Just call him Mr. Clutch

TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:57 AM ET

Calgary Roughnecks all-purpose defender Jesse Phillips says people shouldn't read too much into the fact he led his summer lacrosse team in scoring this year. The 29-year-old notched 19 goals and 34 assists in 15 games to finish atop the scoring chart of the legendary Sr. A New Westminster Salmonbellies, one of the oldest sports franchises in North America.

That's a pretty impressive feat for a guy known more for his defensive acumen than ability to bulge the twine, isn't it?

"That had more to do with how crappy our team was," quipped Phillips, whose 3-2 Roughnecks survived a scare last night, winning 13-12 over the 2-2 Anaheim Storm in a tilt at the Arrowhead Pond. Phillips had three assists.

While he'll likely never lead the Roughnecks in points, when Phillips does score he's developed a habit of making them timely.

Case in point: Last week's 15-14 win over the Arizona Sting at the Saddledome.

Phillips, who had only two points in the first three games of the season, scored three goals and added two assists in the Roughnecks' come-from-behind victory. Two of the markers came during the team's frantic fourth-quarter rally.

Phillips, who has 67 points in 42 NLL games, said padding the scoresheet isn't his main priority but when he can do it, all the better for his club.

"You can't expect to score three goals every game," said the Langley, B.C, product. "But you hope to chip in when you can. Our back-end has to contribute more."

Calgary coach Chris Hall, not one to heap praise without merit, gave a lot of credit for the win to the play of Phillips.

"He played tremendously," said Hall. "There were four or five guys at the end of the game I thought carried the team. Jesse was certainly one of those guys.

"Actually, I think he was a pretty good candidate for defensive player of the week. When a guy gets three goals, two assists and eight loose balls and played the game he did defensively, I thought he had a good shot at it."

Phillips' most memorable performance as a Roughneck came in the biggest game of his pro career last May when the Roughnecks beat the Buffalo Bandits in the championship tilt at the 'Dome.

Calgary goalie Curtis Palidwor earned game MVP honours on the basis of his 43-save performance but Phillips, who scored a hat-trick, was the game's second star.

Two of those three markers came in the last six minutes of the game to ice the win for Calgary, including an empty-netter with four seconds left to cap it.

Phillips seem to have that rare ability to make the big play when it's needed, although the 6-ft. 1-in., 210-pounder downplays his talents.

"I just luck out at times," he said. "Getting goals at big times like that. The ball just ends up in my stick sometimes, it seems, and they go in. Just lucky, what can I say?"

Hall had a different take on it and gave the modest Phillips more credit than he offered.

"He plays with a tremendous amount of heart and passion," said Hall. "Whenever we need a big play or a big goal, he seems to be one of the guys that gets that done for us. That's not really something you can teach. That's something players bring with them.

"Being able to rise to the occasion at the right moment, some players just have it in them.

"Jesse is one of those guys."

While some players buckle under that pressure and others just plain don't show up, Phillips said he thrives under it.

"The pressure honestly doesn't bother me," he explained. "I like it when it's close and the pressure is on. It makes it more exciting. It's better when the game is tight."


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