The Calgary Roughnecks (8-5) host the Washington Stealth (7-6) at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday at 9pm ET. (Photo: Richard Olson)
The West Division-leading Calgary Roughnecks (8-5) and Washington Stealth (7-6) finish off their home-and-home series this weekend, this time at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary at 9 p.m. ET. Watch the game live on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.
Washington can clinch a playoff berth with a win OR a Colorado loss to Edmonton while Calgary can clinch a home playoff game with a win.
With the teams splitting their first two meetings this year, the winner of Saturday’s contest will take the season series and playoff seed tiebreaker.
The Stealth look to rebound after a frustrating loss at home to the Roughnecks where the Stealth gave up a two-goal fourth quarter lead when goaltender Tyler Richards was forced to serve a five-minute penalty that resulted in three Calgary goals.
“It was a very frustrating game for us,” said Stealth head coach Chris Hall. “I thought we played a very solid game up until (the penalty). We’d done a pretty good job against a great Calgary offense.”
The Stealth are still looking to clinch their berth into the 2013 postseason, now needing just a win or a loss from either the Colorado Mammoth or Minnesota Swarm.
At 7-6, the Stealth are still very much alive in the race for the West Division regular season title, sitting just one-game back of the Roughnecks and Edmonton Rush (8-5).
Through most of last weekend’s game, the Stealth were able to keep a potent Calgary offense silent by holding the Roughnecks to just four first half goals. The Roughnecks remained relatively quiet in the second half before scoring five goals in the last seven minutes of the game.
“We had a nice two-goal lead that we deserved to build and then the whole thing kind of unraveled and disappeared on us in the last seven minutes,” Hall said.
The Stealth received goals from eight different players last Saturday but were never able to get their top scorers going. Forwards Lewis Ratcliff and Dean Hill were the team’s only multi-goal scorers, checking in with two goals each.
Washington forward Rhys Duch, who currently ranks fifth in the league in goals (34) and points (74), was held to just one goal on the night but still managed to have an efficient game by registering four assists to cap off a five-point night.
Prior to taking the five minute major in the fourth quarter, Richards was putting up another solid performance, allowing just eight goals on 39 shots in 55 minutes of play.
While the Stealth did not manage to come away with the victory, the team was overall pleased with their performance and look to carry that into Calgary this weekend.
“We came in very well prepared,” said Stealth faceoff specialist Bob Snider. “We played a solid 60 minutes but got into some penalty trouble which ended up being costly. It’s always a good rivalry against the Roughnecks. They’re very well coached and have a ton of talent both on the back end and on the offensive end.”
With only two games remaining on the schedule after Saturday, this game realistically could be the difference between playing at home in the first round of the playoffs and having to play on the road. But for Hall and the Stealth, playoff position is not something they are prepared to worry about until after the berth is locked up.
“We’ve had two opportunities to clinch a playoff spot in the last two games,” Hall said. “We haven’t done it so I don’t think you really start thinking about playoffs until you have a spot.”
Last weekend, the match up between the two teams was close but the Roughnecks were the ones who came out on top.
“We were getting up against it with not a few, but a lot, of calls early in the game and we kept our composure and we stuck to the plan and we battled through certain things and our team has been very resilient all year long,” said Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky.
It was not an easy win, but Roughneck determination and improvement led to their victory despite the Stealth’s solid play.
“You don’t get a lot of room out there,” Malawsky said. “They’ve got a lot of big bodies on the back end and you’ve got to earn your spot to get to the middle of the floor and I thought our guys stuck with it and we got to the middle of the floor. I thought our transition game was real good again and this week it’s been improving.”
Malawsky said that the ability of the Roughnecks to score on the power play, a unit that is the league’s best at 67% this season, allowed them to gain the lead.
“Again, it comes down to holding onto that lead and I think our goaltender and our defense did a great job to hold onto that one,” he added.
With the intensity of games heating up, Roughnecks defenseman Dan MacRae understands the importance of the game this Saturday.
“Season series is on the line so a lot of playoff implications on this one and last game being as tight as it was its starting to feel like these games are playoffs already. “
Looking to capitalize on the season series with another win this weekend, Malawsky said there was even more room for improvement.
“I like the way we are progressing and I still think we need to have consistency in all areas to put a full game together,” he said. “I don’t think we have played our best and I think the guys in the room can attest to that but one thing from a coaching staff perspective, we are really happy that we are getting better week-in and week-out.”
MacRae said although the playoffs are just around the corner, it is important to keep focused on the game at hand.
“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and look too far down the road, but I think we are just taking it one step at a time,” he said. “Time it up so that come playoff time, we are going to be playing at our best.”