The Calgary Roughnecks finished their home opener against the Colorado Mammoth leading their visitors in almost every statistical category except one.
The final score.
After leading by as much as four in the third quarter, the Riggers stumbled to the finish line, giving up the lead late in the fourth quarter and losing it just 45 seconds into sudden-death overtime.
Credit has to go to the Colorado Mammoth, whose offense continued to press throughout the entire game. John Grant Jr. continued his dominance of the NLL by racking up another 10 points in the game, giving him 30 in just three games on the season.
Grant also joined the NLL's 1,000 point club in the first quarter, making him only the fifth player in league history to reach that plateau.
While Colorado's scoring remained steady and constant throughout the game, Calgary got off to a quick start, but sputtered late in the game, when they had several chances to put the game away for good. Dane Dobbie, who had scored back-to-back hat tricks in the first two games of the season, wasn't able to convert on any of his team-leading 14 shots, winding up goalless for the first time of the year.
Consequently, the Roughnecks only tallied one goal in the fourth quarter, opening the door for a Mammoth comeback.
Goalie Mike Poulin had a sub-par game as well. His 36 saves were a passable performance, but down from what he had been doing so far this season. The Mammoth were able to beat him over his left shoulder repeatedly in the final frame, including the game winner in OT.
The game was marred by penalties. Calgary gave up 10 power-play opportunities and Colorado surrendered eight of its own, resulting in six Mammoth goals and four Roughneck goals. Sloppy play and questionable calls at times by the refs hampered the flow of the game, frequently killing momentum for both squads.
And, of course, the game-winner came after Shawn Evans was charged with tripping. Almost immediately, the Mammoth were able to get the ball to Gavin Prout for a perfectly placed blast to the top shelf past Poulin.
There were plenty of positives for the Roughnecks in spite of the loss.
Kaleb Toth, in his first game of the season following off-season surgery, scored in the first half on a classic booming shot from mid-range.
Daryl Veltman had a big game, scoring a hat trick and picking up three assists to pace the offense. Shawn Evans added five points and Curtis Dickson, Jeff Shattler and Scott Ranger had three points apiece.
Calgary dominated the loose ball stat, nabbing 101 to Colorado's 63. They also led in shots and forced turnovers.
The most significant stat of the night was that Calgary won 27 of 28 face-offs. For the most part, Colorado's face-off men, led by Scott Stewart, simply conceded the draw to Roughneck Geoff Snider, opting to react before the whistle and break back into their defensive setup, rather than take the chance of Snider leading an odd-man rush.
The unconventional strategy of donating possession to the Roughnecks worked, for the most part, with Calgary only able to capitalize with three goals in those 27 opportunities. It will be interesting to see if more teams adopt this strategy in an effort to neutralize the massive advantage Snider's face-off prowess gives the Roughnecks.
All that domination on the stat sheet didn't translate into a win. The Roughnecks were unable to take advantage of their chances and Mammoth goalie Chris Levis seemed to get better and better as the game wore on.
Next up for the Riggers is their second match-up of the year against the Toronto Rock on Saturday, Jan. 28. Toronto has started their title defense by going 0-2 and is smarting following the loss of star forward Blaine Manning to injury. They will be looking for revenge for their Week One loss to the Roughnecks.
Calgary will need to step up its game, play four solid quarters and convert the opportunities presented to it if it hopes to get back to its winning ways.