Roughnecks' playoff hopes in deep hole after loss in Buffalo

Calgary club can’t match Bandits effort when it matters most

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Say a prayer Sunday if you’re a fan of the Calgary Roughnecks.

They’ll need the help — any help they can get — ahead of the National Lacrosse League matinee featuring the Albany FireWolves and the host Panther City Lacrosse Club.

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After getting destroyed Saturday night in Upstate New York, the best hope for the Roughnecks now to reach the NLL playoffs begins with a Panther City loss Sunday.

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“We need some help, so to speak,” said Roughnecks GM Mike Board, after his team’s ugly 14-7 loss to the host Buffalo Bandits.

“We needed a win in Buffalo to control our own destiny.”

Indeed, with just one game remaining in the regular season, the Roughnecks (7-10) are on the outside looking in at the top eight spots — the playoff positions — of the NLL standings.

Fortunately, that lone contest is against Panther City (8-8) next Saturday on WestJet Field at Scotiabank Saddledome (7 p.m., TSN+).

Both Panther City and the New York Riptide (8-9) went into Saturday’s action occupying the last two playoff spots, but the Riptide failed to secure one after a 16-10 loss to the host Vancouver Warriors (8-9), who are also still alive, late Saturday.

The other pivotal affair affecting the Roughnecks in the post-season race saw the San Diego Seals (12-5) lose 13-9 in Saskatoon to the host Saskatchewan Rush (8-9), another team in the playoff mix, late Saturday.

Five teams went into the night in a fight to grab the NLL’s final two playoff berths. If more than two teams end up tied for one or both of those spots, then a convoluted series of tie-breakers kick in to determine the two post-season teams.

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But one thing’s certain … if the Roughnecks can survive the weekend, then, said Board, “we need a win next weekend, for sure.”

As for Saturday’s game in front of 19,070 fans at Buffalo’s KeyBank Center, it was over almost before it began — a common refrain for the Roughnecks far too often on the season.

The Bandits were on the attack early and never wilted despite Riggers goaltender Christian Del Bianco thwarting them time and again save for a goal by Chase Fraser just 65 seconds in.

The hosts kept peppering last year’s league MVP with shots and finally got to him for three goals in the final 2:19 of the first quarter to put up the visitors in a 4-0 hole.

Another Bandits tally early in the second stanza made it 5-0, and they followed with four more markers before halftime to counter two by the Roughnecks — on a power play by Tyler Pace and at even-strength by Tanner Cook.

And the 9-2 halftime lead — which featured two goals by Bandits superstar Josh Byrne for his 50th of the season and 200th in his NLL career — proved too much to overcome for Sanderson’s squad.

“I thought they came out and played with more hunger and more urgency than we did,” Board said. “That’s disappointing with all that is on the line in these games at the end of the season.”

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The Riggers did fight back to make it respectable in the second half.

Third-quarter goals by Haiden Dickson, Dan Taylor and Pace — with his second of the night — and fourth-frame tallies by Jesse King and Josh Currier saw the visitors get the better of the hosts in the final 30 minutes, but enough answers by the team in command finalized the night.

“Buffalo are the defending champs for a reason,” Board said. “They have a lot of depth throughout the lineup.”

Del Bianco made 39 saves, while Riggers back-up Steve Fryer came in on two occasions and stopped one ball.

At the other end, goalie Matt Vinc turned away 43 balls — and got big help from his defence, which blocked 14 shots game-wide — for the Bandits (10-7), who sealed a playoff spot with the victory.

“A lot of blocked shots,” Vinc told post-game. “We did a great job staying at home.

“It’s contagious. The list goes on and on of guys sacrificing their bodies and getting into the lanes. That’s the best performance we’ve had on the defensive end all year.”

But the Riggers?

“Not much to say, other than the Bandits were good,” added Board. “They blocked shots, and at the other end, they shot the ball well.

“We didn’t match that on our part.”


Defenceman Kieran McKay drew into the Roughnecks lineup for Saturday’s game … Riggers scratches were veteran forward Logan Schuss and rookie defenceman Bennett Smith … Injuries kept transition Justin Inacio (lower body), defenceman Robert Hudson (upper body) and forward Brett McIntyre (lower body) from making the trip with the Roughnecks.

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