Cook, Roughnecks find heroic strength in overtime win over fierce Firewolves

Calgary club gets much-needed victory in push for NLL playoffs

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Heroes they will have to be if the Calgary Roughnecks want to make the National Lacrosse League playoffs.

Just like Friday night at the Dome during Marvel Super Hero Night.

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Faced with the injustice of an underwhelming season so far in the standings to be sitting on the outside looking in at the NLL playoffs, the Roughnecks mustered enough force to topple the top-flight Albany Firewolves 10-9 in overtime.

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“Crucial win for us,” said the OT hero, Roughnecks sniper Tanner Cook. “Moving it forward here, we need to tally together as many wins as possible towards the end.”

They certainly needed it Friday, getting a full team — and 60-minute effort — in the victory on WestJet Field before 9,656 fans at Scotiabank Saddledome.

The win moves them just one win out of a playoff spot after Friday night’s NLL action and in better stead for a post-season berth then they were coming into the evening.

The Roughnecks — 6-8 — had lost three straight and went on a freefall in the unified standings ahead of the contest.

So they needed heroics in a bad way against the third-place Firewolves, who are on a three-game slide themselves to fall to 10-5.

Cue Cook then with his stunner of a shot from well out 3:36 into the overtime session.

“I feel like a super hero every night in the Dome,” Cook said.

“Kinger set a beautiful pick for me there,” continued Cook of Riggers captain Jesse King. “I had a lane and fired it at the net, and it went in. Before I went out there, actually they were calling that I was going to score. Coach (Josh Sanderson) rubbed my stick and put a little magic in it for me. Maybe it worked out.”

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It sure did.

And it was hardly a tally Rough House fans expect from Cook, who’s known for scoring in high-traffic areas and in the crush of defenders and the goaltender around the net.

“A laser, sidearm, short-side high (shot), which is tough,” said Sanderson of Cook’s winner to beat Firewolves goaltender Doug Jamieson, who made 45 stops on the evening. “It’s one of the toughest shots to hit, so for him to hit that shot on Dougie, good on Cookie. That was a tough shot to hit.”

“I’d like to think I’ve got that (shot) in my bag,” Cook said. “It was a little bit out of my range, but I want to have fun and hang with the guys after the match. So we gotta win in order to have fun. That’s our slogan.”

The Rough House slogan for the night, in particular, was Marvel’s Legends of Lax, celebrating girls in the game.

And so the local boys went to work early to salute the females of the sport, touching Jamieson twice before four minutes had elapsed. Shane Simpson lit up the Dome first with a beauty goal in transition 2:51 in to the game followed just 32 seconds later by Jesse King’s first of two markers.

But the Firewolves fired back with four straight goals to end the first quarter.

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The second quarter was all Riggers, with King netting his second and Tyler Pace then coming alive for the first two goals of his four-marker performance to give the hosts a 5-4 halftime advantage.

In the third, Haiden Dickson scored just 84 seconds in to give the Roughnecks a two-goal cushion before the Firewolves replied with one of their own. Then it was Pace with two more tallies sandwiched around a visitors’ goal ahead of Eli Salama scoring off a quick shot in transition.

At 9-6 Roughnecks through three quarters, the hosts seemed in control. But the Firewolves proved their strength as one of the league’s fiercest forces with three goals and a clean frame for Jamieson to tie the game and extend the night in to overtime.

Tye Kurtz was the toughest of villains in the battle for the Firewolves, coming up with three goals and five points.

In OT, John Piatelli nearly ended it in favour of the not-good guys, but Roughnecks goalie Christian Del Bianco turned him away in timely — spectacular — fashion seconds ahead of Cook’s goal.

“Don’t really remember it,” said Del Bianco of the save — one of 46 on the game — that saw last year’s NLL MVP come across his crease. “I think they only had that one shot in OT — our defence locked it down pretty good.

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“We’re playing desperate lacrosse and must-win, so it’s nice to see guys going kind of that 130 per cent out there.”

And great to see the goal go in at the other end moments later.

“He’s a pretty gritty o-guy,” said Del Bianco of Cook. “He doesn’t really fit the conventional modern day offensive player in the NLL. We always joke that Tanner was dropped out of the ’70s into modern day, right? So it’s always nice when he scores a big goal like that.”

It’s a bye week next for the Roughnecks, before they suit up for a home-and-home series with the Saskatchewan Rush two weekends from now.

They host their neighbours on Friday, April 5 (7 p.m., TSN+) before rematching in Saskatoon on Saturday, April 6 (7 p.m., TSN+).

“We’re not idiots,” added Del Bianco. “We know we’ve dug ourselves a hole here, and we’ve got to go on a heater.

“We’ve done it before. The (2019) year when we won the championship, we went on a five-game heater. That’s what we need to recreate, and it starts with one game at a time.”

QUICK STICKS

Defender Kieran McKay made his season debut for the Roughnecks on Friday night, getting a chance to draw in with forward Thomas Hoggarth (upper body) on the injury list after he was the victim of an ugly cross-check suffered in last week’s home loss to the San Diego Seals … The Riggers were also without transition Josh Inacio (lower body) and defender Ethan Ticehurst (sick) … Scratches for the Roughnecks were rookie defender Bennett Smith and forward Brett McIntyre.

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