Roughnecks make major improvement on special teams

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:31 PM ET

CALGARY — The King has returned to the throne, and order was restored to the Battle of Alberta.

With a brilliant performance from goalie Matt King, the Calgary Roughnecks halted a three-game losing streak by beating the Edmonton Rush 13-8 Friday night at the Saddledome.

The Riggers improve to 2-3 on the season and record a win for the first time since the home-opener Jan. 10 against the Minnesota Swarm.

King’s 33 saves are quite a rebound from a week ago when the Rush scored eight goals on 13 shots and the Calgary starter was yanked.

“What’s odd is I didn’t feel overly bad going into the last two games,” King said. “For whatever reason, things didn’t work out. They key was our defence was unrelenting.

“They maybe gave up three goals five-on-five. They allowed me to everything I need to do and make life easy on me.”

The Rush drop to 3-2 and had their own three-game winning streak broken in front of 10,724 spectators at the Saddledome.

Josh Sanderson had a hat-trick in leading the way for the home side, while Scott Ranger, Tracey Kelusky and Jeff Shattler each had a pair.

Craig Conn, Mike Carnegie, Curtis Manning and Dane Dobbie added singles for Calgary, which hosts the Toronto Rock on Valentine’s Day in its next action.

The losing streak was nearing the longest for the Roughnecks since they were an expansion team in 2002.

Coming off a National Lacrosse League championship last spring, going 1-3 at the quarter-pole wasn’t pretty.

“Everyone was second guessing,” Kelusky said. “Guys were walking on egg shells. When you are winning, everyone is vocal and when you are losing everyone is sick of talking.

“We just needed to go play our game. When you come to the rink, we wonder how to act. We didn’t change a whole lot up. The things we said was we were losing but we can’t change. We battled through and it’s a relief.”

Ryan Powell, Gavin Prout and Ryan Ward had a pair each for the Rush, while Scott Stewart and Dean Hill added singles.

Heading into the fourth quarter with a five-goal lead, the Battle of Alberta started to show its hatred.

Roughnecks defender Jeff Moleski went with Derek Suddons in a heavyweight tilt, then Mike Kilby took on Rush behemoth Brodie Merrill.

Although Kilby held his own with the 6-foot-4 star, the Riggers defender was bleeding from his eye and had to leave the game.

To finish it off, Roughnecks defender Scott Carnegie and Rush superpest Jimmy Quinlan dropped helmets and gloves for a spirited battle.

The real story was King, who made save after save to give his offence a chance to build a big lead.

Another thing that changed from a week ago was the Riggers getting goals from the back end.

Shattler’s pair combined with late tallies from Roughnecks rookie Curtis Manning (first NLL goal) and Mike Carnegie gave Calgary a transition game it sorely lacked in recent weeks.

“That was something we addressed,” Kelusky said. “Those three games we lost was a direct result because of our transition game being poor.”

After the loss in Edmonton, the Roughnecks acquired goalie Mike Poulin from the Boston Blazers and sent backup Chris Levis to Colorado to shake up the situation.

King responded, and so did his team.

It seems like the losing streak is a distant memory already.

“Last year was amazing,” King said. “To only lose four times in 19 games wasn’t a reality. You will go through rough patches throughout the season and peak near the end.

“That’s our goal again this year and hopefully we’re moving in the right direction.”

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca


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