NLL: Roughnecks outlast PCLC to return to Conference Finals

CALGARY, AB – MAY 6, 2023: Panther City Lacrosse Club versus the Calgary Roughnecks at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday night (Photo by Angela Burger/Calgary Roughnecks).

The young Panther City Lacrosse Club came out swinging Saturday night and momentarily had the Roughnecks stunned and on the ropes. Calgary absorbed the early flurry – six goals on nine shots – and countered with their signature left right combination of Jesse King and Tyler Pace. When the final bell rang, it was the Calgary Roughnecks emerging victorious by a 12-9 score and moving on to the Western Conference Finals.

The game got off to a quick start with Jesse King scoring just thirty seconds in. Seemingly unfazed by the electric home crowd, Panther City replied with three goals in under three minutes from Jonathan Donville, Callum Crawford and Phil Caputo. Tyler Pace and Patrick Dodds exchanged goals before Tanner Cook almost brought the house down with one of the goals of the year. Streaking to the net on a backdoor cut, Cook caught a pass with one hand on his stick and slammed it short side on Panther goalie Nick Damude. Once again, with the crowd in a frenzy, Panther City was able to shrug it off and score two quick goals in succession courtesy of Mathieu Gautier and Phil Caputo. If the quarter had ended right then and there, PCLC would’ve been up 6-3, but a last-minute goal from Zach Currier started the pendulum swinging in Calgary’s direction.

Jesse King opened the second quarter with a short side snipe kicking off a three-goal run for the Roughnecks. An airborne Zach Currier potted his second of the game and Tanner Cook also tallied his second to put Calgary in front 7-6. This time it was Will Malcom’s turn to bring the Panther City faithful to their feet with an amazing one handed dunk to draw the teams even. However, another late goal from Jesse King had the home team up by one at the half.

Oblivious to the hostile environment, the Panther City Lacrosse Club came out and played a perfect third quarter. Patrick Dodds scored early to tie the game up while the Panther City defense completely blanked Calgary shooters. Despite being shorthanded, PCLC Captain Matt Hossack took a pass in transition and proceeded to run the floor and beat Del Bianco with a shortside rip putting his club up a goal at the end of the third.

If the third belonged to PCLC then the fourth was all Roughnecks. After their lackluster beginning, the Roughneck defense didn’t allow a single ball to get behind Christian Del Bianco during the final frame. A natural hat trick from Tyler Pace and an empty net goal from Jeff Cornwall had the Roughnecks moving on to the Western Finals with a 12-9 victory.

“They have a lot of young bodies out there that just keep going. Obviously, they came out swinging and it caught us off guard, but we were able to regroup,” said Calgary’s Christian Del Bianco post game. “The older I get and the more games I play, the more you just say what’s the score? We’re playing to win we’re not playing to hit a certain mark. Find that consistency that way. If I let in 15 goals and we win 16-15 – great I was good enough to win and we were good enough to succeed.”

Game notes:

-Tracey Kelusky was not behind the PCLC bench due to a non-covid related illness

-Mitch Wilde returned to the lineup after being out for the past month

-Callum Crawford, Will Malcom and Patrick Dodds each had 4 point games

-Tyler Pace led Calgary with 4 goals and 4 assists

The best-of-three Western Conference Finals kick off on Thursday night as Calgary travels to Colorado to take on the reigning champs. Game 2 will go Saturday night with game 3 going a week later if necessary.