'No way to sugar-coat that': Roughnecks drop both games of home doubleheader

Super effort spoiled by Rock, knocking Riggers down to 2-5 on NLL season

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The Calgary Roughnecks desperately needed a hero or two.

They needed someone to step up on the Superhero Party night and help save their National Lacrosse League season.

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But try as they might — and they did so bravely to their credit — that didn’t happen enough Saturday for the home side against a super-good super-villain squad at Scotiabank Saddledome.

A 9-7 loss to the visiting Toronto Rock grounded them for the second time in this weekend’s home action, knocking the wind out of an otherwise mighty effort in trying to rebound from Friday’s 11-10 Dome defeat at the dastardly hands of the New York Riptide.

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“Obviously 0-2 sucks — there’s no way to sugar-coat that,” said Roughnecks alternate captain Eli Salama, acknowledging a second-straight home loss on consecutive nights is no way to repay the 9,971 faithful fans on hand for the NLL tilt at the Dome.

“That sucks — that sucks out loud,” continued Salama. “I’m not going to spin that or anything. That is tough. Obviously, we’ve dug ourselves a hole (with three straight losses overall).

“But the sky’s not falling. All hope is not lost. We’ll find it.”

Indeed, all is not lost yet.

There’s still plenty of lacrosse left to play in the hunt for the NLL Cup.

Trouble is the league’s new format — with unified standings involving all 15 teams vying for eight playoff berths — makes it all that much tougher to claw back into the race.

After Saturday’s loss dropped them to 2-5 on the campaign, they have three teams between them and a post-season slot and seven of the top-eight sides have at least four victories already.

Included among that up-top group are the first-place Rock (6-1), who the Riggers rematch next Saturday at Hamilton’s FirstOntario Centre (5 p.m., TSN).

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And, of course, that one won’t be any easier than this weekend’s match-up.

“If we play like we did (Saturday), we have a chance to beat anybody,” Sanderson said. “I betcha they’re better next week than they were (Saturday), so we’re going to have to be even better.”

The Rock goaltender couldn’t be much better, could he?

Super-human Nick Rose was powerful, thwarting too many top-shelf chances by the Roughnecks for 38 stops on the night — many of the rock-star variety.

“Toronto’s got a real good team, and Nicky played really well,” said Roughnecks head coach Josh Sanderson. “They’re one of the top teams for the last few years. We knew it was going to be a battle.

“That was our best game of the year, to be honest,” continued the coach. “I thought we played better than we did in a couple of our wins.

“It’s something really good to build off.”

Haiden Dickson, Tyler Pace — on an over-the-back-shoulder beauty — and Thomas Hoggarth — on an athletic play to scoop up a loose ball behind Rose and shovel it home while keeping his feet out of the crease — got the first-quarter goals for the Riggers.

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But the home heroes managed just one goal in each of the following two frames — and it was Dickson with both.

His second-quarter tally came off a rebound, and his Q3 marker — for the hat-trick — saw him take a sweet feed from Pace and score while diving cross-crease.

It was a reminder of the way the other Dickson — or Curtis, a.k.a. ‘Superman’ — used to score goals and make the Rough House rock.

Even better was that it got the Riggers off the rug at just the right time.

They followed in the final frame with what felt like would be a comeback effort.

Goals by Tanner Cook — with a floater over the back shoulder — and captain Jesse King — on a silly-good sidearm shovel shot — fooled Rose and put the Roughnecks within a goal of the Rock.

“Definitely nice goals,” Sanderson said. “Obviously you like seeing them go in. Would just like to see a couple more. But Nick made some saves and we hit some bars. It just wasn’t going our way.”

Instead it stayed the way of the Rock, with one last T.O. tally by Corey Small with 5:01 remaining providing insurance to seal the deal.

For his part, Christian Del Bianco was solid, stopping 32 in the Roughnecks net as part of a stronger effort by his squad.

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“The effort was awesome,” Salama said. “The only thing to dislike was the result. From (Friday) night to (Saturday), the bench was different, the energy was different, we were just a little more cohesive as a unit, and it was more fun.

“But obviously winning is most fun, so I’m not going to try and make this smell like roses, because it doesn’t.”

His coach agreed.

“Obviously, we’re frustrated with our record and the losses this weekend,” added Sanderson. “But I thought we took a huge step with some stuff that we did (from Friday). Everybody was bought in and competing and playing hard. We cleaned up our turnovers. We cleaned up so much stuff.

“The guys battled hard. If we play like we did (Saturday), we’re going to win lots of games.”

QUICK STICKS

The Roughnecks made one lineup change from Friday night, inserting rookie D Bennett Smith into the lineup to replace D Seth Van Schepen … D Robert Hudson was Saturday’s other scratch by the Riggers … F Logan Schuss (MCL/ACL) remains out indefinitely for the Roughnecks.

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