The Calgary Roughnecks desperately needed a hero or two.
They needed someone to step up superhero party night and help save the National Lacrosse League season.
But try as they might (and bravely to their credit), that didn’t happen enough on Saturday for the home team against a super good, super villain team at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
A 9-7 loss to visiting Toronto Rock left them punished for the second time in home action this weekend, leaving them gasping for air in an otherwise mighty effort to try to bounce back from Friday’s 11 loss. -10 in the Dome at the hands of the evil New York. Turby waters.
“Obviously 0-2 sucks, there’s no way to sugarcoat that,” Roughnecks alternate captain Eli Salama said, acknowledging that a second straight home loss on consecutive nights is no way to reward the 9,971 loyal fans in attendance for the National League game in the dome.
“That sucks, that sucks out loud,” Salama continued. “I’m not going to dwell on that or anything like that. That’s hard. Obviously, we have dug ourselves a hole (with three consecutive losses in total).
“But the sky is not falling. Not all hope is lost. We will find”.
In fact, all is not lost yet.
There is still plenty of lacrosse left to play in the quest for the NLL Cup.
The problem is that the league’s new format (with unified standings involving all 15 teams competing for eight playoff spots) makes it much harder to get back into the race.
After Saturday’s loss dropped them to 2-5 on the season, they have three teams between them and a playoff berth and seven of the top eight teams already have at least four wins.
That top group includes the first-place Rock (6-1), whom the Riggers will play next Saturday at the FirstOntario Center in Hamilton (5 p.m., TSN).
And of course, that won’t be any easier than this weekend’s showdown.
“If we play like we did (Saturday), we have a chance to beat anyone,” Sanderson said. “I bet next week they’ll be better than they were (Saturday), so we’re going to have to be even better.”
The Rock’s goalie couldn’t be much better, right?
The superhuman Nick Rose was powerful, thwarting too many high-level Roughnecks opportunities during 38 stops on the night, many of which were rock stars.
“Toronto has a really good team and Nicky played really well,” Roughnecks head coach Josh Sanderson said. “They are one of the best teams in recent years. We knew it was going to be a battle.
“To be honest, that was our best game of the year,” the coach continued. “I thought we played better than we did in a couple of our wins.
“It’s a really good thing to build on.”
Haiden Dickson, Tyler Pace (on an over-the-shoulder beauty) and Thomas Hoggarth (on an athletic play to pick up a loose ball behind Rose and push it home while keeping his feet outside the box) got the first. quarter goals for the Riggers.
But the local heroes managed just one goal in each of the next two frames, and it was Dickson with both.
His score in the second quarter came off a rebound, and his score in Q3, for the hat-trick, saw him receive a sweet pass from Pace and score as he darted into the box.
It was a reminder of the way the other Dickson, or Curtis, aka ‘Superman’, used to score goals and make Rough House rock.
Even better was that he pulled the Riggers off the mat at just the right moment.
They continued into the final frame with what appeared to be a comeback effort.
Goals from Tanner Cook, with a floater over the back shoulder, and captain Jesse King, with a silly good shovel shot, fooled Rose and put the Roughnecks within one goal of the Rock.
“Definitely good goals,” Sanderson said. “You obviously like to see them come in. I’d just like to see a couple more. But Nick made some stops and we hit some bars. He just wasn’t going the way we wanted.”
Instead, he stayed like the Rock, with a late TO from Corey Small with 5:01 remaining providing insurance to seal the deal.
For his part, Christian Del Bianco was solid, stopping 32 in the Roughnecks’ net as part of a stronger effort by his team.
“The effort was incredible,” Salama said. “The only thing I didn’t like was the result. From (Friday) night to (Saturday), the bench was different, the energy was different, we were a little more cohesive as a unit and it was more fun.
“But obviously winning is the most fun, so I’m not going to try to make this smell like roses, because it doesn’t.”
His coach agreed.
“Obviously, we’re frustrated with our record and the losses this weekend,” Sanderson added. “But I thought we took a big step with some things we did (since Friday). Everyone was convinced, competed and played hard. We clean our empanadas. We clean a lot of things.
“The boys fought hard. “If we play like we did (Saturday), we will win a lot of games.”
The Roughnecks made one lineup change from Friday night, inserting rookie D Bennett Smith into the lineup to replace D Seth Van Schepen… D Robert Hudson was the other eliminated Saturday by the Riggers… F Logan Schuss (MCL/ACL) remains out indefinitely for the Roughnecks.