Calgary Roughnecks (4-3) host the Rochester Knighthawks (5-2) at the Saddledome on Saturday at 9pm ET. (Photo: Brad Watson)
The Calgary Roughnecks (4-3) will host the two-time defending champion Rochester Knighthawks (5-2) at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET. Watch the highly-anticipated Week 9 matchup live on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.
The Roughnecks are coming off an inspired 20-9 win over the Vancouver Stealth last weekend, which ranked among their best performances in front of a home crowd in the last seven years.
“The last couple weeks we’ve been playing really well as a group up front,” said head coach Curt Malawsky. “Our transition game was solid. Geoff Snider was good on the draws and contributed on the offensive end as well.”
Sniders contribution served as a landmark night for ‘Necks forward Shawn Evans. He entered last Saturday’s game 10 points off career number 600, and capped that number in league-leading fashion halfway through the final quarter.
“We played a [heck] of a game,” said Evans after the game. “From defense, to offense, to goaltending… we moved the ball well. With the talent we have, we’re going to find the back of the net, and it was great to see.”
Evans finished the night with 12 points (4+8) and now leads the league with 37 assists on the season.
The last time the ‘Necks hit the 20-goal mark at home was in March 2007. As the final minutes ended, the Stealth retaliated, sparking several fights, misconducts, and penalties. Not much was said from Malawsky, but his team did what he felt they needed to do.
“They were told to keep their cool,” said Malawsky. “The discipline issue is a non-issue. Our leadership group solves that, and we don’t need to discuss that anymore.”
The Riggers reached several other scoring records that night, including the fastest 3-goal stretch in franchise history. It took them just 27 seconds to complete the trifecta early in the second half.
“We’ll put that one behind us real quick,” continued Malawsky. “We’ll take the positives out of it and regroup.”
Now the focus is on a Knighthawks team who’ve only lost twice this season.
“We’re going to be playing a really hot Rochester team,” said Malawsky. “They’re solid… there’s no holes in that group. They’ve got a world-class goaltender, great offensive sets, and their defense is big and strong. We’re going to have our hands full, and if you don’t play mistake-free against a championship team like that, you’re going to end up on the short end of the stick.”
The 'Necks haven’t welcomed the Knighthawks to the Saddledome since April 13, 2013. That game saw the Riggers topped by Rochester 15-14. That wasn’t the last time these two teams met as they battled in this year’s preseason, with Calgary claiming a 15-9 exhibition win.
Now, with a couple wins under their belt, the Roughnecks are closer to the championship team Malawsky expects them to be.
“A lot of the coaches in the NLL will tell you that we’re getting better week by week," said Malawsky. "We’ve focused a bit on our offense, now we’ve got to clean up some other issues that have been identified via video. We’re still a working progress, but we like some of the things that are getting done."
Meanwhile, the Knighthawks are coming off their first road win of the season after defeating the Toronto Rock at the Air Canada Centre by a score of 17-9. The ACC has haunted Rochester, which definitely weighed on head coach Mike Hasen's mind as well as the rest of the team.
“It was good,” coach Hasen said. “The boys played very well, extremely well, I though. We haven't had much success in that building.”
“It was a big win for us,” said Knighthawks forward Stephen Keogh. “Especially up in Toronto where we haven't had much success.”
With that first road win under their belts, the Knighthawks now shift their attention to going into the Saddledome for a second straight road game to take on the Roughnecks, fresh off a 20-7 win over the Vancouver Stealth (3-7).
“It's what's next, and next is a very hot team in Calgary,” coach Hasen said. “We've got to be better than what we were in Toronto because they're playing extremely well.”
“Calgary is a great team,” Keogh said. “They've got a lot of offensive power and a great defense.”
Rochester is not letting their first road win get to them. Keogh's assessment of what needs to happen against the Roughnecks is proof of that.
“We've got to be focused and play 60 minutes hard,” Keogh said. “I don't think we've done that quite yet this year. Hopefully we can do that this weekend.”