LANGLEY, BC — The Calgary Roughnecks suffered a heart-breaking 14-13 overtime loss to the Vancouver Stealth at the Langley Events Centre on Saturday night.
The Roughnecks (3-5) built up leads of 6-0 and 12-5 before the Stealth (3-4) reeled off eight straight goals in front of the squad’s hometown fans.
Calgary rookie Reilly O’Connor then scored with 8.9 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime, but it was Vancouver forward Corey Small who completed his hat trick at 1:16 of the extra session to give the Stealth the thrilling come-from-behind victory.
“The NLL’s a funny animal,” said Calgary coach Curt Malawsky following the disappointing setback. “Sometimes you’re on the right end of it, other time’s you’re not. We came back from a big deficit against (the Georgia Swarm) and we were able to battle back. Tonight it wasn’t our game. We’ve got to move by it.”
Curtis Dickson had five goals and one assist in the first half as the ’Necks built up an 8-3 lead before the Stealth defence limited him to just three more helpers the rest of the way.
“Great first half, great start to the second half and then obviously a collapse,” said Dickson, who nonetheless finished with a nine points to lead all scorers. “We’ve got to figure out a way to play a full 60 minutes. You can’t let your foot off the gas pedal and let teams back in the games, no matter how big your lead is. That’s something we’ve got to figure out.”
Tyler Digby recorded a hat trick and three helpers against his old team, while Jeff Shattler scored once and set up five others. O’Connor finished with two goals and four assists, while Dan MacRae and Karsen Leung also scored.
Frankie Scigliano started in net for the ’Necks and stopped 27 of 38 shots he faced. In a relief appearance, goalie Mike Poulin turned aside 14 of 17 shots fired his way, but he wasn’t able to stop Small in OT and wound up taking the loss.
“It definitely defines character of a man being in a game like that and coming out on the short end of it,” Malawsky said. “We’ll see how our guys respond. The positive thing to me when I walked in the room after the game is the guys were just pissed. You like to see that in the respect that they care. They care so much.”
Rhys Duch led the Stealth with four goals and four assists, while Small and Jordan Durston both recorded hat tricks and two helpers. Logan Schuss scored once and set up seven others, while Garrett Billings (2g, 6a) and Joel McCready (1g, 2a) also chipped in offensively.
Eric Penney got the start for the Stealth, but was pulled after giving up four goals on 11 shots. Veteran goalie Tyler Richards, who came out of retirement to join the Stealth this past week, went on to make 31 saves in a relief appearance to record the win.
MacRae opened the scoring at 3:14 of the first when he fired a long-range shot into the top corner over Penney’s right shoulder.
Dickson then scored his first of the night before setting up a goal by Digby and adding two more of his own.
The Riggers then went up 6-0 thanks to a breakaway goal by Leung with 24 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
After Vancouver scored the first three goals of the second quarter, Dickson counted back-to-back goals to give Calgary an 8-3 lead.
Dickson’s fifth goal of the game was a thing of beauty. He took a pass from Wesley Berg during a Calgary man advantage and backhanded a no-look bounce shot through his own legs and past Richards.
“That’s just one of those desperation, last-ditch things,” Dickson explained. “Bergy made a nice pass to the middle there and I just kind of chucked it through the legs and lucky enough it found a hole.”
The ’Necks surrendered the first two goals of the second half before Shattler took a pass from Digby and snapped a shot past Richards to go up 9-5 at 4:04 of the third quarter.
Shattler then returned the favour and set up Digby for a power play goal 97 seconds later. O’Connor and Digby, with his hat-trick goal, then scored to give the Riggers what seemed to be a comfortable 12-5 lead.
The Vancouver offence then erupted for four goals in 83 seconds late in the third quarter and four more in the fourth to go up by a goal.
Calgary didn’t quit, though, as O’Connor took a pass from Tyler Melnyk before snapping a long-range bounce shot past Richards to force overtime.
Next up, the Riggers will host the Saskatchewan Rush in an afternoon affair (2 p.m.) at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Sunday, Feb. 28.
“Obviously we know it’s a long season,” Dickson said. “We’ve got lots of time left here. At the same time, these are games we want to win that really matter at the end of the year. We can’t be happy. We’ve got to take what we did wrong from this game and get ready to move on and battle obviously a good Saskatchewan team next week.”