In what was the fifth-longest game in NLL history, the Calgary Roughnecks (9-7) clinched the West Division regular season title with a 12-11 overtime road win over the Edmonton Rush (9-7) at Rexall Place on Saturday night.
Shawn Evans capped a 10-point night with his lone goal of the game, coming at 10:05 of overtime as he slid a low shot past Rush goaltender Aaron Bold. The goal by Evans ended a thrilling OT period that saw both clubs put forth a stellar defensive front with the game – and playoff positioning – on the line.
“It was the Battle of Alberta. Nobody wanted to lose and I was just able to squeak one through,” said Evans, whose 10 points also gave him the Roughnecks single-season scoring record. His 112-point campaign erased the previous mark of 104 shared by Lewis Ratcliff and Josh Sanderson.
“We were down 6-1 but we battled hard and stuck it out,” added Evans. “The win gives us confidence and motivation. It’s relieving to know how hard we fought to come back and get the win. Both teams were unbelievable and deserved to win.”
The Roughnecks’ win puts them into a West Division Semifinal home date against the Colorado Mammoth next weekend.
The loss derailed big playoff plans for the Rush. A victory would have clinched the No. 1 overall seed for Edmonton as well as the club’s first home playoff date in franchise history. Instead, the loss, coupled with Washington’s win over Philadelphia, dropped the Rush to third in the West and a divisional Semi-Final clash at Washington next weekend.
“To lose in overtime is never fun, but with all that at stake, it’s definitely disappointing,” said Rush forward Corey Small, who had a pair of goals in front of a season-high crowd at Rexall Place of 9,213.
“It definitely felt like a playoff game and it’s a disappointing loss. Hopefully we’ll get another chance at them.”
The Rush dominated the opening quarter, jumping out to a 5-1 lead including rookie sensation Mark Matthews’ 38th goal the season which set a new franchise single-season high for goal, breaking the old record established by Chris Gill in 2006.
But the Roughnecks got their offense fired up in the second quarter, notching four straight goals to close the gap to 6-5. The two teams traded goals down the stretch in the first half culminating in Jeff Shattler’s power-play marker coming with 3.3 seconds remaining in the half to leave the score 8-7 for Edmonton at the break. Calgary’s surge was sparked by Evans, who registered assists on six of Calgary’s seven first-half goals.
Edmonton held a 10-8 cushion heading into the fourth quarter but couldn’t hold the high-powered Roughnecks offense down. Daryl Veltman finally brought the Roughnecks even and forced overtime as he scored with 1:39 left in regulation. The goal was Veltman’s fifth of the game – and eighth point – and was perhaps his best of the night as he beat Bold despite having Rush defender Ryan Dilks draped all over him as he drove the net.
Both teams had their chances right off the hop in overtime including shots ringing off the crossbar for both Small and Calgary’s Joe Resetarits. Bold also came up with a huge stop on Resitarits just prior to Evans’ game-winner.
“It was a great game, back and forth,” said Calgary Head Coach Curt Malawsky. “I knew it would be a one-goal game and we just had to hang around. They got off to a quick start and we had to weather the storm. This team is resilient and has a championship pedigree and it shows in big games.
“There was a lot on the line and it was a phenomenal game.”
The loss was the Rush’s first of the season when leading after three quarters of play.
“The opportunity was there for us,” said Rush GM/Head Coach Derek Keenan. “Our goal was to host a playoff game. It was an OT game and you just have to tip your hat to the other team and move on.”
Calgary, which won three of four regular-season meetings against Edmonton, got a pair of goals from Curtis Dickson plus singles from Geoff Snider, Travis Cornwall, Scott Ranger, while Shattler also chipped in six assists.
Alex Turner, with a pair, and singles from Brett Mydske, Curtis Knight, Jarrett Davis, Ryan Ward, Jeremy Thompson, and Zack Greer rounded out Edmonton’s scoring. Ward finished with five points, equaling his own Rush team record for points in a single season with 74.