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Defense First: Bold, Rush Shut Down Roughnecks, 10-8

With the score tied 8-8 with three minutes left, the Edmonton Rush regrouped and regained its scoring touch to put away the Calgary Roughnecks with a 10-8 win in Game 1 of the NLL West Finals before a crowd of 7,690 at Rexall Place on Friday night. Click here to watch highlights from the series opener.

The game was exciting down to the last minute with each team refusing to back down. Mark Matthews lead the game with seven points (3+4), but it was late goals from Ben McIntosh and Zack Greer that propelled them to the win.

“I thought Mark was a force tonight,” said Rush general manager and head coach Derek Keenan. “He was very good. We had a good supporting crew around him but he carried the load.”

“Execution-wise, we were pretty good, we could be better,” he added. “I thought we were a little rusty at times but the game could have gone either way. It was even. I thought we battled back, we had a pretty big lead, and it was nice to hang onto that, in the end we made some big plays and I thought we made some big plays with the balls on the turf and we got the results that we wanted from that.

Matthews started the scoring with a howitzer from the restraining line. The Rush continued to push the play with Greer scoring after Matthews did a great job of drawing two Roughnecks defenders towards him. Team captain Chris Corbeil added one in transition to give the Rush a 3-0 lead heading out the first quarter. The Roughnecks had some chances, but a combination of an aggressive Edmonton defense, and sharp play from Aaron Bold kept them off the board.

Matthews continued to be a wrecking ball, charging his way to the Calgary net to give the Rush a 4-0 lead in the second quarter.

“We wanted to start on time, they were coming off the bye week,” said Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky. “We hit a lot of posts early in the game, Boldy was looking behind himself a lot. It could have went either way, but at the end of the day, we were behind. It takes a lot of energy to battle back, and I thought we showed the fortitude that we’ve shown all season long.”

“We battled hard, I think there’s two good teams who are working hard and competing to get to the championship,” said Roughnecks captain Andrew McBride. “I thought we didn’t start on time, and that’s a big thing for us. We talked about it, and we need to do that. We need to be accountable coming out of the gate, because it’s hard to battle back against a team like that, but I thought when we did we really tightened up the reigns, and we were really close at the end. But sometimes when you get behind, you expend a lot of energy trying to chase, and come back, but I think it was a good effort, and it was a good game. We’re going to look at the film, make some corrections, and come back with the last game in our home barn.”

Calgary scored its first goal of the game 5:49 into the second as Curtis Dickson dove across the crease to put the ball past Bold on the far side. Just seconds later, Evans beat Adrian Sorichetti and scored to bring the Roughnecks within two.

With Evans in the box for goaltender interference, Matthews scored his third of the night. Matthew Dinsdale scored another powerplay goal for Edmonton to give them a 6-2 lead. Calgary hoped to get something going before halftime, and got it in the form a Daryl Veltman goal with just two seconds left to go in the second quarter.

Calgary came out stronger in the third, outscoring the Rush 3-1, with goals from Manning, Dobbie, and Dickson. Zack Greer scored Edmonton’s only goal of the quarter as Calgary tightened its defense, and got great play out of Frankie Scigliano.

Tight play continued into the fourth with it taking 6:46 before we saw a goal. After not being able to capitalize on his chances earlier in the game, Riley Loewen finally scored one on the powerplay to give the Rush a two-goal lead once again. Curtis Dickson quickly got it back for the ‘Necks with his third of the night.

With 3:12 remaining, Dane Dobbie cut towards the middle tied the game at eight, but with 2:10 remaining, Ben McIntosh gave Edmonton back the lead, with Zack Greer extending it 43 seconds later. The was controversy around the goal as Greer crossed through the crease before he picked up the ball, though the play was non-reviewable and stood, putting a dagger in the Roughnecks for Game 1.

The Rush have been looking to play a consistent, sixty-minute game thought the season, and Keenan was asked if the achieved that on Friday.

“I thought tonight was pretty close,” he said. “I thought we backed off a little bit on offense in the second half, but then again, they did a great job defensively too so we’ll have to do a few things differently to put a few more in the back of the net next week.”

Frankie Scigliano was huge part of the Roughnecks keeping the game close making multiple five-star saves. Scigliano stopped 35 of the 45 shots he faced, for a .778 save percentage.

“He was phenomenal again, he’s been like that for weeks on end now, and he played great tonight. Can’t fault him at all,” said Calgary forward Curtis Dickson, who had three goals and one assist.

His counterpart, Aaron Bold, was strong too, putting up a .784 save percentage, and making some timely saves himself.

Shawn Evans lead the way for the Roughnecks with 5 points (1+4), while the Rush got support from Zack Greer (3+1), and Matthews Dinsdale who put up four (1+3) points against the team that traded him away at the trade deadline. Dinsdale saw increased minutes with Robert Church being pulled from the lineup with an injury. Church is expected to play in game two of the series.

One loss isn’t about to put down a Calgary team that has excelled in adversity throughout the year to date.

“We’re warriors, we’re competitors,” Malawsky said. “Tonight, they were the better team and they got the result. We’re not going to hang our heads, we’re not going to go looking for excuses, we’ve always manned up. When we were 0-6 we manned up, were 2-8 we manned up, we manned up when we had to go to Vancouver and win, and we manned up in Colorado. We’re going to man-up after this one and go out and compete.”

Game 2 of the West Finals will be played in Calgary next Saturday night, with a 10-minute Game 3 tiebreaker game to follow immediately after if the Roughnecks win, while the Rush can advance to the Champion’s Cup Finals with one win.

Three Stars of the Game:

1) Mark Matthews
2) Aaron Bold
3) Zack Greer

Story by Mike Wilson (@RushBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Dale MacMillan.