It was the kind of game that the phrase "last goal wins" was invented for.
The Estevan Tarpon Energy Big Dogs had to settle for "last goal ties."
The Big Dogs got a goal from Ryan Curzon with 35 seconds remaining to earn a 15-15 draw with the Regina Rifles in Prairie Gold Lacrosse League action Friday in Regina.
The Rifles (4-0-1), the only undefeated club in the PGLL, spent most of the third period playing catch-up as the Big Dogs (3-3) continued to take one-goal leads but could not consolidate their edge.
Regina went ahead for the first time since the beginning of the period on a goal by Tristan Frei with 46 seconds left, but Curzon countered just 11 seconds later.
"That was probably one of the best games we've played in awhile ... not that you ever want to go goal for goal with one of the best teams in the league," said Big Dogs head coach Evan Handley.
"We had some chances to go ahead again at the end, but it didn't work out."
Dylan Smith led the Big Dogs with four goals and six assists, and Rhett Handley added five goals.
But the elder Handley was just as impressed with his team's defensive play as their ability to score almost on command in the third period.
The Big Dogs somewhat shut down Tristan Frei and Logan McMurtry, both of whom are among the top three scorers in the league. They combined for nine points in the game, a far cry from their 28 and 25 points, respectively, in their first four games.
"We keyed in on those guys, (but) a couple of their other guys bit us in the butt," said Handley.
Handley said the atmosphere was intense in the closing moments as the teams continued to trade goals.
"Lots of emotion, both good and bad," he said.
"When they went ahead for the last time, we'd already burned our time out so I just told our kids quickly that we can do this, we can catch up, we are going to tie this game. The kids went out there, made a nice play and put it in the net."
The Rifles led 6-4 after the first period, jumping out to a 3-0 lead early before the Big Dogs scored three of their own.
Blake Schindel (2), Frei, Carson Mayer, Spencer Watson and McMurtry scored for Regina in the opening frame.
For Estevan, it was Handley, Smith, Curzon and Ty Currie.
The Big Dogs narrowed the gap to one in the second, scoring five times and trailing 10-9 after 40 minutes of play.
Handley had three goals in the period, with Smith and Dustin DeBruyne adding singles.
It was the first goal of the season for DeBruyne, who is in his first year of playing lacrosse.
"I thought the roof was going to explode there," Handley said of DeBruyne's milestone goal. "He's improved by leaps and bounds every day, every game."
McMurtry (2), Schindel and Frei were the Rifles' scorers in the stanza.
In the third period, the lead went back and forth like a tennis ball.
Handley tied it 10-10 about six minutes in, and the Big Dogs grabbed their first lead of the game 22 seconds later on a goal by Marshall Holzer.
But it was short-lived, as Schindel scored his fourth of the game 85 seconds later to tie the score 11-11.
Smith's hat trick goal at 12:04 gave Estevan the lead again, until Jesse Duncan scored at 15:29 to knot it up a second time.
Just 12 seconds after that, Holzer netted his second of the night to restore the Big Dogs' lead.
But the scoring was far from over, as a flurry of five goals in the final two minutes brought the game to a fever pitch.
Frei's third goal evened the scoreboard at 13-13 with 2:02 to play, but Smith hit the twine 16 seconds later and the visitors from Estevan were ahead once again.
Regina's Levi Barnstable got that one back only 21 seconds later, with 1:25 left in the period.
The score remained that way for another 39 seconds, when Frei scored again with 46 seconds to go.
Shortly after that, Curzon broke down the middle and buried what would finally be the last goal of a roller coaster game.
Handley said it was important for his team to realize that it could keep up with a top team in a goalfest.
"It's huge because it shows them that if we do go into a battle like (at provincials) in Saskatoon in July, that anything can happen."
The Big Dogs' next action is on Saturday when they visit the Yorkton Bulldogs.