Considering both teams are recent league champions and they’ve had a bitter rivalry for more than a few years, these games tend to get quite rough. Last years final regular season game between the Roughnecks and Rock took place in Calgary and I was there. At one point all the players on the playing field at the time, including the goalies, fought — back to back mind you, one fight right after the other.
This game, on the other hand, was different. Oh, it was still a rough game and there were plenty of big hits on both sides. The difference this time being there was no fighting. According to Lewis Ratcliff that was a part of the Roughneck’s plan. Both teams are in a very tight battle for domination of their respective divisions and unnecessary distractions like fights may come back to haunt them.
As far as the game play goes, the Roughnecks got on the board first with a goal by captain Tracey Kelusky. Lewis Ratcliff was next to score followed by two catchup goes for Toronto by Sanderson and Manning. Kelusky and Manning both managed to chock up another goal each and Ratcliff assisted Kelusky in his third goal of the quarter to finish off the first frame.
Toronto came back in the second with a couple goals from Kruger and Sanderson. Kelusky, on one of his best streaks this season, scored his fourth of the game shortly after. Around the middle of the frame Sanderson picked up his hat trick goal and Kevin Dostie tied it at 6 to close out the half.
Jesse Phillips, giving his injured knee a good run, gave Calgary the go-ahead goal. This was one of the high points of the game for me considering he has been considering retirement due to his knee. To put the Roughnecks another goal ahead Ratcliff put a sweet one past Watson. The final goal of the quarter was a powerplay goal by Sanderson bringing the Rock within one.
About a minute into the fourth Lewis Ratcliff put his 29th goal of the year past Watson. Doyle started the catch up game for Toronto a few minutes later. What happened next very well could be picked out as the game changing play. After a nice save, Watson scooped up the ball and placed it in his stick. One of the Rock players walked behind him, accidentally bumping Watson’s stick. Unfortunately for the Rock but in Tracey Kelusky’s favor, the ball fell out of Watson’s stick and rolled across the goal line. I say that was in Kelusky’s favor because he was the last Roughneck to touch the ball and was credited with the goal.
With an extra attacker on, the Rock’s Aaron Wilson to bring the tally to 10—9 in our favor. Playing it a little on the reckless side, hoping to tie the game at 10 Watson was called to the bench. Our Roughnecks managed to get a bead on the ball with roughly 30 seconds left and Kyle Goundrey popped in an empty net goal to cinch the win.
During the third and fourth quarters Curtis Palidwor was definitely looking in top form, letting only 9 goals in from one of the top teams in the east. The highlight of his game has to be the back to back saves he made against Veltman to close out the third frame. After stoning Veltman on a breakaway the ball went out of play. The ref started the play again but neither team had anyone in position — which, according to the commentators, is perfectly fine since there is no rule against it — giving the ball to Veltman again.
With no defenders to stop him Veltman made a spectacular diving shot. Palidwor, much to the chagrin of the Toronto fans, made an even more amazing diving save, just barely deflecting the ball with his short side elbow. Wow. I literally jumped off the couch after that save.
The other game highlight I wanted to mention was the buzzer beater by Ratcliff at the beginning of the final quarter. After some nice passing and a couple failed attempts to find a shot the ball ended up in Ratcliff’s possession. With one second left on the clock he took the shot and squeaked it by Watson as the shot clock timer sounded.
Penalties and powerplays
In the negative, the Roughnecks too a few too many penalties this game. There were a few questionable calls in my opinion, eg., the illegal cross check against Phillips in the third. On the positive side of things, the boys seemed to pick up their powerplay game quite a bit. Scoring on four of the six powerplay opportunities gave them their highest powerplay percentage this season.