Justin Ivey, NLL Correspondent
Lacrosse is Awesome©
Featured Image Photo Credit: Calgary Roughnecks
The 8,900 fans at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary witnessed one of the most outstanding defensive games in the NLL of recent memory on Friday night. Both teams stood tall in front of their outstanding goaltenders. The Colorado Mammoth were successful in defeating the Calgary Roughnecks in two of their three meetings this season, but their good fortune ran out in the West Division final. After a slow offensive start in the first half, things picked up a bit in the second, but six of the combined twelve goals in the game were scored on the man advantage. Defenses came to play. Calgary advances to the NLL Finals with a gritty win. Final Score: Colorado-4, Calgary-8.
The first quarter set the tone for the night. In what might have been considered a boring quarter to fans who like action, I’m sure the coaches were ecstatic with the play of the defense. Zero goals were scored in the first fifteen. It wasn’t because there were no chances either. Calgary goaltender Christian Del Bianco made 11 saves in the first, and his Colorado counterpart Dillon Ward made 13. Many shots were unloaded from outside, forced by quick bench switches in transition. Neither team was caught off guard and Colorado even successfully lasted out their first penalty of the game. At the end of the first quarter, Colorado and Calgary were tied 0-0.
A late illegal body check major penalty was assessed on Eli Salama just as time expired in the first, and Colorado started the second quarter on a five-minute power play. Even with the advantage, they could not beat Del Bianco. A penalty on Colorado created a short four on four, before Calgary eventually took their chance on a power play. Finally, a goal was scored 5:47 in. Tyler Pace (1G, 1A) caught a ball behind the net from Curtis Dickson (2G, 2A) and dunked it from behind. The game then returned to a defensive battle. With just nine seconds on the clock, Dickson increased the lead to two with a rocket from outside. At halftime, Calgary led Colorado 2-0.
The third quarter was uncharacteristically full of action. Frustration was clearly starting to mount as the teams had trouble finding the back of the net and as the chances increased, the defenses pushed back by increasing the physicality. Jesse King (2G, 1A) made it a three goal Calgary run scoring on the power play 1:05 in, but just under two minutes later Colorado finally broke through. Ryan Lee (2G) scored but it did not light a spark for the Mammoth. Costly penalties on Colorado gave the advantage to Calgary in the middle of the quarter and they rattled off three goals in a row. Dane Dobbie (2G, 4A) scored with an extra attacker on a delayed call, King scored his second on the power play and then Dobbie scored his second of the night with the man advantage again. The Roughnecks had taken control with a 6-1 lead, but this is the playoffs and Colorado made a small run of their own to close the gap. Eli McLaughlin (1G, 2A) and Cory Vitarelli (1G, 1A) scored just1:08 apart to get back within three. The Vitarelli goal came with 5:30 left in the third and was the last goal of the third quarter. At the end of three, Calgary led Colorado 6-3.
The Roughnecks continued their trend early in the fourth quarter. Dickson scored his second of the game with a power play goal just 1:43 in. Colorado flipped the script a few minutes later as Lee scored his second on the power play to get the Mammoth back within three. But the defense came back. Neither team could break through until Reece Callies’ (1G) marker with 4:11 remaining made it 8-4 Calgary. In the last minute of play as Colorado tried to find anything, five penalties were handed out. A fitting end, to a tough played game. Final Score: Colorado-4, Calgary-8.
The Calgary Roughnecks await the winner of the East Division final (Toronto Rock (3) at Buffalo Bandits (1)), and will travel for the first game of the NLL Finals.