The Calgary Roughnecks (1-7) will travel north to take on the Edmonton Rush (4-3) at Rexall Place on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET for this season’s second installment of the “Battle of Alberta.” Watch the game on NLL LIVE in the U.S. and TSN GO in Canada.
The Roughnecks will be searching for the team’s first win against its provincial rival this season after falling to the Rush in January by a score of 16-8 in Week 4. The ‘Necks are coming into the game desperate after losing its last contest 12-11 against the Rochester Knighthawks (6-3) last weekend, its fourth one-goal loss this season.
The Roughnecks coaching staff believes that the close finishes are just the nature of the game.
“Look at the league, there’s so much parity,” said Calgary assistant coach Bob McMahon. “Toronto’s got four one-goal wins, and we’ve got four one-goal losses. They’re at the top of the pile and we’re at the bottom of the pile. We’re just continuing to give it our best effort every night.”
Although the Riggers are sitting 3.5 games back from the Rush, and are in last place in the West Division, they still have plenty of time to make a comeback and earn a playoff spot.
“Look at teams like Buffalo last year,” McMahon stated. “Everybody basically had them written off after a six or seven-game losing streak and they were within a crossbar of going to the championship game.”
As for the tough loss in Rochester, McMahon is still satisfied with the effort the team is putting in.
“I thought we played very well,” McMahon said. “Rochester is the defending champ and it’s always a tough building to play in. We had a bit of a shaky first quarter there, but we actually outscored them 10-4 until Cody Jamieson got one late for them to win… Unfortunately we were just a little short.”
The team is focusing hard on putting everything they have into games, and are staying optimistic.
“We’re right in these games,” said Roughnecks fifth-year transition player Geoff Snider. “A couple of bounces here or there, and things are a lot different for us…They’ll fall, you just have to stay positive and keep working.”
The mindset going into Edmonton seems to remain hopeful, and the Riggers are ready to battle.
“You’re always in the fight here, and that’s the mentality we’re taking into this,” Snider remarked. “We’re going to come ready to play this weekend.”
Snider, who has a faceoff win percentage of 59% this season, believes that the record is not affecting the teams motivation and growth.
“I know the guys are eager and fired up,” Snider said. “I know that we’ve been getting better every practice. Every game day, our preparations great, our systems, and what we’re putting into games is great.”
The Roughnecks are confident the work they have been putting in will pay off on Sunday, and help them triumph over the first-place Rush.
“We just have to continue to play well and hopefully the scores reflect our effort at the end of the night,” McMahon concluded.
Despite allowing 16 goals to the Toronto Rock in last weekend’s overtime loss, the Rush have still have the lowest goals against per game average at 10. The Week 9 game was only the second time this season that Edmonton allowed more than nine goals.
Last week’s game wasn’t necessarily bad for the Rush, scoring 15 goals on the second-best defense in the league, but it was not a game they would use as a model for the future.
“I thought we had a really good push in the fourth quarter,” said Edmonton general manager and head coach Derek Keenan. “But overall, I didn’t think we were great, especially on the defensive side. When we did get our feet moving, I thought we were good in all three zones for the last 12 minutes of the game.”
A big positive for Edmonton this year has been the play of Zack Greer. Greer has scored 16 goals in his last four games, including five tallies last week against Toronto. At his current pace, Greer is set to score 48 goals, which would be 17 more than his career high of 31 set in 2012.
“He’s just continually gotten better in his career,” Keenan said. “He’s shooting the ball well, moving well without the ball, catching it in traffic, and finishing his opportunities. He’s a dangerous player when he has his feet moving and I think that’s one thing he’s learned over the last couple of years. One of his biggest improvements has been his shooting. He mixes things up well, and he has goalies guess at times in terms of where he’s going to shoot the ball, and that’s made a big difference.”
Greer showed off his ability to keep goalies guessing when he faked out Toronto goaltender Brandon Miller twice before depositing the ball in the net for one of his goals last Friday.
Sunday’s game should see Chris Corbeil back in the lineup after being out last week with a foot injury. Keenan said after the game that he could have played if it were a playoff game, but at this point of the season, it’s best not to make the injury worse and risk him missing more time.
Edmonton has played the fewest games in the league at seven, and holds down the top spot in the West, a half game up on Colorado and Vancouver. Wins at the beginning of the season are worth just as much as they are near the end.
“We know were facing a desperate team, that’s for sure,” said Keenan about a Calgary club looking for its second win. “They have played extremely well lately and just haven’t got results. We want to continue to get better, and we want to distance ourselves from division opponents, so this is a big game for us.”
By Laura Bates (@RoughnecksBeat) & Mike Wilson (@RushBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Jesse Kushneryk.