Coming in is as the heavy underdog and down by five in the fourth quarter, the Vancouver Warriors put their hardhats on and went to work on NLL opening night. When the dust settled, it was veteran captain Matt Beers scoring four minutes into overtime to complete the improbable comeback and push the Warriors over the Roughnecks by a score of 14-13.
“I was so gassed. I had played three shifts in a row. I didn’t want to go back there and play another shift of defense. So I just really had to hurl it at the net and hope to God it went in,” said Beers in a post-game interview for the Vancouver Warriors’ Twitter account.
For the visiting Warriors, the game was a story of two different halves. After jumping out to a 4-2 lead, Vancouver ran into discipline problems taking eight straight penalties. Not only did Calgary convert four times on the power play, they also attacked in transition, which Vancouver looked unprepared to handle. The result was a 9-6 lead for the Roughnecks after two quarters.
Full credit to head coach Chris Gill and his staff for making the necessary adjustments at halftime. After the parade of penalties, Vancouver didn’t commit another infraction for the remainder of the game. Impressively, coach Gill’s team was able to neutralize Calgary’s transition game and forced a number of key turnovers. The defense was also able to contain Calgary’s Dane Dobbie to just one point after he had gone off for five goals and three assists in the first half.
With the score 13-8 early in the fourth quarter, Keegan Bal lit the fuse on the Warriors’ comeback with a power play goal on a nice move to the net. Logan Schuss and Owen Barker each scored, drawing the Warriors within two. After a late timeout and goaltender Aaron Bold on the bench, Logan Schuss scored with 50 seconds left and then James Rahe tied the game with 21.7 seconds left, leaving the Roughnecks and their fans stunned.
“Nobody would have given us a chance to win that game. We don’t care. It’s all about what’s in the room. We got a lot of heart there,” Beers stated.
The Warriors got a terrific effort from veteran Logan Schuss. Not only did he finish the game with three goals and six assists, he was in on everygoal of the fourth quarter. Righty James Rahe added two goals and three assists, while Keegan Bal had two goals and two helpers.
Coming into Saturday night’s game, the Roughnecks knew they would be without Curtis Dickson and Wes Beg as they continue to holdout.
— Curtis Dickson (@CurtisDickson17) December 15, 2018
The news got worse as it was announced that Jesse King would also not be in the starting lineup. Despite missing the trio of talented forwards, Calgary put together a terrific game for three quarters. Gritty forward Dane Dobbie carried the young offense on his back and had a first half to remember scoring five goals and adding three assists. Perhaps the prettiest goal came on a penalty shot in the first quarter where he effortlessly faked Aaron Bold and tucked it in far side.
As expected, the Roughnecks’ transition attack was fast and furious and directly responsible for a number of goals. The speed of Zach Currier and Tyson Bell alone forced Vancouver into four different penalties, including Dane Dobbie’s penalty shot. Mitch Wilde and Chad Cummings each scored in transition and it appeared as though Calgary’s game plan was rolling.
Unfortunately, it all came apart in the fourth. Between Vancouver’s adjustments and Calgary’s mistakes, the game entirely flipped. Vancouver scored six in a row while completely handcuffing the Calgary offense. In an attempt to generate some sort of attack, Calgary committed a number of ill-timed turnovers while trying to move the ball up the floor. Goaltender Christian Del Bianco had an off night stopping only 32 of 46 shots. Vancouver seemed to have his number, and were noticeably shooting low on the Calgary net minder all night.
Dobbie finished with nine points on five goals and four assists. Rookie Chris Boushy scored his first NLL goal, while Dan Taylor netted his first as a Roughneck.
Zach Currier led all Roughnecks in loose balls with 13, but it was a sublime play in the fourth quarter that demonstrated he’s on another level. While chasing down a loose ball in his own end, and pursued by several Vancouver players, Currier batted the ball off the glass right to goalie Christian Del Bianco.
The two clubs face each other again this Friday at Rogers Arena in downtown Vancouver. Game time is 10 p.m. EST