March 20, 2023

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Forget cereal…

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Tyler Pace returned from injury to the Calgary Roughnecks for their annual St. Patrick’s Day game with a different fuel on Friday.

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Then Lucky Charms on the day of the Irish holiday?

“No good luck charms,” Pace said with a wide grin. “I love oatmeal with peanut butter and bananas on game day and it seems to help.”

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And then some, if you count his contribution to a spirited 11-6 Roughnecks pot-o-gold game over a Saskatchewan Rush visit to WestJet Field at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Pace scored eight points, including a hat-trick, missing several games with upper body problems in front of a whopping 17,444 party-hard fans.

“It was loud,” Pace said of the party, which saw the Roughnecks dressed in black, green, and white St. Patrick’s Day-themed sweaters. “It was electrified. On the heads they were loud. Penalties against us, they booed the referees. And it all feeds the energy we love to have.”

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“Our fans are outstanding,” agreed Roughnecks head coach Kurt Malawsky. “Having them there, especially when the game is tight, really makes a big difference.

“Wow… incredible.”

The bench boss was similarly impressed with the performance of Pace and fellow offensive catalyst Jesse King, team captain, that evening.

The two were busy playing catch – mostly between themselves but also with teammates – in the reveal of Rush goaltender Alex Bouquet. King himself enjoyed a seven-point game fueled by four stick goals.

“He’s a world class player,” Pace said of the captain. “So when in doubt, give Jesse the ball and you’ll be fine. He’s just a very smart player. He has a high IQ for playing lacrosse, so he knows where and when to be. And then his stick and shot skills? He is one of the best in the world.”

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In addition, Pace proved why he is so highly regarded in the hall by spending one of his most flamboyant – if not his biggest – nights in uniform.

“It’s hard to watch from home, especially when you want to be there,” Pace said of the injury that kept him out of the squad. “But to come back, I just wanted to help the team in any way I could. Any night it could be anyone’s game. And (Friday) night I was just lucky to get rejected.”

At the beginning, Pace & Co. did more than just bounce. They had a target on Buka to beat him with shots high towards the blocker as Riggers King – twice – and Tanner Cook hit the target, scoring three of the first four goals.

In the interim, Ryan Keenan scored the Rush’s first goal, while Jeff Cornwall, who also returned to the line-up after a few away games but was ill, struck in the cross for the home team.

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The Roughnecks’ 4-1 lead in the first quarter was doubled in the second stanza when Kyle Waters took a nifty pass from Pace and dived ahead of Bouquet to score before Pace himself, also recovering from injury, scored another goal with far side. .

The Rush bounced back before halftime thanks to a quick stick from sniper Robert Church, but the Riggers went into the hall with a convincing 6-2 lead at halftime.

In the third it was all for Rush, with three goals from Ryan Barnable, Church and Clark Walter – Receiving the only goals from the frame.

But after a scoreless third quarter for the home side, the Roughnecks stepped up in the last 15 minutes, pulling off a pivotal five-goal streak in less than three minutes.

Captain King ignited the explosion – and re-ignited the party – when he took Pace’s pass and scored.

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This was followed by a goal kick from local boy Dan Taylor, Pace with a lead-scoring game, King with his fourth game of the night, and again Pace from tight.

Pace and King were just there when goals were needed, despite Bouquet’s 38 saves.

“I call them my floor generals, so they control every side of the floor,” Malawsky said. “When Pacer has the ball on his stick, he controls the right side of the court. And on the other side you have Jesse King and he controls this side of the room. So, you pair that lacrosse IQ with a bunch of hard-working guys who aren’t afraid to get to the middle of the court, and then you can pull off a successful selfless offense.”

The Rush pulled one shot back from Dan Lintner, but it was too little and too late for Roughnecks guard Christian Del Bianco, who made 33 saves in another stellar night.

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With the win, Malawsky moved ahead of original Riggers bench boss Chris Hall in all-time wins (86) to eighth in the NLL annals, and his team had an impressive nine Western Conference wins in 13 games. The conference-leading San Diego Seals – 9:2 – also won on Friday night, beating hosts the Vancouver Warriors (3:10).

Meanwhile, the Rush – now 5-7 – are at risk of missing the playoffs.

“Unrealistic,” Pace added. “It was just a brave victory and a huge victory for us – in front of a lot of people. It was really exciting.”

The rematch with Rush will take place next Saturday in Saskatoon (19:30,


Del Bianco hit a milestone that evening with over 3,000 career saves. Cornwall’s goal marked his 100th all-time point in the NLL. Teammate Josh Carrier provided over 100 assists with his assistant in the first scoring… Two of the three thugs eliminated – Pace and Cornwall (sickness) – joined the club for Friday’s competition. But defenseman Ethan Ticehurst (lower body) remained out of the squad and on the injured reserve list… defensemen Mitch Wilde and defenseman Zach Herreveyers were underdogs for the home side… The NLL trade deadline is Monday.


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