The Calgary Roughnecks ended their regular season home stand with a bang on Saturday night, prevailing 16-9 over the Buffalo Bandits in front of 17,113 fans at Scotiabank Saddledome.
Holden Cattoni’s five goals led the charge for the ‘Necks, who scored 10 straight goals in the second half, shutting out the Bandits for 23:46.
The Roughnecks are locked into third place in the west, so this game had no impact on the standings. But they were playing in front of an NLL season-high audience, and head coach Curt Malwasky told Roughnecks TV after the game that it felt like a playoff atmosphere.
“We challenged the boys that we play playoff lacrosse tonight,” Malawsky said. “That was the message: from now on were in the playoffs and we have to think that way. The boys rose to the challenge and they pushed and we pushed back and we pushed some more and we were able to win.”
The Bandits needed this one to stay firmly at the head of the pack in the east, but they’re now tied with New England for third place, over who they hold the tiebreaker. Playoffs aren’t yet guaranteed.
The first quarter was back and forth and ended with the Bandits up 4-3. Calgary scored three straight to start the second, highlighted by a behind the back tally from Greg Harnett who had scooped up a Dane Dobbie rebound on the fast break. Curtis Dickson scored shorthanded to put the ‘Necks up 6-4, but the lead didn’t last long as the Bandits scored three of their own to retake the lead at 7-6. Dobbie scored on a late-half six-on-four to tie the game at the half.
Buffalo really needed to come out on fire in the second half, but instead, the Roughnecks did. They scored five goals in the first six minutes of the third for a 12-7 lead, and then the defense really took over. Christian Del Bianco didn’t face a lot of hard shots, but he stopped every single shot regardless, including a pair of in-close attempts by Dhane Smith.
Calgary scored four more to start the fourth for a 16-7 lead. Vaughn Harris and Mitch Jones answered for Buffalo, who just looked sluggish and outmatched in the second half.
Del Bianco made 45 saves, and Alex Buque and Zach Higgins split time and combined for 40 saves. Buque took the loss with 12 goals against.
While the offense was on fire for the Roughnecks, it was the defense that did the dirty work to get them those scoring opportunities. Zach Currier led all runners with 12 loose balls and Tyler Burton went 17-28 on face-offs.
“He’s been outstanding all year,” Malwasky said of Burton. “I watched the Georgia tape and Vaughn Harris just ate up Jordan MacIntosh so that was a concern of ours but Burts just battles and competes. He’s got the heart of a lion and he’s got a big big compete level and a will to win.
The guys around him did a good job as well, but that’s not easy, that’s like 30 plus one-on-one battles in the circle.”
Cattoni led with five goals and two helpers, Dobbie scored three goals and four assists, Dickson added two goals and three assists, and Wesley Berg scored once and added seven assists.
Mitch Jones led the Bandits with two goals and two assists.
Buffalo hosts Toronto next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. while Calgary visits Vancouver at 10 p.m.