NLL: Mammoth spoil Roughnecks’ banner raising

The Calgary Roughnecks watch their 2019 championship banner go up to the rafters at Scotiabank Saddledome. (Photo credit: Cliff McCaig)

Exacting a small measure of revenge for last year’s playoff exit, the Colorado Mammoth spoiled opening night for the Calgary Roughnecks beating them 8-7 on banner raising night at Scotiabank Saddledome. After killing off a Roughnecks’ two-man advantage, Jordan Gilles scored the overtime winner at 7:11 giving Colorado a well-deserved road victory. Despite the hostile environment and without stars Eli McLaughlin and Dan Coates, Colorado’s young team seemed unphased by all the theatrics surrounding the game.

“We went through a little bit of adversity. We stuck to our game plan and we stuck to what we wanted to do and didn’t let anything phase us. That paid off in the long run and it’s an incredible feeling getting that first win,” said rookie defender Brett Craig after the game.

The pre-game banner presentation was full of emotion as former Roughnecks’ captain Dan MacRae was greeted to a thunderous ovation as he walked the NLL Trophy onto the field. The championship banner came out next, carried onto the floor by Dane Dobbie, Rhys Duch, Greg Harnett and Curtis Dickson. After a short video presentation, the 2019 banner was raised to the rafters of the Saddledome joining the banners from ‘04 and ‘09.

“To know that anytime I go to a Flames game, anytime I go to a Roughnecks game in the future, that I can look up there and know that I’m part of it, it’s pretty amazing,” commented Dan Taylor.

The Roughnecks took full advantage of an electric hometown crowd as Curtis Dickson unloaded an outside rocket just 1:48 into the game. Tyler Pace and Dan Taylor added to the lead, while Jacob Ruest replied for the visitors making the score 3-1 after one.

After weathering the early storm, Colorado turned the game around in the second quarter. Rookie Will Malcom recorded his first two NLL goals and Jacob Ruest followed with his second of the game. However, it was the next goal that had everyone gazing up at the Jumbotron for another look. Colorado rookie and local Calgarian Dylan Kinnear took a behind-the-back feed from Chris Wardle, spun off the defender and shovelled a shot over his shoulder while falling that found the back of the net. Not only was it Kinnear’s first NLL goal, but also an early candidate for goal of the year. After a dominant second quarter, the Mammoth held the lead at 5-4.

Colorado’s Jordan Gilles lines up for the faceoff between Calgary’s Chad Cummings and Mitch Wilde. (Photo credit: Cliff McCaig)

To no one’s surprise, the second half was a defensive war with neither team surrendering an inch. Goaltenders Dillon Ward and Christian Del Bianco surrendered just three second half goals each and combined to stop 86 of 101 shots on the night.

A bigger and more intimidating Mammoth defense challenged every shot and physically punished Roughnecks’ shooters especially Curtis Dickson. Defender Brett Craig became the third Mammoth rookie on the night to notch his first career goal. The 6’6” defender glided up the boards and scooped up one of his 10 loose balls. Craig dragged a defender to the net and scored on a beautiful back-handed shovel shot.

“I knew the D guy was on me, so I had to put on the brakes and then one-on-one I just thought I might as well put a ball on net and it worked out in my favour.”

Dan Taylor would tie it late for the Riggers and force overtime. Again, the Mammoth faced adversity when they took back-to-back penalties early in the extra frame and again they handled it with the toughness of a veteran team. Calgary was unable to convert and Gilles would end the game a short time later on a breakaway goal in transition.

The win moves Colorado’s record to 1-1 and gives them a share of the lead in the NLL West Division. The Mammoth stat sheet reads as you might expect from a Pat Coyle coached team with four players (Malcom, Killen, Lee and Wardle) tallying three points each. The Mammoth will head to Georgia next week to take on the Swarm (2-0).

Colorado’s Kyle Killen congratulates Dylan Kinnear on his first NLL goal. (Photo credit: Cliff McCaig)

Calgary’s defense was solid throughout the evening and on most nights allowing under 10 goals would mean a sure victory. Offensively, Calgary looked like a team trying to establish new chemistry in the absence of Dane Dobbie. Removing the 13-year veteran from the lineup definitely caused a disruption in the offensive rhythm and timing that will take some time to adjust to. Now that Calgary knows what they’re dealing with, don’t be surprised to see their transition game kick it up a notch to generate more scoring opportunities.

Leading the way for Calgary was Dan Taylor (2G/2A) and the King brothers who each had three points apiece. The Roughnecks won’t get to enjoy the holidays for too long as they play a double-header next week. First up is the San Diego Seals (0-2) on Friday and then back home for a game against Philadelphia (0-1).