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Game of the Week on TSN Preview: CGY at VAN

Familiarity breeds contempt, and early in the 2022-23 season the Calgary Roughnecks and Vancouver Warriors are plenty familiar with each other.

For the second week in a row the Roughnecks and Warriors will go to war on the floor in Friday night’s NLL Game of the Week on TSN (10 pm ET/ESPN+).

“A rivalry definitely brews, seeing each other multiple times a season,” says second-year Vancouver forward Adam Charalambides. “The rivalry heightens when you play back-to-back.”

Last weekend’s battle saw Calgary (1-0) come out on top with an 11-9 win in a tight tilt that was tied 9-9 in the fourth quarter. This weekend it’s the 0-2 Warriors’ chance for redemption in their home opener at Rogers Arena.

“Anytime you play a team back-to-back there definitely exists some tension from the game before,” says second-year Roughnecks forward Tanner Cook. “Whether that’s from winning or losing, or something that happened during the game, it remains fresh in each team’s mind.”

The teams’ two super sophomores will likely again play key roles. Charalambides had one goal and a team-high three assists in last weekend’s contest, while Cook recorded two goals and an assist as well as a game-high seven penalty minutes.

Cook’s first goal near the end of the first quarter gave Calgary a 2-1 lead. His second marker midway through the third quarter again gave the Roughnecks an advantage at 7-6 and came after Cook was in the penalty box for a Warriors power-play goal.

“It’s definitely important to have a physical presence on the floor each game,” Cook says. “But penalties are never helpful. Putting my team in a short-handed position for five minutes is not something I was proud of.”

Cook, who plays a power game with a physical edge, was whistled separately for a roughing minor and a body checking major. The teams combined for 45 penalty minutes on infractions that also included cross checking, checking from behind, slashing, unsportsmanlike conduct and dead ball fouls.

The Vancouver power play went 4-for-7 and Calgary was 3-for-7. Charalambides’ goal with less than 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter was on the extra man and tied the game at 9-9.

Charalambides has been consistent so far this season with seven points in two games, putting him on pace to better his rookie goal (14) and points (47) totals from last season.

“Pretty similar role to last season but playing with more feel and confidence this year, looking to be consistent each week and add a few more moves to the offensive arsenal,” says Charalambides, who attributes the growth to “having a coaching staff that believes in you and pushes you [and] having veteran guys lead you and teach you the game.”

Cook netted 11 goals and 41 points as a rookie in 2021-22 and is cast in a more offensive role this season after leading goal-scorer Curtis Dickson left the Roughnecks in free agency.

“Obviously he was our offensive leader,” Cook says. “But with him gone there is a lot more opportunities out there for the rest of us as an offensive unit and I think we are all doing our best to pick up the production.”

This season Cook is working on his conditioning: “[The] aspect of my game that I would like to improve the most is my endurance. It is going to be important to keep consistent energy deep into games.”

Charalambides and Cook crossed paths in junior and the NCAA, and previously knew each other through Cook’s older brother who Charalambides went to high school with at The Hill Academy in Ontario.

But the 2021 NCAA quarterfinal clash between North Carolina and Rutgers is what both players remember most from before becoming pros. Charalambides had four goals but his Scarlet Knights fell 12-11 in overtime to Cook’s No. 1-seed Tar Heels.

“I remember in the NCAA tournament he was one of Rutgers’ top players and we were to be aware of his positioning on the field at all times,” Cook says. “He still ended up having four goals that game.”

Says Charalambides: “Definitely remember that quarterfinal game, epic battle, fans were rocking, alumni in the stands. I’m sure lacrosse fans appreciated that game.”

Now, fuelled by one of the NLL’s fiercest rivalries, fans can expect those epic battles featuring Charalambides and Cook to continue well into the future.