CALGARY – Luke Wiles admits it was a lucky shot. But the little details don’t matter when you score in overtime.
Wiles’ fourth goal of the game 47 seconds into extra time gave the San Jose Stealth a thrilling 13-12 victory over the Calgary Roughnecks in National Lacrosse League action.
Wiles whipped a low shot past goaltender Steve Dietrich from 20 feet out, stunning the Pengrowth Saddledome crowd of 12,022 on hand for Calgary’s home opener.
“I almost missed the pass, it jammed me a bit, but once I had it in my stick I just wanted to get a good hard shot on the net and it just happened to squeak through,” Wiles said. “It was pretty lucky actually because I know Dietrich is a real veteran guy and a great goaltender.”
Tied 10-10, a torrid sequence of action in the last five minutes of regulation saw San Jose go ahead by two on goals by Colin Doyle and Cam Sedwick – only to give it up in the final minute.
Lewis Ratcliff and Curt Malawsky had goals 35 seconds apart in the final minute with Dietrich pulled for an extra attacker.
“I could not believe it that they got two goals back like that. We go on a 7-1 run and they came back to tie it up. I was thinking oh no…” Wiles said.
Adding to the emotional final moments, Ratcliff and crowd thought he had notched the game-winner at the final buzzer but it was ruled that time had expired just before his low shot got past Anthony Cosmo in the San Jose net.
Also scoring for San Jose (1-0) was Jeff Zywicki with five goals and Peter Veltman with a pair. Nolan Heavenor and Kelly Hall had two each for Calgary (0-2). Scott Ranger, Jeff Shattler, and Kaleb Toth also scored. The Roughnecks got bad news prior to the game when they found out that captain Tracey Kelusky had the flu and was unable to play, missing his first game in five years.
The next game for each club is the return match-up of the home-and-home series at HP Pavilion in San Jose on Jan. 25.
“We needed to get this one just because of the layoff,” said Wiles. “It would have really hurt us to go into that stretch at 0-1, it’s very important to get a good start and hopefully we can build on that.”
The loss came in an eerily similar scenario to what unfolded for the Roughnecks in their 10-9 season-opening defeat to the Colorado Mammoth on Dec. 29. That night, Calgary took a 8-5 lead to the fourth quarter.
“I think we’re getting a little too comfortable when we get the lead, getting up a bit too high,” said Ranger. “It’s an easy fix, we just have to play 60 minutes.”
Ahead 8-3 at half-time, Calgary’s lead was whittled down to just two goals at 10-8 starting the fourth quarter. San Jose got a prime opportunity to draw even closer when Calgary defenceman Andrew McBride was assessed a five-minute major penalty for elbowing at 1:41.
The Stealth took full advantage of the opportunity with Veltman capping off a nice passing play at 5:19. Seconds later, Wiles whipped in a shot from 40-feet out to tie it. San Jose opened the second half down 8-3 but two goals each from Zywicki and Wiles, sandwiched around Heavenor’s second of the night for the Roughnecks, got the Stealth to within two goals at 9-7.
“We never really panicked, we just stayed composed,” said Wiles of his team’s mindset heading into the second half after being outshot 32-16 in the first 30 minutes.
Ranger said the plan was to stay on the attack but it never panned out.
“The plan was very clear, we have them down, lets step on their throats,” said Ranger. “But we made a couple big mistakes, and they put a couples goals in on us and that seemed to take the wind out of our sails as we really struggled after that.”
Trailing 2-0 in the first quarter, Calgary finally got its offence going thanks to a potent power play that connected on each of its first three chances. Three more even strength goals had Calgary in front 6-2 in the second quarter.
Notes: Calgary also lost to San Jose in overtime in its home opener last season with Wiles scoring the overtime winner that night also. … Kelusky had not missed a game since the 2002-03 season. … The Roughnecks wore pink jerseys in recognition of breast cancer awareness. The jerseys were auctioned off during and after the game with proceeds going towards the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. … Zywicki led San Jose with 40 goals last year, 10 of them coming in two games against Calgary. … Ratcliff is one goal away from 200 in his NLL career. … When the Stealth and Hitmen meet again Jan. 25, it will begin a busy stretch of four games in nine nights for San Jose. … San Jose 2007 first round draft pick Tom Johnson made his NLL debut.