It’s finally here.
The Calgary Roughnecks will get their 2018-19 season underway Saturday night when they welcome the Vancouver Warriors to the Scotiabank Saddledome.
The Roughnecks, along with every other NLL team, will enter regular season play coming off a shortened training camp due to negotiations between the league and the Professional Lacrosse Players Association (PLPA).
But despite the short timeframe to prepare for the regular season, head coach Curt Malawsky said they put plenty of work in with the time they had, and he’s confident they’re ready for opening night.
“It was a short, condensed camp, but it was very intense,” said Malawsky.
“Our priority was just getting prepared for this weekend coming up, so we made sure we touched on all facets of the game. We’ll be ready to play on Saturday night.”
One familiar face whose status for Saturday’s game is in limbo is last season’s leading scorer for the Roughnecks, Curtis Dickson.
Dickson remains in contract negotiations with the club, and will miss Saturday’s contest unless the two sides come to an agreement.
With the potential absence of Dickson, Malawsky said he won’t be looking to one guy to step up, but rather the entire team.
“It’s offence by committee, and always will be, whether Dickson’s in the lineup or not,” said Malawsky.
“We don’t play as an individualistic offence. Everybody gets involved, everybody needs to be a threat, and everybody has a job to do out there. The job is to make everyone around them better, and when we do our job, that’s when we have our team success.”
The Roughnecks roster received a major overhaul this off-season, and will feature seven new faces to kick off the year.
Perhaps the most notable addition is long-time Vancouver Stealth scorer Rhys Duch.
Malawsky said he’s excited to see what Duch can contribute to the team, and believes he’s going to be an integral part of the offence.
“Anytime you get released from a team, you got something to prove, and we believe Duch still has a lot of gas left in the tank,” said Malawsky.
“He had an outstanding pre-season game at Saskatchewan, shot at all corners of the net, moved his feet, and was real good on the offensive side of things.”
Up until this season, Duch spent his entire nine-year NLL career with the Stealth, previously in Washington and San Jose before the organization moved to Vancouver.
In the short time he’s spent with the Roughnecks so far, Duch said he’s loving everything about the team and the organization.
“It’s a great group, from top to bottom, and it’s just well run,” said Duch.
“The Flames organization is well-established and successful in their own right, and it’s just trickled down into the lacrosse side of things too.”
Duch was one of the Stealth’s top offensive threats in his years there, most recently 65 points (19 goals, 46 assists) in 18 games last season, which he said was hindered why injuries.
With the looming absence of Dickson for Saturday’s game, Duch may be relied on more than anticipated on opening night, which is a role he relishes.
“It’s pretty much the role I’ve played my entire career, so it’s nothing new to me. I actually welcome it,” said Duch.
“I don’t want to be a secondary player on any team. I want to be a role player and somebody that’s going to affect the outcome of the game, and I plan on doing that.”
As if making his Roughnecks debut wasn’t exciting enough, Duch will get to do so against his former team.
And although he spent his entire career with the Stealth (now Warriors) organization, he said he doesn’t feel as strong of an attachment after all the changes they made.
“I don’t really feel an affiliation to that organization anymore. Nobody running it has any attachment to me, nor I to them,” said Duch.
“It’s definitely a welcome, refreshing change to be in Calgary. It’s going to be more important to me to put together a strong performance in support of the Roughnecks jumping on-board with me. I want them to know they made the right decision.”