The Calgary Roughnecks came into Saturday night sitting somewhere between the Toronto Rock and a tough spot.
That’s it…last place in the National Lacrosse League standings, with the first-place Rock threatening to push them closer to the bottom.
Therefore, achieving victory, which they did in dominant and dramatic fashion, seemed mandatory heading into the National League tournament hosted by Hamilton.
“Yeah… it was huge,” said Roughnecks defenseman Harrison Matsuoka, who was instrumental in the 11-10 victory at the FirstOntario Centre. “You know… it’s all about wins in this league, especially with the new non-conference format. And we knew we should have deserved at least a win last weekend because of how we played and we just didn’t get the rebounds.
“So there’s a little extra fire in our bellies, and it definitely shows.”
In fact, the Roughnecks (3-5) snapped a three-game losing streak, which included two home losses last Friday and last Saturday, with a fantastic effort and firepower from all sides, including two surprising goals apiece of a calm defender. -Final guys Harrison Matsuoka and Robert Hudson.
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“It was definitely a good night for me,” Matsuoka said of the rematch seven days after the Rock beat the Roughnecks 9-7 at Rough House. “It felt good to help the team in this victory.
“Obviously, it’s still a tough roster to beat,” continued the Calgary native, who is in his third season with the Riggers. “We have a lot of depth on this team. So I’m happy to have recovered a little bit and to be able to help us get some wins and get back on the right track.”
Captain Jesse King also had two strong scores, as part of a team-high five-point night against the Rock (6-2).
And teammate and goalkeeper Christian Del Bianco also made noise at the slant, stopping 44 balls and contributing to the Riggers’ offense with a beautiful long-range pass on Matsuoka’s second goal of the night, part of a third goal 4-0. burst of quarters that made the difference in the contest.
“Now we’re playing nice and hard with the Roughnecks ball that the fans are used to,” Matsuoka said. “And it is paying dividends for us. “We are very excited about our performance.”
The Riggers never trailed in the game, drawing first blood, on King’s first of the night, as part of a 4-2 first quarter. Hudson’s first NL goal was the bottom of the frame, after the Rock allowed the Roughnecks newcomer to score with goalie Nick Rose pulled in for an extra attacker late.
The Rock’s mistake, not using enough time during what should have been the final possession of the half, and Hudson’s big moment, in front of friends and family from his nearby hometown of Oakville, Ont. , no less, turned out to be very significant in the end.
“We had a lot of help at the back,” Matsuoka said. “And it’s always great to see a new kid not only score his first goal on the team but also the first goal of his career.”
The Roughnecks got second quarter goals from Haiden Dickson, who fought hard to score in tight spaces, and Shane Simpson, for the team’s third transition goal of the first half, to take a 6-5 lead into halftime. .
Then came arguably the biggest quarter of the schedule for the Roughnecks, as they scored four answered goals in the third quarter, with one more from Hudson and Matsuoka, both again in transition, and Josh Currier and King adding one each to give them the lead. . 10-5 absolute dominance.
“With Hudson scoring two and my two and Simmer getting a goal and Delbs shooting a ball and helping out, it was a great team effort coming from behind,” Matsuoka said. “He helped our offense move forward there.”
But the Rock roared back in the fourth quarter with four goals, including a fourth and a fifth on the night from star Corey Small.
The only answer the Roughnecks offered in the fourth quarter came from Thomas Hoggarth, when he took Pace’s crafty pass and scored.
However, that goal was huge and turned out to be the winning counterattack even though two more goals and additional threats to tie the game were thwarted late by Del Bianco and the Riggers defense.
Dramatic when it didn’t have to be, for sure.
“But that’s fine,” Matsuoka said. “We wouldn’t want it any other way. We knew the Rock was going to hit us in the face back there, and we just rode out the storm. They’re obviously a great team, they’re at the top of the league and we knew they’d have a good chance against us, but we just hung in there and stuck to our game, and we were able to pull through.
“All we needed was one, and it’s nice to have it on tour, especially here in Toronto with a lot of our Ontario guys in front of the home fans.”
Now they return home to play the Halifax Thunderbirds (5-3) on Sunday at WestJet Field at Scotiabank Saddledome (5 p.m., TSN+).
“It’s a great win and now we’re going to move on,” Hudson told NLL.com after the game. “It feels really good.
“It was great (scoring two goals). Happy to be back in the lineup. He was amazing.”
The Roughnecks were without D Eli Salama (lower body), a key defensive cog and the team’s alternate captain… That boosted D Kieran McKay to the active roster… But McKay and rookie D Bennett Smith were cut before the contest.