The Calgary Roughnecks (9-5) visit the Buffalo Bandits (8-5) at First Niagara Center on Saturday at 7pm ET. (Photo: Bill Wippert)
After their win on Friday night in Philadelphia, the Calgary Roughnecks (9-5) have little time to rest, as they travel to play one of the best in the East, the Buffalo Bandits (8-5) at First Niagara Center on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET. Watch the game live on TSN2 in Canada and ESPN3 in the United States (nll.com/espn).
“It’s going to be a long travel day and we’re going to do our best to regroup,” said Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky. “Back-to-backs are tough in the NLL, but we have a veteran leading squad and they know how to take care of their bodies when it comes to rest and nutrition. Once you step on the floor, adrenaline kicks in and I expect our guys to have nothing but their best efforts come Saturday night, so it’s going to be a great battle.”
The Bandits used to be the number one team in the East, but recent collapses have put the team behind Rochester in the standings.
“That’s three in a row on the road we’ve lost,” said Bandits assistant coach Rich Kilgour. “We want to get back to some home cooking here and hopefully we can get it done against Calgary.”
The Bandits, known for a skilled offence, haven’t been able to break the 10-goal mark for the past three games. Riggers defensemen Jon Harnett knows the Bandits will be fired up to finally be back in their home barn.
“They still have a chance at first in the East, so were going to expect their best,” he said. “There offence has been snake bitten as of late so they could break out at any time.”
The Necks’ will have it tough, as the Bandits have gone 6-1 at home this season.
“They play very well in that arena; you gotta earn everything you get against that team,” said Malawsky. “If you stand around, you’re going to get pounded, so that’s our ideology against those guys. When they’re moving the ball well, they’re very very dangerous and their transition game is second to none, we’re going to have our work cut out for us.”
The Roughnecks and Bandits are two teams that seldom see each other. The last matchup between the squads was all the back in 2012 at the Saddledome. The Necks’ will be in brand new territory, as they haven’t played in Buffalo since January of 2003.
“It’s been a long time since they’ve been here (Calgary), I think we’ve been out there a couple times but they have a really good squad,” said Kilgour. “There a great offence and just a good all-around team… Our fans haven’t seen them in over a decade so it’s good to get some new blood in the arena.”
The Roughnecks clinched a playoff berth Friday night with their 13-9 win in Philadelphia. Malawsky knows it will be tough to steal another one in Buffalo.
“It’s going to be a very hostile environment, they’re going to feed off the crowd and they’re a very emotional team. When they get on a run they don’t give you much and you got to keep your head above water.”
The Bandits are desperate to put a stop to their current three-game skid. One year ago, after starting the season 5-3, Buffalo went on a franchise-worst six-game losing streak.
Now, after starting 8-2 and losing three in a row, there are rumblings in ‘Banditland’ that this year’s team could be heading down a similar path.
Fortunately for the Bandits, their strong start lasted longer this season and therefore has them in position to clinch a playoff berth with a victory over Calgary. Even with a loss, Buffalo has clinched a spot after Rochester's 15-14 overtime win over Minnesota on Friday.
“We’d definitely like to take care of it ourselves,” said Bandits assistant coach Rich Kilgour this week. “We’ve had an opportunity to clinch the past couple weeks and we’ve just been letting it slip away. It’s time to get back to business and get back to discipline.”
Thankfully for the Bandits, this week’s matchup is back in the friendly confines of the First Niagara Center, where the team had won three straight before dropping the following three on the road.
“We’re ready to get back to some home cooking here,” Kilgour said.
If Bandits fans are thinking it’s been a while since the Roughnecks have made an appearance in Buffalo, they would be completely correct. In fact, Calgary hasn’t stepped foot in ‘Banditland’ since January 25, 2003.
“[Calgary] has a really good squad,” Kilgour said. “I think our fans [will enjoy seeing] some new blood in the arena.”
Given the Bandits’ struggles away from home, this game has added importance as the team heads back on the road for another trio of away games in the following two weeks before closing the regular season at home on Saturday, April 26.
Kilgour recognizes the gravity of this game and ending the current losing streak before it gets out of control.
“We’ve still got a lot to prove. We’ve been struggling for a little bit and if we want to get something done this year, now is the time to do it.”
The Bandits will be wearing special "Braver Than Brave" jerseys honoring Shawn Williams' son Tucker and his fight against lymphoma on "Tucker Out Lymphoma Night." The team will be raising money to raise awareness and benefit the Williams family.
Both teams can clinch at least one home playoff game with a win. If Buffalo loses, they can still secure a postseason date at First Niagara Center with a Toronto loss to Vancouver. If Calgary loses, they will still play at least one playoff game at Scotiabank Saddledome with a Colorado loss to Edmonton.