The Calgary Roughnecks (5-3) host the Toronto Rock (4-5) at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday at 9pm ET. (Photo: Graig Abel)
After coming up just short against the undefeated Edmonton Rush in an 11-10 road loss on Friday, the Toronto Rock (4-5) will visit the Calgary Roughnecks (5-3) at Scotiabank Saddledome at 9 p.m. ET. Watch the game, a rematch of Toronto's season-opening home win over Calgary, live on TSN2 in Canada and on ESPN3 (NLL.com/ESPN) for U.S. subscribers.
Toronto looks to sweep the season series against Calgary for the second year in a row after the Rock earned a 16-11 win over the Roughnecks at home in Week 2.
“I expect it to be a completely different game," said Rock rookie transition player Ethan O'Connor. "We were at home last time, we had our fans behind us and we were rolling. I expect Calgary to come out tough and we have to equal their intensity and overcome their home barn advantage."
The task for Toronto is sure to be a tough one on Saturday. Not only is Calgary 5-2 since the Week 2 loss, the Rock have struggled mightily on the road thus far. While to Rock are 4-1 on home floor, they've failed to match that success away from the Air Canada Centre. Heading into Week 10, the Rock have failed to win a single game on the road.
“In the last couple years, we've been having better success on the road and I have no answer for that, I wish we did," said Rock general manager Terry Sanderson. "This give us another opportunity to establish ourselves on the road. We're embracing it as a great opportunity."
Minus the 2013 season, the Rock and Roughnecks have split every season series dating back to 2006, setting a well-established cross-division rivalry. If Calgary wins on Saturday it would be the seventh time in eight years the two teams traded wins in a season.
“We always look forward to our games against Calgary," Sanderson said. "They're intense and we use Calgary as a measuring stick. They’re good and everyone knows it."
To the Rock's favor heading into the weekend is the continual emergence of Stephan Leblanc this season. The five-year veteran has already matched his 2013 goal total of 22 through just eight games thus far.
“I think the biggest thing is maturity and experience, the two go hand-in-hand," Sanderson said. "The ball wasn't dropping for him the last couple years and I think he let that get to him a little bit. This year, he's taking it all in stride. No one is surprised by [his play], especially us and I think the best is yet to come."
Meanwhile, the Roughnecks are coming off a great performance last week when they defeated the two-time defending champion Rochester Knighthawks with a come-from-behind victory capped off by Curtis Dickson's highlight-reel goal to complete the comeback. Things won’t get any easier this weekend for the ‘Necks, but they took some real positives from the win last week.
“We showed good resiliency being down 5-1 and 9-6, being able to keep composure and battle through a really tough game,” said Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky.
As for turning his attention to this weekend’s game against the Rock, Malawsky stressed the importance of the Canadian rivalry matchup.
“It’s going to be a real tough game for us, but this one is an important one.”
In the first game of the season versus the Rock, things didn’t go according to plan for the Roughnecks according to Malawsky.
“Last time we were in Toronto, they gave it to us pretty good," he said. "They have a world-class offence and they run real good systems on the back end."
The Roughnecks have struggled as of late against the Rock, being swept in two games last season and losing the 2014 season opener. 'Necks captain Andrew McBride is fired up for the chance at redemption this weekend.
"They're one of our biggest rivals over the past couple years, always a game that brings lots of intensity and passion," he said. “We know we’re going to have to do a good job of shutting them down, you don’t want to get behind the eight ball too much in this league.”
The Riggers are on a three-game win streak and need to continue that success into Saturday night if they plan to catch the undefeated Edmonton Rush (8-0) for first place in the West Division.
"Tough loss," Rock owner Jamie Dawick tweeted after the game. "The @TorontoRockLax boys battled. Lost to a very good team. Doesn't get any easier. Bus pulls out for Calgary in an hour."
"We thought we needed a measuring stick to see where we are at and I thought we measured up well," said Toronto GM Terry Sanderson. "It was a one-goal game that could have gone either way. Unfortunately we wound up on the wrong end."