Roughnecks explode for historic first win in Saskatchewan

The Calgary Roughnecks are given the bum’s rush every single time they play in Saskatoon.

Fact is they’d been shown the door in all eight previous visits to SaskTel Centre.

But Saturday night, the Roughnecks reversed an ugly three-plus-season trend in ‘Toon Town, shoving aside history to record their first win ever at the National Lacrosse League home of the Saskatchewan Rush.

And they did it with offence rarely seen this year, scoring a 17-12 victory over the hosts — thanks to 11 points from Curtis Dickson, 10 from Dane Dobbie and seven from Tyler Pace. Each of them scored four goals to push the Riggers back on top of the NLL’s Western Division.

“That’s massive for us,” Dickson, who helped lead his team to 10-5 second-half dominance, told BR Live. “First time we’ve won in this building, and we were sitting here at .500 with the Western Division wide open.

“So this was a big game for us — not only to get that monkey off our back and get our first win here but as far as standings go as well.”

The difference was a dominant second half sparked by captain Dan MacRae, who joined a rush early in the second and converted Zach Currier’s set-up to the short-side for his first goal of the campaign.

The captain’s counter gave the visitors their first lead of the game.

And they didn’t allow the high-powered Rush back in it.

The Roughnecks controlled play from there, and within five minutes added to their lead on goals by Riley Loewen, taking Dobbie’s pass and ripping it short-side on Rush goaltender Evan Kirk, and Tyler Pace, going far side with a super shot from the left wing.

Shortly thereafter, Nik Filic, trying to turn momentum in favour of the home side, threw a crushing hit on the Currier, but it caught the Roughnecks player high and drew blood from the bridge of the nose, sending Filic to the penalty box for five minutes.

The Roughnecks made him pay when Dobbie’s slick pass in tight on Kirk was converted easily by sniper Dickson.

And just after the penalty expired, Mitch Wilde found a streaking Dobbie down-court and the veteran flew through the air and scored to give the Riggers a five-goal bulge.

“Our offence was clicking,” Dickson told BR Live. “We weren’t playing that well leading into this game, and we knew we had to turn that around. And our defence played well, too.

The ball was falling for us. We played well out there — we got the ball moving, got our looks and buried them. So it was a nice change of pace.”

Robert Church finally got the Rush a third-quarter goal late to cut the lead to four heading into the final frame.

And the fourth quarter saw Jeff Shattler surprise Riggers goalie Christian Del Bianco with a shot early on to make it a three-goal game.

But shortly after, Dobbie netted his fourth goal of the game firing a shot through Kirk to restore the four-goal advantage for the Roughnecks.

Pace then scored his third and fourth goals of the evening to salt away the contest — the third after running hard right down the middle of the court, and the fourth on a tuck-in short-side.

The teams exchanged two goals each late — Shattler and Ryan Keenan for the Rush, and Wilde (empty net) and Loewen for the Riggers.

And in the end, the Roughnecks held on to improve to 5-4, beating the Saskatchewan squad for just the second time in the last 12 regular-season games.

Meanwhile, the Rush — now 3-4 and annually the team to beat in the NLL — are on a three-game slide.

“They’re obviously a great team, and they came out hot,” Dickson told BR Live. “It was just a matter of weathering the storm and then staying in the game.”

The Rush opened strong with five first-quarter goals — two from Church, one from Ben McIntosh on the doorstep, another from Keenan in tight on Del Bianco and a late one from Curtis Knight on a short-side snipe.

Meanwhile, the Roughnecks could only answer twice, with Pace off the post and Dobbie on a slick move in tight.

“We were confident the whole game,” Dickson told BR Live. “Before the game, we emphasized that we didn’t have a slow start. Unfortunately, we found ourselves down 4-1.

“But it’s always a grind with these guys.”

After a key timeout taken by Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky, the Rush buckled down and began to turn the game around.

The second quarter saw the Riggers bounce back on three straight goals.

Dan Taylor took Dobbie’s pass and fired a high shot by Kirk.

Then, Dickson worked his way out from behind the net and fired a shot high to the far side. And Dobbie followed with his second from a few feet out to beat the Rush goalie.

Shattler and Knight scored home-side goals sandwiched by two Dickson goals, including a power-play shot low past Kirk to make it 7-7 at intermission.

“I thought we did a great job of staying even-keel,” Dickson told BR Live. “And we did a great job of grinding back in the game and playing really well from the second quarter on.”

Next up, the Roughnecks take on the host Buffalo Bandits next Saturday (5:30 p.m., BR Live).

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