Calgary Roughnecks (3-3) host Vancouver Stealth (3-6) at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday at 9pm ET. (Photo: Brad Watson)
Back to .500 in the standings, the Calgary Roughnecks (3-3) host the struggling Vancouver Stealth (3-6) for a West Division rematch at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET. Watch the game live on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.
The Roughnecks enter Week 8 coming off a 15-13 win in Minnesota last Saturday. The victory came at a key time for a struggling Roughnecks team. Now they’re back to a semi-comfortable 3-3 record heading back home.
“Last week I thought the compete-level with the guys was a lot better than it had been in the previous weeks,” said Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky. “We just went back to what makes us successful from a systematic standpoint. The guys battled hard on the loose balls, and we possessed the ball very well.”
Despite trailing the Swarm after at halftime, the Roughnecks broke loose entering the third quarter. A three-goal scoring run in the third, and a five-goal run spawning into the fourth was exactly what they needed. A final frame rush by the Swarm threatened the ‘Necks' five-goal lead, but Curtis Dickson’s empty netter sealed the deal for Calgary. That goal was also Dickson’s fifth of the game.
“Every goal scorer will tell you confidence is everything,” continued Malawsky, in regards to Dickson’s stellar performance. “It was big for him to get himself back into form. He’s getting himself back… a little bit lighter, a little bit quicker, and a little bit stronger.
“One thing you don’t know about Dickson, is he’s a really, really proud guy. The start of the season really upset him, and he took it to heart. That shows the kind of character that he has.”
That strong character was just what the Riggers needed to pick up their first win of the season away from the Saddledome.
“We had some key saves at key moments of the game,” continued Malawsky. “Our transition game was solid as well. There are a lot of positives, and a lot more room for improvement from us to get us to where we need to get to.”
The year’s been uncharacteristically slow for the ‘Necks thus far. Last season, the team was 4-2 through six games, with three wins on the road. This year, two of their three losses have been on the road. Despite the slow start to the 2014 season, the ‘Necks are staying positive that they’ll continue to succeed.
“It’s a long season…. it’s a grind,” said Jeff Shattler, who’s racked up 13 goals and 29 points for the Riggers this year. “We’ve had some injury troubles and are starting to get some guys back in our line-up. For us it’s just about growing as a unit and competing.”
Last time these two teams met, the Roughnecks left home with a 15-12 win over the Stealth. Many considered the victory “postseason revenge” after the Stealth knocked Calgary out of last year's West Division Final.
But despite that win, the Riggers know they can’t take Stealth lightly.
“They’ll have a full gamut of their players, that’ll be the best lineup that we’ve seen thus far in the season. We expect their best,” noted Malawsky.
“It’s not going to be an easy weekend for us,” continued Shattler, who picked up 6 points the last time these teams met. “They’re a very hungry, very talented, and a very well-coached Stealth team coming in and it’s going to be a great game.”
"We've played them before and know each other well," said Stealth head coach, Chris Hall. “We know it’s going to be a battle."
The Stealth hold a 9-5 record all-time against the Roughnecks on the road but playing in back to back games always adds another element.
"We’re getting used to them," said Stealth captain Kyle Sorensen in reference to back-to-back games. “You can't use it as an excuse, you just need to find a way to get going and the tired legs will go away as the game gets going."
The Roughnecks have had their ups and downs this season as well but are coming off a solid 15-13 win in Minnesota last weekend.
"We have our hands full this weekend,” said Sorensen. “It’s another team that took it to us earlier in the season so were looking to get one back."
Before heading to Calgary, the Stealth got revenge in Denver by defeating the Colorado Mammoth (4-6) with a 19-9 road win before a crowd of 15,023 at Pepsi Center on Friday night.
Three runners netted hat tricks in the game for the Stealth, including Brett Bucktooth who had a game-high and career-high 12 points (6+6), scoring a "sock trick" with six goals on eight shots. Rhys Duch trailed just behind with 11 points (4+7). Stealth rookie Chris Wardle scored his first career NLL goal with a beautiful mid-air finish near the crease. Fellow first-year pro Tyler Digby, the league's Rookie of the Month for January, had seven points (1+6) for Vancouver.