|The Roughnecks' Dane Dobbie flies through the air, scoring on the Rock's Matt Roik in a 12-9 Riggers victory last night in Toronto. (JACK BOLAND/QMI Agency)
The Toronto Rock raised another championship banner to the rafters and then dropped the hammer down on the Calgary Roughnecks.
Fortunately for the Riggers, a 5-0 lead isn’t insurmountable in the National Lacrosse League unless you start to panic, and the visitors never did.
After a brutal opening quarter, the Roughnecks outplayed and outscored the defending NLL champions 12-4, sealing a 12-9 season-opening victory Sunday at the Air Canada Centre.
“We knew if we stuck with the gameplan good things would happen,” head coach Dave Pym said. “It’s not like we didn’t have chances (at the start).
“Offences take some time to get into a rhythm. When you are playing high-pressure defence, it makes it difficult coming out of the gate.
“After that first quarter, we showed a lot more poise and patience. We let the ball do some more work for us in the second half to get us some nice goals.”
The nicest goal put it out of reach late.
Dane Dobbie cut to the net and flew through the crease, tucking the ball behind goalie Matt Roik.
It took a review to confirm Dobbie didn’t put his right foot down before the ball hit the netting, but the beautiful goal regained the Riggers two-goal lead.
Dobbie had a hat-trick, including finishing off the game with an empty-net goal that was rewarded when he was hauled down on a breakaway. Dobbie led all scorers with six points, while Curtis Dickson had a goal and four helpers.
Scott Ranger and newcomer Shawn Evans had a pair of goals each, while Cory Conway, Mike Carnegie, Daryl Veltman and Jeff Shattler also scored for the Riggers (1-0), who face the Washington Stealth on the road Saturday before their home-opener Jan. 21 against the Colorado Mammoth.
Colin Doyle led the Rock with a goal and three assists, but the Roughnecks defence made the legend pay for every inch he got. The Riggers also weren’t burned in their first meeting against former teammate Josh Sanderson, who was held to a goal and an assist in his debut with the Rock.
Conway put the visitors on the board early in the second quarter before the Rock made it 6-1.
After Dobbie scored his first, Carnegie sparked the team with a shorthanded goal on a breakaway with just over two minutes left in the second quarter to cut the deficit to three at halftime.
Once the ball dropped on the third frame, the Riggers took over and Poulin got absolutely hot.
With the Rock pressing to cut into a two-goal lead in the final minute, Poulin made a huge save on Stephan Leblanc, recovered the ball and fired up the floor to Dobbie.
“He stayed steady,” said defender Geoff Snider. “It’s easy for a goalie to get rattled. At 6-1, you could argue it was time to yank him to get a spark going.
“He wanted to send a message. We battled back and rallied around him. He bailed us out at the end. He did a great job.”
In the third quarter, the Riggers had a four-goal run to take their first lead.
Then early in the fourth, Ranger had scored a pair of goals — both top-corner lasers that Roik had no chance on — to give the visitors the lead they wouldn’t give up.
“Ranger’s goals changed the momentum and emotion of the game and they couldn’t get it back,” Pym said. “It stayed with us and we maintained a nice emotional balance.”
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