The Edmonton Rush are looking for a shot at redemption on Friday night when they host the Calgary Roughnecks at Rexall Place for Game 1 of the NLL West Division Finals live on TSN2 & TSN GO (Canada) and WatchESPN (U.S.) at 9:30 p.m. ET. The game will also be televised live on MSG+, NESNplus, Altitude, ASN and all Time Warner Cable Sports Channels in New York State.
Last year, the Roughnecks upset the Rush by beating them in Calgary in the first game of the series and lated advanced by winning the 10-minute tiebreaker Game 3 in Edmonton. The Rush were fresh off of a historic 16-2 regular season, but that means nothing when you fall short of the ultimate goal.
“I think all year we have kept that in the back of our minds as motivation,” Rush defender Brett Mydske told EdmontonRush.com. “We are excited to get another chance at them.”
Game 1 will be played in Edmonton, even though the Rush are the first seed in the West, as there was a scheduling conflict at Northlands. But the Rush will be ready to go against its provincial rival to continue what has been a riveting matchup in recent years.
“It doesn’t get any better, in those terms,” said Edmonton Rush general manager and head coach Derek Keenan. “There’s a lot of respect for one another, but I think at the same time, there’s no love lost either so it always makes for great lacrosse.”
The Rush and Roughnecks have faced-off 36 times in the regular season throughout history, with the Roughnecks dominating with 26 wins. The story is slightly different in the playoffs, as the Rush have won three of the five games between the clubs.
“You never know which way it’s going to go,” Keenan said. “You could see a high-scoring affair or a real tight, low-scoring affair. We’ve had both over the years, and limiting mistakes is going to be important. Obviously, they have a lot of weapons on offense so we’re going to have to have our best on the defensive end and from a goaltending perspective as well. We have to make sure we’re taking care of the ball on offense, and not turn it over in bad spots of the floor, but at the same time make sure we’re attacking and being aggressive.”
The Rush defense has long been regarded as one of the best in the league, allowing only 9.83 a game during the regular season, second only to the Rochester Knighthawks. For opposing teams, it’s a lot to handle, but adding the league’s best offense to the mix makes the Rush deadly, even more so then they were last season.
Edmonton’s 241 goals this season didn’t just come from a spectacular season from Mark Matthews (53+62), but also huge years from Zack Greer (44+36), Robert Church (37+55), and Ben McIntosh (37+49), the latter two being in just their second and first seasons respectively. The danger for Calgary will be Edmonton’s depth (though they have it themselves). Having two of their top scoring of both sides of the floor allows them to attack from multiple angles. As an example, Matthews makes it difficult for defenses to read if he is taking a shot, or passing it to McIntosh on the crease.
Edmonton has to make sure they live up to the old cliché of playing hard for all sixty minutes, a problem the team has been taking about a lot as they headed into the playoffs.
The Riggers will be heading into Edmonton after knocking off the Colorado Mammoth 11-6 in the West Division Semifinal last weekend. The game was a continuation of the do-or-die situation that the ‘Necks have seen many times this season, but with their backs against the wall they pulled through and coaching staff couldn’t be happier with the results.
“I thought we did a very good job,” said Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky about the win. “The team carried the ball up front, and shared that responsibility. Defensively, they did a good job of changing some of our angles, and when we didn’t do that Frankie (Scigliano) was there to bail us out… I was very proud of the compete level of our guys, they knew what exactly what was on the line, and they responded so it was good to see.”
Third year goaltender Frankie Scigliano will be playing an integral role on the team on Friday night as he has all season, after 599 saves this season, it is clear that the 23 year-old can stand on his head and carry the team in the toughest situations.
“He’s been kind of thrown into the fire, and he’s accepted that role,” Malawsky said. “He stopped the ones he was supposed to stop on Saturday night; He stopped some of the ones we weren’t necessarily expecting him to stop. When that happens, the defense gets a little bit more confidence, and the offense can roll a little bit more…He’s been a great addition, and I think is mental fortitude has been the big positive for our group. It just goes through everybody else, and he’s going to be a good one for years to come.”
After countless close games and a 0-6 start the Roughnecks are not taking anything for granted, they are preparing as much as possible for the contest. Friday will be a test for both teams as they face off for the fifth time this season. The locker room is looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s a fun team to play, and it’s a fun team to play because it’s intense,” said Roughnecks transition player Geoff Snider. “There’s a heated rivalry, we’re well-matched. We’re certainly very familiar with each other. We spent the week getting ready to go and we’re excited to get to Edmonton.”
“We’ve been battle tested in the sense that we’ve seen a lot of one-goal games and we were on the short side of those,” Snider added. “I think that it’s a process, we’re building towards something here. We never expected to be a team that was going to be successful right out of the gates, we always understand that we have to work towards this.”
Two of the Rush’s losses this season have come from playing the Roughnecks, and the rivalry between the two Alberta teams is stronger than ever. It is very clear to both groups that Friday’s game is by far the most important of the season.
“Every time we play there’s a lot of emotion, the compete level is through the roof for both teams,” Malawsky said. “It’s going to be a challenge for us, they’re the first in our division for a reason, and it’s going to be a tall order.”
By Mike Wilson (@RushBeat) & Laura Bates (@RoughnecksBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Dale MacMillan.
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