Goal-den opportunity

DARREN FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

Jeff Dowling has a tough decision to make.

But based on goalie Ryan Avery's performance between the pipes for the Calgary Roughnecks Saturday night, the choice should be an easy one for the Riggers head coach.

Avery, who picked up his second win of the season Saturday against the Portland LumberJax, was stellar making 42 saves in his first start for the National Lacrosse League franchise.

Yet, following the 21-11 victory, Dowling was reluctant to say whether Avery would now supplant Andrew Leyshon as the Roughnecks starter.

"It's going to be a tough decision," said Dowling, whose club improved to 7-6 and sits third in the West Division. "It was a tough decision (Saturday). I'm glad I made the right call but as for this Friday, we'll see. We've got two guys who can start."

The Roughnecks' next game is Friday at the 'Dome when they host the 4-7 Edmonton Rush.

After losing 13-12 to the LumberJax Friday at the Rose Garden, the Roughnecks finally looked and played Saturday night like the team everyone predicted they would be before the season started.

A big reason for that was Avery.

The 24-year-old Hamilton native has played in parts of six games this season in relief of Leyshon.

Saturday night, Avery finally got the call to start and he didn't disappoint.

While Leyshon hasn't been horrible this season, he has struggled stopping teams early and at pivotal moments in games which has often killed momentum for the Riggers.

He allowed seven goals on 17 shots in Friday's loss and was pulled.

Leyshon's goal-against average of 12.86 ranks him 13th in the league.

Against Portland Saturday, Avery made big stops early and often giving the team in front of him confidence.

"We talked before the weekend that, depending on how things went, maybe we'd give Ryan the start because of the back-to-back games," said Dowling, who watched Leyshon give up four goals on four shots in Portland Friday.

"Andrew's battling a little bit of an injury and he's not as mobile as he normally is, so that was kind of in the back of our minds.

"But after (Friday) night they both played half a game, so both of them were ready to go."

Dowling took over for Chris Hall, who was fired Feb. 23. Dowling coached Avery in the Ontario junior ranks and admits because he is more familiar with Avery than Hall was, he may have more confidence in the backup's ability.

"I think that Chris is a very loyal guy and he wanted Andrew to be the guy," said Dowling.

"For me, the fact that I've known Ryan for five years means that

I have a little bit more of a comfort level."

Dowling said the decision to start Avery wasn't his alone.

"I've been talking to the guys a lot about the goalies, about what (the goalies) have been doing in practice all year.

"I kind of wanted to get a feel from them and then get an idea of where we are and which guy's ready to go.

"I thing they were both ready to go (Saturday) but

I guess it was just that gut feeling," he added.

The Roughnecks still want to finish second and get a home playoff date. In order to have a chance to do that, they need to win their final three games. This can only be accomplished by going with the hot goalie.

Right now, that's Avery.


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