In their first playoff game in franchise history, the San Diego Seals had the Calgary Roughnecks on the verge of elimination, but came up just short falling 12-11. Patrick Merrill’s club held the lead for nearly the entire game, but a resilient Calgary group came up with a massive fourth quarter performance to edge out the home town Seals.
In a rare, but remarkably popular Monday night game, National Lacrosse League fans were treated to 60 minutes of highly entertaining playoff lacrosse. Curtis Dickson opened the scoring just 25 seconds into the game with a low, far-side bouncer that eluded goaltender Frank Scigliano. The Seals replied with a top corner cannon from Casey Jackson 49 seconds later. Jackson’s goal sparked a three-goal run and staked the Seals to an early 3-1 lead. Aided by a number of Calgary turnovers, San Diego dominated first quarter play and forced Calgary goaltender Christian Del Bianco to come up with big saves just to keep the score close. Late in the first, Calgary was able to capitalize on a Tor Reinholdt penalty as Dickson struck again with only three tenths of a second left on the clock with another step around bouncer.
Special teams would play a big role for both teams in the second quarter and San Diego would take advantage early. With Drew Belgrave serving a five-minute major for boarding, Connor Kearnan broke in and scored a shorthanded goal for the Seals and in the process also drew a Roughnecks’ penalty. In the ensuing four-on-four, Turner Evans buried a quick-stick making the score 5-2. However, Dane Dobbie would get one back on the power play and then San Diego would take another major penalty putting Calgary back on the man advantage for five minutes. Jesse King and Dane Dobbie each scored power play markers to draw the game even 5-5.
As the first half wound down, fans were treated to a pair of spectacular goals from two special players with the first coming off the stick of Dan Dawson. In classic Dawson fashion, he backed down his defender before spinning off him and throwing at least three fakes before tucking it low far side. Not even a minute later, Reece Callies hit a streaking Curtis Dickson who took the pass at full speed, dove across the crease and tucked the ball off the far post sending the two teams to the locker room tied at six.
With the major penalties behind them, San Diego regained control of the game in the third quarter. A breakaway goal by Brandon Clelland was quickly followed by a Kyle Buchanan goal that featured an outstanding behind the back assist from Dan Dawson. Calgary’s Mitch Wilde answered with a textbook two-on-one passing play with Dane Dobbie, but San Diego was able to respond with two more goals pushing their lead to 10-7.
For Calgary, the game had reached a critical juncture. With their season in the balance it really felt that whoever scored next was going to ultimately win the game. So just like he’d done all season long, Dobbie seized the moment and buried a feed from Rhys Duch igniting the Roughnecks’ comeback.
The fourth quarter was all Roughnecks. A quick goal from Jesse King was followed by a great individual effort from Tyler Burton. Burton beat Clelland on the faceoff then fought his way down the floor and scored on a terrific bounce shot tying the game at 10-10.
San Diego regained the lead on a Turner Evans goal, but that was short-lived when Riley Loewen scored 19 seconds later. With under eight minutes to play, the man who opened the scoring struck again with what would be the game winning goal. After transitioning the ball up the floor and dishing the ball to Curtis Dickson, Mitch Wilde set a screen on Paul Dawson that allowed Dickson to cut to the net unchecked. Dickson calmly buried the ball in the top right corner giving the Roughnecks a 12-11 lead.
The Roughnecks still had to protect the lead for the remaining 7:56 and San Diego threw everything they had at the net. The Calgary defense was equal to the task as they blocked shots and won the majority of loose ball battles. The shots that did get through were turned aside by Del Bianco. As San Diego looked to get one last chance, a terrific back-check by Loewen on Cam Holding popped the ball loose and Calgary recovered to secure the win.
Calgary was led by their two veterans in Dobbie and Dickson who each had seven points. Christian Del Bianco stopped 43 of 54 shots in the victory.
Despite coming up short, the Seals had a season to remember. Who knows what might have happened with Austin Staats in the lineup, but one thing for sure is that the veterans on this squad found a way to get it done. Kyle Buchanan (2G 4A), Dan Dawson (1G, 4A), Turner Evans (3G, 1A), Casey Jackson (1G, 2A) and Garrett Billings (2A) were terrific all year long. Between the pipes, Scigliano stopped 31 of 43 shots on the night, once again giving his club a chance to win.
Calgary will only have three days off before they play the Colorado Mammoth at home on Friday, May 10th. The winner will advance to the NLL Cup versus the winner of Buffalo and Toronto.