It was a head-on collision that killed the Roughnecks playoff drive.
The team’s surprisingly ineffective offence ran smack dab into red-hot Rush goalie Matt Disher, and the outcome was inevitable early on.
Despite too many dropped passes and bad shots to count, the Calgary attack managed to throw 67 shots on Disher, but the veteran turned aside 60 of them as the Rush ended the Riggers’ quest to repeat as NLL champions with an 11-7 win Sunday at the Saddledome.
It was hard to tell where Disher’s brilliance ended and the Riggers’ offensive ineptitude began; how much credit he deserved, how much blame they should shoulder.
Coming into the game, the 6-ft-3, 240-lb. Disher was under fire after a terrible regular season in which he finished 12th in the league with an inflated 12.92 GAA.
Still, Rush coach Derek Keenan opted to start Disher over Brandon Atherton and was rewarded by the 13-year NLL veteran, who limited Calgary to just two goals on 33 first-half shots.
Of course, the Roughnecks players made it easy for him on many of them, continually shooting low despite the fact he was anticipating that, or simply putting it square in his belly pad. In between, he made some stellar stops, including a handful worthy of the highlight reel.
It was a double whammy, because while the club’s forwards couldn’t find the back of the net, Roughnecks starting goaltender Mike Poulin was shaky early at the other end, letting in a few soft ones as the Rush built an early 3-0 first-quarter lead.
Poulin recovered and made some big saves later in the game, but the Calgary offence never really did. They mounted a small charge late in the third quarter and early fourth, but it was shortlived.
The offence’s inability to score five-on-five was further compounded by its futility on the powerplay. Despite boasting some of the best forwards in the league — including leading NLL scorer Josh Sanderson — they went 0-3 with the extra man.
The Rush were 4-4.
Overall, the Roughnecks looked lost for much of the game when they had the ball, and the increasing frustration was evident as players squeezed their sticks, rushed shots and missed the net as they tried desperately to beat Disher.
Sanderson was held to three assists. Captain Tracey Kelusky had one goal, but didn’t dictate play as he often does.
Hometown boy Kaleb Toth couldn’t find the range with his big outside shot, and Craig Conn was robbed a few times early in the game before cooling off around the net. Scott Ranger failed to try and beat defenders one-on-one down low and go to the net, the strongest point of his game.
Dane Dobbie was the best Rigger forward on the night, netting three goals. That said, he took 20 shots, hitting the net 15 times. Not exactly a great average.
So, just like 2005 when they went one-and-done after their first Champion’s Cup win, the Roughnecks again find themselves eliminated early from the NLL playoffs.
This time, however, for not being able to do the one thing nobody thought they would have trouble with this season: Scoring.