The Calgary Roughnecks are coming in hot.
After dropping their season opener, the Roughnecks (3-1) have won three straight games heading into Saturday night’s home contest with the New England Black Wolves (1-1) at the Scotiabank Saddledome. The Black Wolves enter the matchup with a little momentum of their own, having just knocked off the defending NLL champion Saskatchewan Rush.
Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky said while they’re certainly going to come up with a game plan specific to the Black Wolves, the big key is going to be continuing what they’ve been doing all season.
“We’re going to have to make sure we’re prepared for what they do, but the big thing for us is to make sure we stick to what we’ve been doing,” said Malawsky.
“It’s a testament to the guys; they’ve been doing a heck of a job as a group, and both coaches on my left and my right have done a great job preparing the guys.”
In all likelihood, the Roughnecks will be without forwards Curtis Dickson and Wesley Berg for a fifth straight contest as they continue to deal with contract negotiations.
Although it may be hard for fans not to think about just how good the Roughnecks can be when Dickson and Berg do return to the lineup, Malawsky said it’s not something he or the team has on their minds.
“We’re not looking ahead. It really goes back to you play where your feet are. We’re not looking at the game three weeks from now and we’re not looking at the game we played three weeks ago. It’s basically just prepare for the opponent you play each week, play within yourself, and play the shift that’s in front of you,” said Malawsky.
“To start thinking too far ahead or about what was or what could be really just distracts you from what you’re doing right now. And that’s something we’re really trying not to do.”
The early success of off-season acquisition Rhys Duch has been one of the many reasons the Roughnecks offence has been able to find success without Dickson and Berg.
Duch currently sits third in the NLL in scoring with 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) in four games and is one of many weapons the opposition has to worry about.
“Regardless of where we are today with our lineup, we had Duch in our plans when we heard he was made available in the off-season. Myself, the other coaches and GM Mike Board have always really coveted Duch,” said Malawsky.
“He just loves to win. His work ethic is great, he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do, and I think he’s having fun.”
Roughnecks forward Dane Dobbie has had the pleasure of playing alongside Duch this season, racking up 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) in the process.
Dobbie said he played against Duch for over 14 years, from junior lacrosse to professional lacrosse, and said it’s nice to finally be able to play alongside him.
“He puts up big numbers. He’s excellent at seeing the floor, he shoots the ball really well, and he can find space for himself to get shots off,” said Dobbie.
“He’s a big improvement for our team right now, and he’s leading the way and being very successful at it.”
Another area the Roughnecks will look to continue to succeed is on the man advantage, currently sitting fourth in the NLL at 45.8 per cent efficiency.
The Roughnecks should see plenty of opportunities with the extra man against a Black Wolves team that’s racked up 26 PIM in just two games.
Dobbie said they pride themselves on having a good power play and being able to take advantage of their opportunities, something they’ll looking to continue doing Saturday night.
“Hopefully we can just stick with it. Our coaches put in great plays and great game plans for us, so hopefully we can just execute when the time comes,” said Dobbie.
“It’s up to us to draw the penalties and get on the power play, and I think we’ve been doing a fairly decent job at that this year. We just have to stick to the grind and take shots that are available.”
The Roughnecks offence as a whole has been productive this year with Dan Taylor, Tyler Pace, Riley Loewen, and Chris Boushy all having four or more goals on the season, in addition to Dobbie and Duch.
Dobbie said they always strive for offence-by-committee, and so far this season they’ve been executing it exactly how they envisioned.
“Whoever has the hot hand is more than likely going to get the majority of the looks, and I think that’s been very successful for us,” said Dobbie.
“Our offence is playing really well right now and, as a team, we’re getting wins, so we need to stick with that.”