CALGARY, AB — So close yet so far.

The Calgary Roughnecks were able to stave off the top offence in the West for three quarters but in the end just couldn’t shield the Saskatchewan Rush from the scoreboard when it mattered most.

In front of a raucous playoff crowd of 12,211 tonight on home floor of the Scotiabank Saddledome, the Riggers surrendered eight goals in the final period en route to a 16-10 Game 1 loss to the reigning Champion’s Cup titleholders.

Saskatchewan leads this best-of-three West Division Final 1-0 as the series shifts to Saskatoon next Saturday for Game 2 and, if the Roughnecks have any say in the matter, a mini tiebreaker.

Game time at SaskTel Centre is 7:30 p.m.

“It’s a game of inches,” said Necks bench boss Curt Malawsky, who remained upbeat following the setback despite his squad dropping all five meetings against the Rush this season. “It was not, I repeat, it was not for a lack of effort. Sometimes it comes down to execution and you need the bounces and breaks through a game, but we didn’t get those tonight. I thought we generated some good chances and, for the most part, kept our composure.”

Jarrett Davis opened the scoring just over a minute in for the visiting Rush when he made no mistake on a nifty cross-floor feed from Dan Taylor.

The Riggers, though, wasted no time striking back.

Rookie forward Reilly O’Connor, with his first-career National Lacrosse League playoff goal, answered back only 26 seconds later when he rifled a perfectly placed shot past Rush netminder Aaron Bold from the outside.

It was game on.

The Rush regained the lead at 3:38, before Calgary sniper Curtis Dickson – the franchise’s new single season record holder for goals – notched his first of three on the night only 42 seconds later to knot the affair at 2-2.

The visitors eventually turned a 4-3 first quarter advantage into a 6-5 lead by halftime.

“Our defence played well all night and kept us in the game, but there was a bit of a letdown in the fourth unfortunately,” said a dissatisfied Dickson, who has potted eight goals during this Calgary playoff run. “Offensively, we had our chances, but we’ll just have to put the ball in when it counts. I had three tonight, but I probably could have had 10 with the chances I had. Luckily, we live to see another day.”

Jeremy Thompson extended Saskatchewan’s lead to 7-5 a mere six seconds into the second half, however the Necks – as they continued to do through the first three quarters – found a way to claw their way back.

Three straight goals within a span of 1:41 by the usual suspects of Dane Dobbie, Tyler Digby and Dickson provided Calgary with its first lead of the contest at the three-minute mark of the third quarter.

Facing each other in a division final for a third time, the see-saw battle, fittingly, came down to the rivals entering the fourth quarter deadlocked at 8-8.

Unfortunately for the Necks, the outcome they were so close to attaining wouldn’t come to fruition.

“A couple calls didn’t go our way and they were able to capitalize and pull away,” said Dickson, whose Riggers booked their ticket to the West Division Final with a dramatic 11-10 overtime victory over the Colorado Mammoth last Saturday in Denver. “We know we can play with these guys. It’s obviously going to be a tough atmosphere to play in next week, but we’ll have to play a good 60 minutes to give ourselves a chance for a mini game.”

Malawsky says his side will remain positive as this series now shifts to Saskatoon.

“Even if we won tonight we would still have to win there, so our situation isn’t any different than two or three hours ago. We’ll just have to go out and win a 60-minute game and then win a 10-minute mini game,” shrugged a confident Malawsky, still liking his team’s chances. “We played on the edge all season long, but we have lots of experience in our room. We also have a lot of pissed off guys in there right now that will want to come back with their best effort next week.

“I know we’ll be ready to compete.”

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