Looking to build off their recent strong play, the Calgary Roughnecks will hope to piece together their first win streak of the season.
The Roughnecks (2-5) will host the Colorado Mammoth (4-2) Saturday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome, while riding a wave of momentum from a 16-8 win over the first-place Toronto Rock last weekend.
Over the last three games, the Roughnecks have played their best lacrosse of the season, ironically against three of the best teams in the NLL.
“We’ve been getting better and better each game and building off each effort that we have, and that’s kind of what our mantra is right now,” said Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky in an interview.
“We’re not focussing on the record and we’re trying not to do our scoreboard watching. We just want to focus on what we can fully control, which is the process, and if we work on the process, the outcomes take care of themselves.”
One of the keys for the Roughnecks to extend their win streak to two games will be limiting the Mammoth offence and their two leading scorers Ryan Benesch (36 points) and Jeremy Noble (35 points).
The Mammoth enter the week tied with the Roughnecks and the Georgia Swarm for sixth in the NLL in goals-for with 76, but it’s their quality of shots over quantity that make them tough to defend.
Malawsky said the Mammoth have more “blue-chip offensive players” than most teams, so it’s going to be important not to zone in on two specific players.
“They have a complete offense. They move their feet, they move the ball, so if you go in focussing on just one or two guys, you’re going to get bit by the other five or six guys.”
“It needs to be defense-by-committee.”
In the first meeting between the two teams in December, the Roughnecks dropped an 11-7 decision. Malawsky said they played a strong five-on-five game, but got torched on special teams.
The Mammoth power play currently ranks fourth in the NLL at 50 per cent efficiency and will go up against a third-ranked Roughnecks penalty kill, killing 56 per cent of their penalties. The Roughnecks power play sits sixth in the NLL at 43.3 per cent and will look for success against a struggling eighth-ranked Mammoth penalty kill at 42.9 per cent.
In addition to poor special teams, the Roughnecks offense was struggling as a whole heading into that contest, but Malawsky said they’re much closer now to where they need to be.
“The mindset needed to be, and has been lately, what can each guy do individually to collectively make our offense better,” said Malawsky.
“That’s been the biggest difference. Every guy is trying to do the best they can to make the offense better as whole, rather than looking for individual success.”
One of the players that’s played a key role in the drastic improvement of the offense and will need to continue doing so is Curtis Dickson.
After a slow start to the season, Dickson is back to leading the Roughnecks in scoring with 29 points (17 goals, 12 assists). He said it’s nice to be putting the ball in the net more again, and having a more effective offense overall.
“When we follow the game plan that our coaches put forward, that’s when we have the most success,” said Dickson in an interview.
“We’re moving the ball and trusting each other. It’s giving us a lot of confidence out there.”
With a win Saturday over the Mammoth, the Roughnecks would climb to within less than two games of the Mammoth for second place in the West division.
Dickson said they’re going to need to play a complete, and consistent game if they want to leave the Saddledome with another tick in the win column.
“We need to play a full 60 minutes. The last game and a half we played was spectacular, and we know we need to do that for a full 60 in order to win in this league.”