NLL: 17,000+ take in Roughnecks St. Patrick’s Day win over rival Rush

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Last Friday night, over 17,000 fans packed Westjet Field to watch the annual Roughnecks St. Patrick’s Day game vs the Saskatchewan Rush. Backed by a dominating defensive performance and an eight-point night from Tyler Pace, the Calgary Roughnecks locked down the season series with an 11-6 victory.

The Riggers got a huge boost to their lineup with the return of the aforementioned Pace as well as defender Jeff Cornwall. Cornwall not only helped hold the potent Rush offense to six goals, but he factored in on the scoresheet with a first quarter goal. On the other side of the ball, Pace hardly looked like he missed a step with three goals and five assists pushing his season total to 59 points.

“It’s tough to watch from home, especially when you want to be out there. To come back I just wanted to help the team as much as I could and tonight it was just going my way. Any night it could be anybody’s game and tonight I was just fortunate to get the bounces,” said Pace after the game. “For our D to play shorthanded for a majority of the second half. It was just a gritty win and a huge win for us in front of a lot of people. It was exciting.”

The Roughnecks got the crowd involved early jumping out to a 4-1 first quarter lead. A pair from Jesse King and singles from Tanner Cook and Jeff Cornwall had the fans screaming, “Bang, Bang, Bang, Vamanos, Vamanos,” from every section of the Saddledome. The momentum continued to roll into the second with two more goals from Kyle Waters and Tyler Pace, but then Calgary got into penalty trouble. Starting late in the second with Harrison Matsuoka’s holding the stick penalty, the Roughnecks took six straight penalties and opened the door for a Saskatchewan comeback. Two goals from Robert Church, one from Ryan Barnable and one from Clark Walter had the Rush within one goal at 6-5.


During a press conference after a particularly tough loss to San Diego, Head Coach Curt Malawsky stated how difficult it is to win in the NLL. No longer having the ability to send out a Dickson, Dobbie or Berg to find a goal, the Roughnecks would have to rely on a team approach to scoring. The other interesting, more insightful comment Malawsky made was when he mentioned how offensive cohesion typically takes a longer amount of time to develop.

Fast forward back to the fourth quarter with the game teetering in the balance, Jesse King stepped up and delivered a crucial power play goal at a crucial time. Plugging back into their revived 17,000 volt energy supply, the Roughnecks reeled off a total of five goals in 2:46 and cruised to their ninth win of the season. All five of their goals came from their offense at the most important time of the game – a very promising sign that this group of forwards is coming together just as Coach Malawsky foreshadowed.

Saskatchewan Rush were led by Robert Church who tallied two goals and added two assists on the evening. An ominous stat that summed up the night for the Rush was their star playmaker, Mark Matthews, was held to a single assist.

Anytime you hold the Saskatchewan Rush to six goals, your defense deserves recognition. 50 loose balls, 8 blocked shots, 7 caused turnovers and 32 saves from Christian Del Bianco all contributed to a defensive gem.

These two teams will be right back at it next week as the setting shifts to Co-op Field in Saskatoon. The game gets underway on Saturday March 25 at 9:30 ET.