Going into the Calgary Roughnecks game this past Saturday versus the red-hot -scoring 20.5 GPG in their last four games- Toronto Rock, there was no question in Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky’s mind as to which of his two goaltenders would be starting in net.
“When Christian [Del Bianco] came in in relief versus Georgia [Swarm], he came in at 82%, the next week against Saskatchewan he came in at 78%. This is a performance-based business; for all of us, it’s a performance-based business. When someone comes in and plays two games like that, in my world as a coach, it’s not given, it’s earned. Based on those two outings coming off the bench and playing so well, Christian earned that opportunity to start.”
In just his third NLL start of the 26 games in which he has seen action since being drafted 15th overall in the 2015 NLL Draft, Del Bianco made a career-high 47 saves and finished with an 82% SVPCT. He helped give the Calgary offense the boost it needed to go on to score a season-high 16 goals in route to a stunning 16-8 victory for the Roughnecks second win of the year.
“Obviously, it’s a weight off the shoulders,” Del Bianco said of collecting the first win of his career. “That said, I’m not satisfied with one win. The game plan is to keep working and get more and more wins.”
However, for that game plan to come to fruition, he will need to continue to take starts away from his good friend and former roommate, the Roughnecks other netminder, Frank Scigliano. According to Del Bianco, both men understand that, despite their friendship, they’ll have to go through each other to be named the team’s starting goaltender week in and week out.
“It’s no secret that the other guy wants to play. That said, once the decision is made and the other one is in the net, you’re cheering for the other guy because we are friends. But, that doesn’t cross the line if we’re still competitors.”
Del Bianco and Scigliano have known each other for many years, both hailing from Coquitlam, British Columbia, and even live within a few blocks from one another. However, their friendship didn’t begin to blossom until they were roommates during Del Bianco’s second season with Roughnecks.
“Frankie was a really good guy,” Del Bianco said of his former roommate. “Not really taking care of me, but showing me the ropes, like, this is where we’re due, showing me to the airport. He’s definitely been a great guy to learn from so far.”
Del Bianco continued, stating, “I think we’re both competitors and I think we’re brutally honest with each other. We’re there both for a common goal: we both want to win. That same attitude we share on the floor, we share off the floor, so it makes it easy to transition our relationship on and off the floor.”
The 20-year-old Del Bianco hopes that his hard work both in the NLL and over the summer in the B.C. Junior-A Lacrosse League (BCJALL) will continue to pay off at the professional level. This past summer, Del Bianco proved that he is a goaltender that should be respected. He helped lead the Coquitlam Jr. Adanacs to a 19-1-1 regular season record behind his league-best 16 wins, a .838% SVPCT, and a 6.28 GAA.
The BCJALL goaltender says that his Adanacs coach, Pat Coyle -the same Pat Coyle who coaches the Colorado Mammoth- was instrumental to his continued success as a lacrosse player. They first met when Coyle’s son and Del Bianco played Pee Wee lacrosse (11 and 12-year olds) together, and Pat was their coach.
“He’s been huge for my mental aspect of the game,” Del Bianco said of Coyle’s mentorship over the years. “I think, the big thing with him is that he wasn’t the easiest on me early on and I think that paid dividends later on since he’s been coaching me since Pee Wee. He’s not only a played a big part on my game but how I grew up too.”
This past summer, Scigliano also made a case that he should be the Roughnecks starting goaltender -he has started most of the team’s games since taking over the full-time spot from Mike Poulin before the start of the 2017 season. In the Western Lacrosse Association (WLA), while with the Maple Ridge Burrards, Scigliano posted a GAA of 8.46 and a SVPCT of .825%.
If Del Bianco gets the start this weekend in Calgary versus Coyle’s Mammoth, and all signs suggest that he will, it will be interesting if the master beats the student or the student beats the master. It would be the second time that Del Bianco would start against Coyle in NLL play. The last time the two faced each other in March of 2017, Coyle’s Mammoth pulled off a convincing 18-9 win which saw Del Bianco pulled for Scigliano after allowing five goals in the first quarter only to return in the fourth to give up five more goals and finish the night with a 55% SVPCT.
Scigliano will likely be starting on the bench for this match, but, Coach Malawsky will not hesitate to switch things up in net if he feels that the Mammoth are getting the best of Del Bianco. Having two solid goaltenders is not just something Malawsky feels is essential for the club, but he also likes having the choice of who to go with in net.
“We’ve got two great young goaltenders,” Malawsky said. “The NLL is such a crazy beast in the respect that one game you’re on top and the next game you’re not. You need both. Any coach will tell you, ‘would you take one great guy or two really good guys?’ I think we have two really good guys that we can put in net any night and I think that gives us a competitive advantage. [Other coaching staffs] will have to study for both guys instead of with a team where you know one guy is going to play every night and you don’t have to worry about the other guy.”
As the second half of the 2018 season progresses, both Del Bianco and Scigliano will likely have starts in net if they both stay healthy. Unfortunately for these close friends, it could be their last season together as this off-season’s NLL Expansion Draft will force every team in the league to choose only one goalie they would like to give an exemption too.
Whatever happens in Christian Del Bianco or Frank Scigliano’s futures, their friendship will live on and continue to grow even if they aren’t teammates. If the Roughnecks organization can somehow manage to pull off keeping both goaltenders, the pair will be a serious one-two punch for years to come. The question then will be: which of the two will be landing the majority of the blows?