It was just over a month ago that the Calgary Roughnecks finished the 2019 NLL season in thrilling fashion. Rhys Duch’s championship clinching goal 1:12 into overtime gave Calgary their third title in franchise history. In a season that contained everything from holdouts to MVP caliber performances, it was a winding road that eventually led to a NLL title.
Entering training camp, the Roughnecks looked to have one of the top offensive rosters in the league. The additions of Rhys Duch, Jesse King and Dan Taylor nicely complimented the existing lineup of Dane Dobbie, Curtis Dickson, Riley Loewen and Wesley Berg. Unfortunately, the season would not start the way the team or fans had envisioned. Contract holdouts by Dickson and Berg coupled with a terrible knee injury to Jesse King left the Roughnecks significantly short-handed. In their absence Ryan Martel, Tyler Pace and rookie Chris Boushy were given considerably larger roles within the offense.
The defensive unit remained largely unchanged from the previous year. Joining the group were newly drafted rookies Shane Simpson, Eli Salama and Reece Callies. With the departure of Frank Scigliano, goaltender Christian Del Bianco would start the season as the undisputed number one goalie.
With all the talented teams the Roughnecks have fielded over the last five years, it’s hard to believe that this was their first winning season since 2014. Despite an up and down year in terms of wins and losses, Calgary closed out the regular season with a 10-8 record and playing their best ball of the year. After each game, Coach Curt Malawsky eluded to the strength of the guys in the locker room and the belief they had in each other. The message was to keep looking ahead to the next five minutes and never look in the rear-view mirror. As the season progressed and players like Dickson, Manning and King returned to the lineup, the Roughnecks never wavered from their strong team commitment.
PLAY OF THE YEAR
During the course of an 18-game schedule there were plenty of extraordinary goals and jaw dropping saves. From Zach Currier’s dunk in Rochester to Christian Del Bianco’s desperation stick save on Austin Staats, there was one play that outshone them all and it came from none other than Curtis “Superman” Dickson. In a March home game versus San Diego, Dickson took a feed from Curtis Manning and cut to the net. While twisting away from defender Garrett McIntosh, Dickson released an unbelievable one handed, behind-the-back shot that found the top right corner.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
For one Roughneck, 2019 turned out to be his finest as a pro and that player was Dane Dobbie. The 32-year-old lefty from Elora, Ontario put together an MVP calibre season as he led the NLL in points for the first time in his 12-year career. More than just points, Dobbie did whatever was necessary especially early in the season when Calgary was missing some key offensive weapons. His leadership and will to win was undeniable as game in and game out he was a determining factor in the outcome. Along the way, Dobbie passed Jeff Shattler’s mark for career assists giving him the franchise lead in all major offensive categories. Despite all the numbers and recognition, it was impossible to get Dobbie to shift his focus onto anything other than winning.
If anything, the one blemish on the season was the inability for Wes Berg and the Roughnecks to come to a contract agreement. The athletic righty from the Coquitlam Adanacs system has gotten progressively better each season, with last year’s point total of 86 being his best as a pro. Berg was protected by the Roughnecks for the 2019 expansion draft, but days later they traded him to the San Diego Seals in return for Shane Simpson, who they had left unprotected and Rochester picked in the fourth round. Rochester then traded Simpson to San Diego for Turner Evans, and the Seals flipped him and two draft picks back to Calgary for Berg.
In addition to Simpson, the Roughnecks also lost their captain, Dan MacRae, in the expansion draft. MacRae was claimed by the New York Riptide in the fourth round. MacRae was a great leader for the Roughnecks and was an appealing target that combined skill, competitiveness and heart, and his loss will be emotional for the fans.
Winning is never easy and the Roughnecks are already adversity facing the champs as finals hero Rhys Duch underwent Achilles surgery and will be a question mark to play in 2020 after an injury during a game with the WLA’s Victoria Shamrocks. Coupled with their expansion draft losses, the Roughnecks will have another winding road ahead of them. In the upcoming 2019 Entry Draft, Calgary holds the seventh overall pick and then doesn’t pick again till number 35, which leaves open a distinct possibility for more player movement. However, the powerful resiliency and belief in each other instilled by their head coach, make this group one you can never count out.