Avery stands tall

DARREN FRIESEN, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

What a difference a goalie makes.

For the first time this season, the Calgary Roughnecks gave Ryan Avery the starting job.

And while the Riggers played brilliantly in front of the sophomore netminder, it was Avery's early heroics that set the stage for Calgary's 21-11 victory over the Portland LumberJax last night at the Saddledome.

Avery, who's been decent in parts of six games this season, managed to hold the LumberJax to only three goals during six first-quarter powerplays.

As a result, the Roughnecks, who lost 13-12 Friday night to the LumberJax, move to 7-6 on the season with three games remaining.

"It was huge for us because we needed this win big time," said Avery. "I was prepared for this tonight. Making those saves early on the penalty kill made every one settle down and after that, we knew we could dominate."

The Roughnecks needed the victory last night in order to stay in the hunt for second place in the West Division.

This must-win attitude was clearly evident in their play throughout the majority of last night's affair.

From Avery's big-time stops to the offensive pin-point passing plays to a do-or-die intensity by the defence, the Roughnecks raised their game and kept pace in the tight playoff race.

"We didn't tell Avery until after the second warmup that he was playing because we didn't want to make him too nervous," said Calgary head coach Jeff Dowling. "He played a great game. Portland got some early one's on the powerplay but he settled down and looked great on all the outside shots."

Much like the Friday night game in Portland, Calgary got awesome performances from captain Tracey Kelusky and offensive star Lewis Ratcliff.

The two combined for 15 points and paced the offence in what was one of their best outings this season.

But it was Nolan Heavenor who stole the spotlight as he put in a career-high five goals and three assists.

"I haven't played much powerplay this year but (Jeff) threw me down on the crease and I made the most of it," said Heavenor.

"It was a big boost for my confidence."

The Roughnecks managed to keep the LumberJax from running up the score early on as Calgary was assessed six minor penalties in the first 10 minutes of the game.

Despite being a man down for a majority of the first quarter, Avery stood tall and only allowed three goals.

The Roughnecks took their first lead of the game on a Jeff Shattler marker in the final minutes of the first quarter. From there, it was all Calgary as they went to the locker-room with a 10-6 lead at the half.

Portland put a scare into the Riggers when they came out and scored two quick markers to move within two early in the third quarter.

However, the Jax's comeback attempted was shortlived as Calgary's offence turned it up, scoring 11 second-half goals.


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