, Veltman bounced a shot past Buque to give Calgary a comfortable five-goal lead that the Riggers defended to the final buzzer.
“I expected to be here,” said Malawsky, whose squad started the 2015 NLL season with six straight losses. “It was a long road. I think we’re better for what we went through this year – the adversity, the ups and downs and having to scrap our way to get to the West Final. We’ll enjoy it tonight and we’re going to prepare for a real tough Edmonton team.”