Calgary Roughnecks sink NLL Halifax Thunderbirds at Saddledome

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Pace, King and Currier all scored hat tricks in the host NLL club's offensive attack

Published on February 18, 2024Last updated on February 19, 20244 minutes reading time

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Tyler Pace, Calgary RoughnecksCalgary Roughnecks forward Tyler Pace. Photo from Postmedia File

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The Calgary Roughnecks wanted to make sure the East Coast Kitchen Party was a great time.

So on Sunday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome, they threw everything, including the kitchen sink, at the high-flying Halifax Thunderbirds.

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And that offensive onslaught meant a team the Roughnecks are trying to scout for a spot in the National Lacrosse League playoffs was wiped out in time.

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“It was great,” Roughnecks forward Tyler Pace said of the 17-11 win in front of 10,204 raucous fans at WestJet Field that moved the team closer to .500 — at 4-5 — and closer to one in the eight The league's playoffs brought patches closer.

“Like we've been bitten by a snake coming out the front door a little bit the last few weeks,” Pace continued. “So piling them up like that, chasing the goalkeeper twice and getting contributions from the backline made it an overall team effort.

“Halifax had a game under their belt on Friday night (with a 14-12 win over the road Buffalo Bandits) … and we just took it.”

Boy, did they ever do that?

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The offense was floundering, and scrappy goaltenders Warren Hill and Drew Hutchison, who had held back the T-Birds – now 6-4 – were on a four-game winning streak.

Pace himself was a force with three goals, including his 100th goal.

Captain Jesse King also had a hat trick, as did Josh Currier, who was playing in his 100th NLL game and capped his big night in the final quarter by diving from behind the net and firing the ball into the goal.

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“Josh definitely played very well,” Roughnecks head coach Josh Sanderson said. “I thought all the guys up front were really good. It was probably our best game offensively for a while, so I'm really glad they were rewarded with some production. Josh, for his 100th game… having a good game like that is good for him.”

Teammates Tanner Cook and Shane Simpson — in transition, of course — each had two sharpshooters.

And Rigger's singles went to Robert Hudson – for his third in just two appearances this season – Zach Currier, Thomas Hoggarth and Haiden Dickson.

“To be honest, I think the balls just went in and we just stuck with it and kept shooting,” Pace said. “And we kept scoring. So why stop? It was a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of thing.

“It’s important for us to score goals up front.”
On the other hand, Roughnecks goaltender Christian Del Bianco made 38 stops to earn the win.

“It was obviously a big win for us,” Sanderson said. “Halifax had a big win against Buffalo on Friday night. They're one of the top teams in the league so we knew we had to be ready and I think we came out of it with really good energy. They answered some of our runs, but then we were able to answer right away. I’m just very happy that the boys played a full 60 minutes.”

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The home side were particularly keen to score at the start and scored goals early and often.

The Riggers built a 6-2 lead that shrank to 6-4 by the end of the first quarter.

They then took the lead three times in a row at the start of the second stanza, building margins of 9-4 and 11-5, scoring seven goals in the period. The T-Birds managed to score four of the last seven goals in the half to stay within shouting distance – 13-9 at halftime.

And the guests narrowed the game even further – with the first two goals of the second half making it 13:11 – with the offense becoming the priority in the third and fourth quarters.

King scored the only home goal – on the power play – for the Roughnecks in the third frame.
And Simpson – with a nice play in transition after repelling a long-range pass from Del Bianco – Dickson and Josh Currier scored the only fourth-quarter goals for either side to secure the home win.

Captain King scored a game-high nine points in the win, while Pace scored six. And Cook, Currier and Dan Taylor – who had four assists – each scored four points for the Riggers.

With two goals and five points, Ryan Benesch had the lead over the guests, who simply couldn't keep up with the home team's scoring strength.

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“I think our O definitely has that in every single game,” Currier added. “We were just very focused going into this game. We were dialed in to training. We were dialed in at the shoot-around. I think we were just ready to go and we were excited to try and get a win and we were happy to do that.

“That was huge for us. We know we need to start getting some wins and now we have two in a row.”

They'll win three straight games with a home opener next weekend against the Philadelphia Wings on Saturday at the Dome (7 p.m., TSN+).

FAST STICKS

Pace on his 100th NLL goal: “Let’s get a hundred more.” … Currier on his 100th NLL game: “It was nice to win that game – that’s for sure. I would say it probably made me think a little bit more about my career when I started playing the game and everything that happens in the future. “It was definitely a special game.” but he didn't play… Also cut from the Roughnecks was rookie D Bennett Smith.

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