By Bryce Forbes, covering the Roughnecks for NLL.com
The Calgary Roughnecks (1-0) opened up their season on a high note, picking up a 10-9 win over visiting Buffalo Bandits (0-1) Saturday night in front of 9,950 fans. Featuring a team with 10 new faces, the Roughnecks picked up their first win against the Bandits since April 11, 2003.
"In this league, you want to win at home and take care of your business," said Roughnecks captain Andrew McBride. For McBride, it was the first time he and the rest of the Roughnecks faced their former captain, Tracey Kelusky.
"I was glad to get it out of the way and come back and get to see some of the guys that I've played with for the last eight years," said Kelusky. "But I'm also disappointed we didn't get the job done."
Before the game, the Roughnecks honored Kelusky with a presentation of a white cowboy hat for his services to the organization.
"It was nice to honor him but I'm glad we were able to get the win," said McBride. "With me getting the 'C,' I really wanted to win this one."
Two of the players who are expected to help replace the lost production of Kelusky and now-Boston Blazer Josh Sanderson stepped up during the game.
Rookie Curtis Dickson started his season fast, flying through the crease and sniping a shot past Mike Thompson just 16 seconds in.
"Curtis Dickson was a high draft pick and you can see why. He started us off with the early goal and kept rolling from there," said McBride.
Dickson added another tally later on in the game.
Roughnecks forward Scott Ranger also started his season off with a bang by picking up five goals, four of them in the second quarter.
"I got lucky a few times and when you start feeling it, the ball starts to fall in for you. It was kind of a personal game for me so I'm happy with the output," said Ranger. "The last couple of years I've been struggling with confidence a little bit so tonight was a good start."
Roughnecks head coach Dave Pym was proud of how Ranger picked up the slack in the opening game.
"It was fabulous to put the ball in the net like he did," said Pym. "For him, it's consistency. He's been behind great players in Tracey and Kaleb (Toth) all these years and he's really taking it to heart that he needs to be a leader on this team. If he can do it game in and game out, we are going to be that much better."
After Dickson notched the opening goal, the two teams each matched two more tallies in the first quarter, including Kelusky's first in the Black and Orange.
As for the Bandits, they cited their slow start to the game as a contributing factor to the loss.
"It's the tale of two halves," said Bandits head coach Darris Kilgour. "The first half, we didn't play very well and the second half we played very well to win. We had our chances in the second half to come back. As upset as I am about the first half, I'm very pleased with how we played in the second half."
After Toth pushed the lead to two in the second quarter, Ranger scored his four goals in the second. But after the half, the Bandits bounced back, putting up three goals and cutting the lead to 9-8 going into the final frame.
With 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Roughnecks goalie Mike Poulin stuffed the Bandits on a breakaway and Geoff Snider picked up his first goal in a Rigger uniforms on the other end. As an encore, he dropped the gloves with Bandits defenseman Steve Priolo.
"Geoff Snider, what can you say?" asked McBride. "Scores the goal and great fight defending himself. That's what the crowd wants and it motivates the players to see someone with that much passion. It gets everyone fired up."
The Bandits notched one final goal with 17 seconds left, but couldn't find the net in the end.
"It wasn't the game I wanted. I don't think I did what I needed to do to help our team succeed. I'm a little frustrated but I'm proud to be in this locker room with this group of guys. It's better to get these ones out of the way early."
Also scoring for the Roughnecks was Nolan Heavenor. Jeff Shattler and Dane Dobbie added three assists apiece.
On the Bandits side, Mark Steenhuis (2g, 1a), Vyse (2g, 3a) Frank Resetarits, Chris Corbeil and Kyle Clancy notched goals.
Poulin made 38 saves with counterpart Mike Thompson stopping 28 shots.
Calgary was two for six on the powerplay, with Buffalo 3 for 7 on the man advantage.
The Roughnecks head to Everett to face the Washington Stealth tonight at 8:00pm ET. The Bandits move on to Philadelphia January 15.