On any given weekend during the NLL season, it's a relatively easy chore to find a bunch of highlight-reel-worthy plays, whether they be big goals, big saves, or big hits. The reason, of course, is that the sport contains some of the best, most exciting action in the sports world.
In fact, the action on the floor is so good, that it's well within the realm of possibility to put together a Top 10 highlight package from just a single game that would rival the thrills of any weekend of any other sport.
Well as luck would have it, I was sitting in the Saddledome on Saturday night along with my wife and 11,300 of our closest friends to watch the Edmonton Rush beat the crap out of my beloved Calgary Roughnecks by a final score of 18-13.
While the results were not what we were hoping for, the game itself was full of some outstanding lacrosse, a moving ceremony to induct Kaleb Toth as the first Forever A Roughneck and two sweet, sweet fights.
With that in mind, here's my list of the Top 10 highlights from this past weekend's Edmonton Rush-Calgary Roughnecks game.
With seconds remaining in the first quarter and the score tied at 2-2, the Roughnecks called a timeout to map out a play for the final shot of the frame. With goalie Mike Poulin on the bench and an extra attacker on the floor, Calgary set up and began running their play.
Reigning NLL Defensive Player of the Year Kyle Rubisch wasn't waiting for Calgary to execute their plan however. With the clock winding down, Rubisch intercepted a pass and fired the recovered ball the length of the floor.
Rush Rookie Mark Matthews was selected first overall for a reason. And the reason is that he's insanely talented.
He is leading the NLL right now in goals scored with 28, and if he gets just a little hotter in the final six games of this season could break the single-season rookie scoring record currently held by Hall of Famer Paul Gait.
Matthews has the full set of scoring tools. He's big at 6'4", he has one of the hardest shots in the league and he's shockingly fast and agile on top of it all.
For the first half of this game, the Roughnecks kept Matthews contained by constantly bringing double-teams his way, but as the Rush began to build their lead, that option came off the table, giving Matthews more one-on-one opportunities.
In this case, it looks like Double-M was able to create some separation from fellow rookie Mark Dinsdale while posting him up; the moment Matthews felt Dinsdale stumble it was all over.
The goal was Edmonton's fourth in a row early in the second quarter and chased Poulin from the game, putting Frankie Scigliano between the pipes for the remainder of the half.
In the dying moments of the first half, Calgary got to within two goals and looked to be in good position to get back into the game. With the Rush pressing, what they needed was for Frankie Scigliano to make a big save.
Instead, he gave them two to keep the Roughnecks within striking distance, at least for a few moments longer.
Midway through the second quarter, Rush captain Jimmy Quinlan and Roughnecks captain Andrew McBride apparently had had enough of each other's attitudes and decided to resolve their differences the old-fashioned way: with their fists.
Now let's get one thing straight: Unlike hockey players who are perched on razor-sharp skates while standing on ice, lacrosse players have good, solid footing. So when lacrosse guys start throwing haymakers at each other, someone is probably going to land some solid shots.
McBride was able to shirt Quinlan almost immediately and landed several quality blasts as a result, but once the fight went to the ground, Quinlan was able to regain his footing and return a few blasts of his own.
I have to call this one a draw.
The Roughnecks went into the fourth quarter behind by eight goals and in desperate need of someone to step up.
Enter Curtis "Superman" Dickson.
Three-and-a-half minutes in, the Roughnecks set up in Edmonton's end and Curtis Dickson found himself in a one-on-one matchup with Jeremy Thompson.
Thompson bobbed when he should have weaved and Superman scored in the manner that has become his trademark in his three seasons in the NLL—going airborne through the crease.
The Drill Crew are, without question, one of the finest dance teams in the National Lacrosse League. They have the moves, the look, the style and the energy.
And on a night when the home town Roughnecks are on the wrong side of a beatdown, the fans need a little inspiration to keep their spirits up.
That's when the lovely ladies of lacrosse jump in and get the house dancing.
Still down by seven mid-way through the final quarter, Curtis Dickson once again took it upon himself to get Calgary back in the game.
Receiving a feed from Scott Ranger as he stepped onto the floor, Superman went to work, muscling his way through four Edmonton defenders before blowing a quick shot past Rush goalie Aaron Bold.
With the game nearing its end, and Calgary's chances of mounting a comeback all but gone, Dane Dobbie picked up his second goal of the night.
After gaining the Rush zone on transition, a nice pass from Daryl Veltman set Dobbie up in front of the Edmonton net, but with Rush defender Brett Mydske blocking his shooting lane.
So Dobbie goes behind-the-back for the no-look shot and the positive result.
Sadly, it was too little, too late for the Roughnecks on this night.
There are no wimps in lacrosse.
Late in the fourth quarter, with Edmonton holding a commanding 17-10 lead, a scrum broke out near the Rush bench. After some pushing and shoving things finally boiled over between two combatants: Calgary's Shawn Evans and Edmonton's John LaFontaine.
Evans is 5-foot-8, weighing 175 lbs and currently leads the league in scoring with 64 points. LaFontaine is 6-foot-2 and 215 lbs and is a big, solid, steady presence in the Rush's transition mix.
Apparently you shouldn't get little Shawny Evans cranky, because he puts LaFontaine down decisively with the first punch he lands.
Not the sort of thing one expects to see out of the top scorer in any league and one of the endless reasons why lacrosse is awesome.
Did I mention that Mark Matthews was a pretty decent player?
The Rush opened the third quarter with five straight goals and none prettier than the fifth one, scored by Matthews on transition.
Edmonton collected the ball in their own end with defenseman Chris Corbeil running the floor. He hit Matthews in stride next to the net and big Mark went to work with a wrap-around goal that can best be described as filthy.
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