On the biggest stage and under the brightest lights, the Calgary Roughnecks and Buffalo Bandits delivered an exceptional performance worthy of a NLL Championship. It only seemed fitting that 60 minutes wouldn’t be enough time to determine a winner. At the 1:12 mark of overtime, the ball found its way into the stick of 11-year veteran Rhys Duch and he did what he’s done his entire career. With his signature overhand shot, Duch unloaded a championship clinching cannon, beating Matt Vinc short-side and giving Calgary their first title in ten years with a 14-13 win.
During the celebration, Duch spoke about the winning goal: “We had a play drawn up. Dickson went to the net – hit the post. We battled hard to get the loose ball and then it was just scramble from there. We were patient, set a couple of nice picks. I popped off, caught the ball open and just shot the ball. I’d shot the ball far-side the whole game so I thought I’d try one short-side.”
As Calgary players and fans celebrated, NLL commissioner Nick Sakiewicz made his way onto the field and first presented the Finals MVP award to Dane Dobbie. Dobbie not only led the Roughnecks with seven points in the final game, but was also the leading scorer throughout the playoffs with 26 points in four games. Never one to talk about himself, Dobbie recognized goalie Christian Del Bianco as the backbone of the Calgary team.
The only thing left, and what Roughnecks’ fans had been waiting for since 2009, was the presentation of the NLL Cup. Captain Dan MacRae accepted the trophy from the commissioner and immediately took it over to assistant coach Bob McMahon who was mobbed by his Roughnecks’ family. For McMahon, it represented his first NLL Championship in over 25 years of coaching. With red and white confetti raining down from above, each player, coach and member of the team got their chance to raise the trophy.
Head coach Curt Malawsky summed up the effort given by his team with an impassioned post-game interview.
“Those kids left it on the floor. We said before the game you put your hearts on the table for each other and they put their hearts on the table today. When you put your heart on the table good things happen and we never quit. I’m so proud of those kids. They’re going to enjoy it for the rest of their lives, they walk together forever now.”
The game itself was one for the ages. After the defensive battle in game one, both teams came out firing combining for seven first quarter goals and a 4-3 Buffalo lead. The second quarter belonged to the Roughnecks as they hit on a five-goal run to take the lead. Late in the frame and coming out of a timeout, Buffalo looked to capture the momentum on a Chase Fraser goal with eight seconds left. Undeterred, Calgary won the ensuing faceoff, called a timeout of their own and Dane Dobbie scored with just a second left sending the Riggers to the locker room leading 9-6.
Midway through the third, the scoring fired up again and this time it was the Bandits finding the range with a three-goal run to tie the game up. Another exchange of late goals had the teams deadlocked at 10-10 and set up a dramatic fourth quarter.
Rhys Duch and Curtis Dickson scored early to put Calgary up by two, but Jordan Durston and Dhane Smith replied to even it back up. With 54.8 seconds left, Calgary struck with the goal of the game. As the shot clock wound down, Bandits’ sniper Shawn Evans got a deflected shot on net that Del Bianco scooped up. Realizing there was a chance in transition, Tyson Bell, playing with a torn MCL, sprinted to the bench as Del Bianco heaved a 140 ft. bomb to Dobbie. Dobbie timed his break perfectly, so that just as Bell’s foot hit the exchange area, he took off and caught the pass in full flight. With Nick Weiss draped all over him and playing on an injured ankle, Dobbie soared through the air and beat Matt Vinc sending the hometown crowd into pandemonium.
However, the Bandits were somehow able to block out the crowd and focus on the ensuing faceoff which they won and quickly called a timeout. Putting an extra attacker on the floor in place of Matt Vinc, Shawn Evans got a shot on net that was saved by Del Bianco but recovered by the Bandits for a second possession. That’s when Dhane Smith fed Corey Small who buried a laser beam into the top left corner to tie the game with 28 seconds remaining and send the game to overtime.
In the heartbreaking loss, the Bandits were led by veterans Shawn Evans and Dhane Smith who each tallied seven points. Jordan Durston and Chase Fraser each had hat tricks while goaltender Matt Vinc faced 51 shots and stopped 37 of them.
For Calgary, it was Finals MVP Dane Dobbie with four goals and three assists leading the way. Rhys Duch, Curtis Dickson and Riley Loewen each had two goals apiece. Goaltender Christian Del Bianco chipped in with two assists and also stopped 43 of 56 shots.