The Edmonton Rush (1-2) will renew their "Battle of Alberta" provincial rivalry when they host the Calgary Roughnecks (2-2) on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET at Rexall Place. (Photo: Brad Watson)
The Edmonton Rush (1-2) will renew their provincial rivalry with the Calgary Roughnecks (2-2) with the first installment of the “Battle of Alberta” on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET at Rexall Place in Edmonton. Watch the game live on Sportsnet ONE and on the NLL on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.
The rivalry has been fairly one-sided over the last two seasons. Although the Rush ousted the top-seeded Roughnecks on the road in the first round of the playoffs last year, Edmonton has lost their last eight regular season games against their rival.
“We need to learn how to beat these guys in the regular season,” said Rush general manager and head coach Derek Keenan. “I think we’re identified with how we do against what’s probably the most talented team in the league. If ever want to be taken seriously in our league and division, we have to do better against Calgary.”
After an 0-2 start to the season at home, the Roughnecks went on the road last weekend and got back to .500 with wins in Colorado and Philadelphia, outscoring their opponents by a combined score of 11-4 in the first quarter.
“It’s always nice to get away and do some team bonding on the road,” said Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky. “I thought our focus was real good. Our starts were key. We played a little bit more disciplined than we had in the past two games and valued the ball.”
After a heartbreaking fourth-quarter collapse and overtime loss to the Mammoth the week before, Calgary won convincingly in the rematch despite an early 3-0 deficit.
“We went down a little faster than we expected in that Colorado game,” said Roughnecks defenseman Dan MacRae. “The offense kind of put the team on their back. We started looking down at the other end of the bench. Everybody kind of had that trust back in each other, gave us on the back end a lot more confidence to go out and do our jobs.”
Malawsky attributed the team’s weekend success to not having to rely as much on forward Shawn Evans, who currently leads the league in scoring and won the NLL Player of the Month award for January.
“We played our offense ‘by-committee,’”he said. “The first couple games was a lot to do with [Evans]. He was carrying the load for us and you’re not going to win many games when one guy’s doing it. We were able to share the ball.”
According to Malawsky, the road trip brought the Roughnecks together after their rough start at home.
"The team is a lot closer. Our character came into question after the first two games,” he said. “Guys took that personally and we came together as a team. We’re better now than we were a few weeks back.”
As for the rivalry, the Rush are probably better now that they have forward Mark Matthews, the first overall pick of the 2012 NLL Entry Draft, who leads all rookies and is tied for seventh in the league in scoring. Edmonton is eager to prove that they can balance things out and compete with Calgary on a regular basis.
“It’s frustrating as players,” said Rush defenseman Chris Corbeil. “We know what we’re capable of and need to show that to the rest of the league. We’re in a situation now to start earning the respect of the fans in Edmonton and show them we can compete.”