They understood full well that Fort Knox might’ve been simpler to breach. Or Helm’s Deep.

“We knew,’’ said skipper Mike Carnegie, “it was going to be a tight game the whole way. They don’t give up much. That’s expected. We talked about it going in.

“Our will to compete and to win is not at the level it needs to be in the NLL.

“That’s basically what it is.”

Carnegie, understand, isn’t one to tap-dance, Fred Astaire-style, around the niceties of a loss or a sub-par performance.

Sunday afternoon, the Calgary Roughnecks flirted with a dubious sort of history, barely scraping past the franchise low for goals – six, set twice, the last time March 14, 2008 – in an 11-7 loss to the Toronto Rock.

Outside of five-goal Curtis (Superman) Dickson, who had his cape in full billow and biceps bulging, Calgary’s attack offered previous little venom.

The Rock, backstopped by goaltender Nick Rose, are the stingiest bunch around, having been dinged for only 35 goals over their opening four fixtures.

So this is a group not in the habit of giving much, if anything, away gratis.

“Their unit, their 10, played very well,’’ acknowledged Carnegie. “They just let Nicky see all the shots from the outside. We sorta catered to that. We’ve got to get in the middle, make them move more, right? Make them swing the ball east-west.

“And play a heavier game. You’ve got to be willing to the pay the price and I thought we played a bit of perimeter game tonight.

And once again, the ‘Necks found themselves chasing, chasing, chasing.

A 1-1 first quarter into a 6-2 halftime deficit (those two goals tying the franchise low in a half). As the ‘Necks began to press to manufacture offence rather than let it flow organically, they began to accumulate a catalogue of missed shots, passed up chances.

A late push, three goals in a three-minute span in the final quarter, clawed them to within three, 10-7. But that’s as close as they’d come.

“We talk about that urgency,’’ said coach Curt Malawsky. “It seems like we play with that urgency when we’re down. We’ve got to come out of the gate with that urgency.

“For whatever reason, guys have got to find that internal motivation. When we are down and we’re battling, that’s the Roughnecks that we need to see, so we have to try to create that early in the game and that way the other team has to put the neck on the chopping block and extend themselves.

“Tonight we had to put our neck on the chopping block. The next thing you know, two goal turns into three goal and then you’re chasing your tail a little bit, like I’ve said in the past.

“We’ve got to find it internally.”

Dickson certainly did his bit, lashing the ‘Necks onto his DC Comics superhero shoulders and attempting to drag them back into contention. The five goals he scored in Sunday’s matinee pushed his league-leading total to 22.

But he could’ve used a bit of help from his pals.

“We can’t just leave it to one or two guys,’’ Wesley Berg, who, along with Dane Dobbie, were the only non-Dickson locals to dent Rose’s defensive fortification.

“Offence is a funny thing. When things are going for you, it seems you don’t think about anything, it just happens and balls end up in the back of the net.

“It’s like hockey. Sometimes when things aren’t going well you press and you’re shooting even before you get the puck. Trying to pick corners, be too careful.

“We weren’t terrible but there were five-to-10-minute stretches where we weren’t very good at all.

“We tried to will our way back. Our defence and goaltending were great and we didn’t quit offensively. But you can’t score two goals in a half and expect to win in this league. Ever.”

So Calgary, now 3-3 on the season losers on consecutive weekends, must now regroup for a visit by the Vancouver Stealth on Saturday, needing a win to split this four-game homestand.

More bit up front and a better start will obviously be key.

Even factoring in Toronto’s protection-first team policy and Rose’s miserly numbers, Carnegie felt the game was still there for the taking.

“We dug ourselves a bit of a hole,’’ he conceded, “but it was still very achievable to come back.

“I’ve seen us come back down three or four.

“We just need to have that faith to know we can come back in a game like that.

“We got to work as team on having that confidence, that belief. Doesn’t matter what happens, we can handle the highs and lows in a game and win.

“It’s a team thing. We’ve got to fix it.

“And I think we know how.”

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