Stealth stun Roughnecks with season-opening comeback win
The Calgary Roughnecks spent most of the National Lacrosse League off-season talking about heartbreak and the one that got away.
They were saying much the same Saturday night after the Vancouver Stealth survived the Roughnecks’ early assault and then steamrolled to an 18-14 season-opening win at Scotiabank Saddledome in front of 11,563 stunned fans.
Calgary, which blew a late lead and lost the Champions Cup final by a goal to the Rochester Knighthawks last season, led the seemingly shell-shocked Stealth 9-4 late in the second quarter before Vancouver struck for 11 unanswered goals and nursed a 13-9 fourth-quarter lead home.
New head coach Dan Perreault said last week it would take a few games for his newlook Stealth to develop chemistry and an identity. The growing pains were obvious early on, but netminder Tyler Richards made enough superb saves to keep his squad within reach while the offence figured things out.
On Saturday, the visitors demonstrated they can handle adversity, they don’t shy away from the rough stuff, they don’t quit and they can win on the road.
“We didn’t have our legs in the first quarter,” said an excited Perreault, who earned his first NLL win as a bench boss. “You can practice all you want, but once you get into a high-tempo game, it’s a whole different feeling. The first quarter seemed like we were playing our first game of the year.”
Rhys Duch led the way for Vancouver with four goals and five assists, while Tyler Digby and Ilija Gaelic each scored three times. Tyler Hass, Tyler Burton and Caleb Wiles netted two goals apiece, with singles added by Lewis Ratcliff and Joel McCready.
Duch told reporters after the TSN-televised game that his teammates were nervous in the first quarter.
“We were excited to start the season and we put some pressure on ourselves because we expected to win and get the job done,” Duch said.
“Our heads are in the right place and we’re ready to put on a show for our home fans next weekend.”
The impressive Dane Dobbie scored four times for Calgary, which outshot the Stealth 62-48. Jeff Shattler and Curtis Dickson netted three goals each, while Shawn Evans added a pair. Geoff Snider and Mike Carnegie scored once.
Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky liked his team’s aggressive start and its competitive finish, but said the Stealth’s 11-goal outburst in-between was too much to overcome.
“We switched goalies up, we tried to bring some momentum … it just didn’t go our way. We got what we deserved tonight, simple as that,” Malawsky said. “It’s a good reality check and a smack in the face.”
ROLLOUTS: The Stealth host the Toronto Rock on Saturday (TSN2, 7:30 p.m.) at the Langley Events Centre and will have a pre-game ceremony to mark the deaths of NLL Hall of Fame coach Chris Hall and Toronto Rock GM Terry Sanderson. … Toronto opened its season Saturday with a 13-12 win over the Knighthawks in Rochester, N.Y. Rochester is trying to win its fourth straight championship this season. … The first 450 fans at the LEC on Saturday will receive a Stealth energy towel.