CALGARY – The Calgary Roughnecks struck first in the 2014 NLL Champion’s Cup Finals with a 10-7 home win over the back-to-back champion Rochester Knighthawks in Game 1 of the series before 16,541 fans at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday night.
The Roughnecks played some of the best defense they have all season, holding Rochester to just seven goals. There has only been one other time this season that the ‘Hawks weren’t able to score more than seven.
A lot of the credit goes to the defense of the Roughnecks, but coach Malawsky knows goalie Mike Poulin deserves a lot of credit as well because it was the fewest amount of goals that Poulin had allowed in all year.
“Mike’s been playing with a lot of confidence right now,” he said. “He’s believing in himself and the defense and the team is believing in him. Trust is a dangerous thing when a group of guys, a group of men, are trusting and believing in each other… you can move mountains. This group of guys is really believing right now, we got a lot of confidence and a lot of trust and it comes right from the goaltender out, he’s been our backbone from day one and he’ll continue to be our backbone.”
Even Rochester’s head coach Mike Hasen recognized the play of Poulin.
“He was bang on, he came up with a lot of big saves and kept them rolling,” he said. “I thought their defense was real good too, they put us in positions that allowed Poulin to see the ball really well. And when he gets to see it, he’s dynamite and that’s what he was tonight.”
The Roughnecks got the first goal when Jeff Shattler received a feed from Shawn Evans to make it 1-0 just over two minutes in. The scoring held until seven minutes later when Evans made another great pass to Scott Ranger who snuck it over the shoulder of Rochester goaltender Matt Vinc. It only took Rochester 36 seconds to respond with their first of the night when Stephen Keogh capitalized after picking up the ball from a fallen Calgary player, bringing his team back within one. The final goal of the frame came off the stick of Curtis Dickson after walking out from behind the net, sneaking one, five-hole, to make it a 3-1 lead in favor of the Roughnecks.
Just like in the first quarter, Calgary found twine first in the second, when Ranger scored his second of the game and fifth of the playoffs after a nice pick and roll play with Dickson. Not to be outdone, the Knighthawks scored two in a row after Johnny Powless ripped his first of the game past Mike Poulin, and just under two minutes later, Craig Point fought off a Roughnecks defender sliding it far side, making it a one-goal game, 4-3.
Roughnecks star Dane Dobbie scored back-to-back goals in a span of 36 seconds to put the Roughnecks up 6-3 half way through the quarter.
Dickson scored his second of the game to increase the lead to 7-3, but Rochester had the final goal of the frame when Joe Walters made a nice shot in the slot, cutting into the lead. Calgary went into the half with a 7-4 lead despite being outshot 20-18.
‘K-hawks’ Cory Vitarelli made a nice individual effort, diving across the crease to get his first of the contest.
Rochester then made it a one-goal game after Point got his second of the game on a one-timer shot. After three quarters, the Roughnecks led 7-6 but Rochester was still leading in the shots department, 31-30.
It was all Roughnecks in the fourth as it just looked as though the Knighthawks ran out of gas. Coach Hasen doesn’t really know what happened to his team in the fourth quarter but said it’s in the past now.
The Knighthawks were able to muster up one last goal with only nine seconds remaining but the Roughnecks’ lead was too much to overcome as they took a 1-0 series lead.
The series now shifts to Rochester for Game 2 at Blue Cross Arena on Saturday, May 31 at 8 p.m. ET. If Rochester wins to tie the series 1-1, a 10-minute tiebreaker game will be played immediately following the conclusion of Game 2 to determine the 2014 NLL champion.
Kassidy Collins is the Roughnecks beat writer for NLL.com