The Calgary Roughnecks will shoot for the team’s first win of the season when they host the Buffalo Bandits (3-3), who are looking to get back above .500, at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday night. Watch the game live on NLL LIVE in the U.S. and TSN.ca in Canada starting at 9 p.m. ET.
The Roughnecks are coming off one of its best performances of the season, but still fell short of victory, losing to the Toronto Rock by a score of 12-11 on the road last weekend. Despite the loss, Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky says he likes what he saw in the game.
“The positives are outweighing the negatives,” Malawsky said. “I thought we competed really hard, I thought our second half defensively was the best half we’ve had all year long.”
One other positive for the ‘Necks is the play of forward Shawn Evans this season. Evans was named IL Indoor’s first star in the NLL this week after his four-goal and six-assist performance against Toronto. He now sits second in the league in goals (13), third in assists (19) and second overall in points (32).
However, there are still plenty of areas in Calgary’s game that need to be cleaned up before going into this weekend.
“I think we’re still making a few mistakes,” Malawsky added. “One-handed loose balls, not getting off the floor, missed assignments in the defensive zone and it ends up in the back of our net, that’s kind of hurting us.”
Calgary native and Roughnecks transition player Geoff Snider (2+6) is in his fifth season with the team and knows all about the difficulties in the National Lacrosse League.
“It’s about following the game plan that’s put in front of us by the coaching staff,” Snider said. “We’re always very prepared, you have to couple that with a strong effort and focus. Last weekend was a step in the right direction.”
This is the worst start to a season for Calgary since joining the NLL in 2001, and Malawsky knows it’s not going to be easy getting that first win against Buffalo.
“They have a world-class goaltender in Cos (Anthony Cosmo),” he said. “They got a big physical, strong defense and you got to earn everything you get.”
“They protect the middle of the floor very well,” Malawsky continued. “If you settle in for the outside shot, their transition game is one of the best in the league, it had six goals in the game against Minnesota and another four more against Rochester. They get up the floor really, really well and they’ve got a lot of guys that can put the ball in the net when they’re up there. “
The two teams haven’t seen each other since April of last season, a 16-13 Calgary road win. The Bandits and Roughnecks have only played each other eight times in history, splitting the overall all-time series at four games apiece.
“They’re very well coached,” Malawsky said. “For the most part, they’ve been very discipline and they got a lot of weapons up front so we’re going to have our hands full.”
The 0-4 start may be leaving many people scratching their heads, including the Roughnecks, but the team says no one is getting nervous quite yet.
“We’re not in ‘panic mode’ right now, but we’re definitely a desperate team,” Malawsky said.
“We’ve got all the tools and the character in our locker room to pull it together,” added the 5’10, 220-pound Snider. “It’s one of those things where we’re going to continue to figure out who we are and continue to push in the right direction.”
“In terms of guys panicking, we’re just coming together as a group. We’re tight, we’re going to have a great practice on Friday night and be ready to go Saturday… we’re excited to get on the floor this weekend and make a push for our first win.”
The Bandits are coming off their second back-to-back weekend of the season that saw a home win over the Minnesota Swarm and a road loss to the Rochester Knighthawks. Buffalo held on to a big lead and fought off a heavy comeback from Minnesota last Friday before mounting an unsuccessful comeback of their own against Rochester on Saturday.
The NLL schedule isn’t always easy and it’s especially tough to come back from a big deficit like the 10-4 hole Buffalo fell into on Saturday.
“It’s a grind to play back-to-back games, by no means is that an excuse,” said Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley. “Our guys had given everything they possibly had.”
Buffalo has been able to put stretches of great play together, but have struggled to play a full 60 minutes of solid lacrosse.
“We got out to a slow start [against Rochester,] we weren’t focused right from the get-go,” Cordingley admitted. “We’ve got to learn. In this league, if you take your foot off the pedal at any time, you’ll be in trouble.”
The key going forward is consistency. Cordingley screamed about being more consistent at last Friday morning’s shootaround.
“If you don’t play a full 60 minutes, you run the risk of either blowing a lead or getting yourselves too far behind to catch up,” added Bandits assistant coach Dan Teat. “We know we can play a half like we did against Minnesota and down 10-4 against Rochester, we were able to take an 11-10 lead, those are positives.”
Bandits forward Mark Steenhuis was happy with the team’s resilience last weekend.
“We had every reason to stop playing,” said Steenhuis. “The game could have gotten out of hand. We said we weren’t going to let that happen.”
Buffalo forward Ryan Benesch is second in the league in scoring with 32 points. He’s also leading the NLL in goals with 19. Dhane Smith is also in the top 10 with 29 points (10+19).
“I like what we have. We’re coming together, we’re working hard,” said Steenhuis confidently. “I expect great things from our offense the rest of the year.”
The Bandits currently sit 1.5 games back of the Toronto Rock for first in the East Division. Both teams will be desperate and hungry for a win this Saturday.
By Kassidy Collins (@RoughnecksBeat) & Steve Bermel (@BanditsBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Bill Wippert)