The 2015 NLL season got underway in “Cowtown” as the defending West Division champion Calgary Roughnecks played host to the Vancouver Stealth on Saturday night. The ‘Necks (0-1) didn’t get the result they were looking for in their home opener, losing 18-14 to the Stealth (1-0) in front of a home crowd of 11,563 fans.
“I don’t think we valued the ball very well,” said Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky. “Early in the first half, we gave them a lot of opportunities and we had one five-on-five goal.”
It was a good start for the Roughnecks going into the half with a 9-7 lead but the wheels seemed to fall off the tracks as the Stealth went on an increbile 11-0 scoring run at the start of the third quarter.
“Quite frankly, they went on a 11-goal run believe it or not,” said Malawsky. “We switched goalies up, we tried to bring some momentum, we tried to get the ball down low. And it just seemed when they got opportunities- and I’ll be quite clear…they made a bunch of them themselves out of hard work. Kudos to them, when they did create them, they scored on them.”
Roughnecks forward Dane Dobbie, who led the NLL with 51 goals in 2015, said there were many things that went wrong during the Stealth’s run.
“Our offense wasn’t getting off the floor tonight,” Dobbie said. “They got a lot of transition goals and we didn’t pull our weight up front. That’s one thing we have to look at during the week.”
“That’s not what we’re looking for, but the real test is going to see how we rebound and we’ll see how that goes next weekend. Losing’s not fun, and we’ll see how these 25 guys rebound from it.”
Dan Perreault earned his first win as Stealth head coach after taking over this past offseason from the late, great NLL Hall of Famer Chris Hall. Roughnecks all-time points leader Kaleb Toth, in his first year as an assistant coach with the Stealth, thinks his team did a great job with the little things throughout the game.
“They got on us early, but what kept us in it was the power-play,” he said. “We got two goals on the five-minute penalty that they had which helped us, and then we just continued to fight back. The second half, we just stuck to our game plan…which is just run and try to get them tired. The biggest thing is scoring on your opportunities, and when you can score on your transition opportunity, that takes a big wind out of their sails.”
The Stealth made some big moves throughout the off-season, and when asked if his team was ready, Malawsky stated that his team could have been more prepared.
“We’re a very structured team and a very structured coaching staff,” he said. “We have our work to do as a coaching staff, we need to prepare the guys and get them going. We’re going to hang that on us as coaches, we need to be better. Our guys are going to go the way we go and we didn’t have them as ready as I wanted. If you want to look anywhere, the fingers pointed at me and I’ll take it right on the chin.”
“I didn’t like our floor balance, I didn’t like our shot selection. Offensively, I know we had 62 shots on goal and I think it was close to 27 off (goal), so our shooting wasn’t crisp.”
Leading the way for the Stealth was star forward Rhys Duch with four goals and five assists. Malawsky said his team knew they had to key on Duch if they wanted to win.
“We had some guys sitting back in the hole and if you’re going to give Rhys Duch time and space he’s going to put the ball in the net,” said Malawsky. “I thought he had a great game for them and we didn’t want their best player to beat us and he ended up scoring some big momentum-shifting goals.”
Toth knows all about what the Roughnecks can do in transition and said his team did a great job counterattacking their offense.
“The Roughnecks are a great transition team,” he said. “We were fortunate enough to have a couple of those to match the couple that they had, and I think that was a big difference and a huge upside for our team tonight.”
The Stealth will now travel home to face the Toronto Rock in their home opener while the Roughnecks head to Colorado to take on the Mammoth.
“We got what we deserved, simple as that,” said Malawsky. “We deserved to get beat 18-14 and that’s what we got.”
“It’s a good reality check and a smack in the face, and it doesn’t get any easier now. We’ve got to go into Denver in a week on the road, so we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Tyler Digby
2) Dane Dobbie
3) Lewis Ratcliff
Story by Kassidy Collins (@RoughnecksBeat) for NLL.com. Photo courtesy of Brad Watson.