NLL: New attitude Roughnecks prevail over Warriors in front end of home-and-home series

CALGARY, AB – DECEMBER 10, 2022: The Calgary Roughnecks versus the Vancouver Warriors at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday night. (Photo by Candice Ward/Calgary Roughnecks)

A new era of Roughnecks lacrosse began Saturday night in Calgary. A team once known for their lethal offensive weapons – now transformed into a “defense first” team. The first test for the new attitude Riggers were the Vancouver Warriors who were looking to atone for a first week beating at the hands of the Toronto Rock. In a chippy, closely contested game, Calgary scored two late goals propelling them to an 11-9 victory.

Calgary coach Curt Malawsky was quite clear that for his team to be successful, the Riggers’ defense would need to keep games close and his offense would come from a “scoring by committee” mentality. On opening night, those blueprints were executed to perfection:

Superb goaltending – check ✅
Solid defense – check ✅
Goals in transition – check ✅
Jesse King being Jesse King – check ✅

Calgary got off to a quick start with a transition goal from Harrison Matsuoka just 40 seconds into the game. Nine-year veteran Logan Schuss tied it up and then Vancouver appeared to have taken the lead on a Riley Loewen goal. A heads-up challenge by Curt Malawsky revealed that the ball had gone in after the shot clock expired and the goal was disallowed. Tanner Cook, who would figure prominently in this game, notched his first goal of the season on a nice slam dunk from behind the net staking Calgary to a 2-1 first quarter lead.

A pair of Eli Salama penalties led to two power play goals from Vancouver, one from Mitch Jones and the other from Keegan Bal. Calgary responded with a four-goal run including three from defenders Zach Currier, Shane Simpson and Curtis Manning. The last goal sparked a melee after agitator Owen Barker shoved Manning into the boards following the goal. Four players were sent to the penalty box and temperatures continued to rise. Ryan Martel and Eli Salama were escorted to the box after Martel flipped Salama and sat on his head. Anthony Kalinich followed for an illegal crosscheck and then Tanner Cook received a five-minute major for steamrolling Tyler Codron as time expired in the half.

While it felt like a fight was brewing, neither team could ill afford to take a penalty with a five-minute Vancouver power play looming. Down by two, Keegan Bal fired a beautiful outside shot that found top corner, drawing his team within one. The Warriors were only able to score once on the major penalty; however, a short time later, Mitch Jones tied the game at 6-6 with a nice inside finish. After a flurry of back-and-forth goals the third quarter ended with the Riggers holding a slim 8-7 lead.

The white-hot Keegan Bal tied the game up with his 100th career goal early in the fourth. Taking a breakaway pass from teammate Owen Barker, Bal gracefully flew through the air and neatly tucked the ball five hole on Christian Del Bianco. The teams exchanged power play goals, but it would be Calgary taking the lead for good on a Dan Taylor strike from right in front of the net with 6:11 to play. An insurance goal from Jesse King capped an opening night 11-9 win for the hometown Roughnecks.

These two teams will get right back at this weekend – this time in downtown Vancouver. Calgary Roughnecks (1-0) vs Vancouver Warriors (0-2) goes on Friday, December 16th at 10:00pm ET and is the TSN Game of the Week.