-story and photos by Tom Frank
Calgary, AB – The 2009 National Lacrosse League Champions, the Calgary Roughnecks, began defence of their title with a 12-7 victory over the Minnesota Swarm Sunday afternoon in front of 8,112 at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
The pre-game ceremony included video highlights of last seasons run to the Champion’s Cup and the raising of the Western Division and Championship banners.
The most notable changes this season appear behind the bench. Gone are Head Coach Troy Cordingley and Assistant Coach Terry Sanderson. Last year’s Assistant Coach, Dave Pym, now takes the reigns with Assistant Coaches Curt Malawsky and Rod Jensen. Malawsky retired last July after 12 seasons in the NLL.
Both teams looked a little sloppy in the 1st quarter with dropped passes and missed opportunities. Josh Sanderson opened the scoring for the hosts at 3:40 taking a pass from Tracey Kelusky and bouncing it past Swarm net-minder Nick Patterson. Minnesota responded with 2 goals 61 seconds apart. The first was by Andrew Watt on a transition break at 6:52 and the second by Aaron Wilson cutting in from the crease. Calgary’s Jeff Moleski scored with 1:37 remaining in the quarter with a shot from the L shooter position.
The Roughnecks were back on track as they maintained most of the possession through the first 5 minutes of the 2nd quarter. At 3:54, Kelusky scored a PP marker from the corner, behind the goal line, off the back of Patterson. Sanderson got his 2nd tally of the night 26 seconds later and completed his hat-trick at 5:39. Patterson fell back awkwardly on the play and was replaced by back-up Kevin Croswell. Calgary’s Scott Ranger broke straight through the middle and put the Riggers ahead 6-2 at 6:53. Patterson re-entered the game and blanked the hosts for the remainder of the half.
The Swarm could not get much going while on offence, but did manage 2 more goals to finish the 2nd quarter – one on a loose ball pick up in front of the net and the second during their 1st PP at 13:55. Minnesota went on the PP again with 39.3 remaining. In the dying seconds, Calgary’s tender Matt King was unable to control a loose ball within his crease. The Swarm had several chances, but could not bury the ball into the open net.
A potential brawl was managed well by the officials as the teams gathered in front of the benches at the end of the half.
The Swarm managed to make it close early in the 3rd coming to within a goal at 6-5 (2:56) and 7-6 (5:57). Calgary scored two quick goals at 10:23 and 10:59 to kill any momentum Minnesota gained.
Defence and ball control was the difference for the Roughnecks in the second half. The Swarm were not able to penetrate the middle and only managed shots from the outside. The Riggers made good use of the clock during their possessions. Calgary’s defence and goalie King held the fort while Minnesota made several attempts with the extra attacker on the floor during the 4th quarter.
The teams meet again next Friday in Minnesota at the Xcel Energy Centre for the rematch.
Other Game Notes:
– SOG 47-45 in favour of Calgary
– PP Calgary 3/4 Minnesota 2/3
– Ryan Benesch led the Swarm with 2g, 3a
– Player of the Game Josh Sanderson (4,6)
-Calgary veteran Kaleb Toth was out dealing with hamstring issues
-faceoff /transition vet Devan Wray was a healthy scratch.