The Calgary Roughnecks clinched first place overall heading into the National Lacrosse League playoffs.
By virtue of a hard-fought 9-6 road win over the Edmonton Rush on Saturday, the Calgary Roughnecks clinched first place overall heading into the National Lacrosse League playoffs.
Shawn Evans scored four times and added two assists to help the Roughnecks (12-4) match their best regular-season record, which they also accomplished back in the 2009 campaign, the same year that they won their second Champion’s Cup.
“You don’t get that kind of record with individual play,” said Evans, who matched career highs for goals (32) and points (79) in a season. “When the team’s playing well, everything else goes well for you.”
Evans previously tallied 79 points in the 2009 season while playing for the Rochester Knighthawks. Evans also had 32 goals last year with the K-Hawks, who traded the 26-year-old forward to the Riggers in the off-season.
“He makes everybody on our team better,” said Calgary coach Dave Pym, who commended all of his players for a bounce-back effort a week after a 14-12 loss in Rochester. “We got huge contributions from a lot of different guys.”
Jeff Shattler had two goals and an assist, while Nolan Heavenor scored twice to triple his goal total for the season.
“He comes in and pots two for us up front that were key, momentum type of goals,” said Pym of Heavenor. “It fired up the bench and got everybody rallying again.”
Dane Dobbie tallied a goal and an assist, Curtis Manning had four helpers, while Scott Ranger and Daryl Veltman set up three goals each.
With Mike Poulin still out of the lineup with a lower-body injury, rookie Frankie Scigliano started his second straight game and made 38 saves to improve his record to 2-1.
“He’s playing well and our defence is doing a great job of taking the middle of the floor away (and) forcing those bad-angle shots,” said Pym during a halftime intermission interview on Sportsnet West. “He’s doing a fantastic job for us.”
The result actually set up a rematch between Calgary and Edmonton (6-9) in the first round of the NLL playoffs. The Roughnecks will host the Rush in the West Division Semi-Final on Saturday, May 5 (7 p.m.) at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“A little redemption on our minds – they knocked us out from our dream a couple years back,” said Pym, referring to the fact that the Rush beat the Riggers 11-7 on May 1, 2010 in Calgary during the first round of the that year’s playoffs. “To be able to get an opportunity to play against a team that did that to you is always nice for some extra motivation.”
Shawn Williams and Aaron Wilson led the Rush attack on Saturday with a goal and two helpers each, while Corey Small had three assists. Brett Mydske, Tom Johnson, Ryan Ward and Kyle Rubisch also scored.
Aaron Bold stopped 44-of-53 shots he faced in the Edmonton net.
The Roughnecks nearly opened the scoring just past the 10-minute mark of the first quarter, but Bold did a great job to get in front of a quick-stick shot by Cory Conway.
At the other end of the floor, Scigliano turned aside a shot by Small to thwart a quality scoring chance for Edmonton.
After Bold stuck out his left leg to kick aside a low shot by Evans during a Calgary power play, the Rush nearly scored a short-handed goal but Williams fired a shot wide of the net guarded by Scigliano.
On his team’s last possession of the first quarter, Pym summoned Scigliano to the bench for an extra attacker in an attempt to break the scoreless deadlock. Instead, Rubisch intercepted a pass in front of the Edmonton net and lofted a shot the length of the floor that found the empty net with one second remaining on the clock to give the Rush a 1-0 lead.
Evans scored a power-play goal for Calgary two minutes into the second quarter and then another one 44 seconds later to put the Riggers up 2-1. On his second goal, Evans took a nice behind-the-back pass from Ranger before firing a shot past Bold.
During a man advantage for Edmonton, Scigliano made a nice shoulder save to stop Small once again. A short time later, Wilson bounced a shot through Scigliano’s legs to tie the score.
After Bold made a nice save to stop a shot by Veltman, the Riggers worked hard to get the ball back in the neutral zone. Dobbie then took a pass from Evans before leaping in the air and snapping shot into the net over Bold’s right shoulder to give Calgary a 3-2 lead heading into the halftime intermission.
“Two of the top defensive teams in the league going head-to-head right,” said Pym in regards to the low-scoring first half. “It’s a tough system to play against. It’s a tough system to generate chances against. Your opportunities in tight are minimal and when you get them you have to capitalize and I thought we did a pretty good job of that.”
After Johnson notched a power-play goal for Edmonton at 9:34 of the third quarter, Shattler scored for Calgary 22 seconds later. Heavenor then converted a feed from Shattler to put Calgary up 5-3.
With just 2.5 seconds left in the third quarter, Williams bounced a shot through Scigliano’s legs to pull the Rush within a goal once again.
Heavenor and Ward traded goals early in the final frame before Shattler and Evans notched power-play markers to put the Riggers up 8-5. Evans then added an insurance marker before Mydske scored a late short-handed goal for the Rush.
“I think we wore them down and we ran them,” said Evans, while noting that the Rush had to be tired after an emotional 14-11 road win over the Colorado Mammoth on Friday. “It came down to the fourth quarter. I think they were tired out and we just stepped on the gas a little longer.”