When the Saskatchewan Rush relocated in the offseason, it meant the end of the Battle of Alberta. But it birthed the Battle of the Prairies.
Watch the 2016 NLL Face Off Weekend presented by New Era Cap opener live on TSN3 & TSN GO (Canada) and ESPN3 (U.S.) on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET.
Though the Rush will represent a new province, they remain the same team that eliminated the Calgary Roughnecks in the West Final en route to winning the NLL Champion’s Cup.
Memories of that disappointing loss still linger for the Roughnecks.
“They’re pretty much the same team as last year,” forward Curtis Dickson said. “When you win a championship, you don’t want to move too much around.
“There’s still going to be that animosity and we still have that bad taste in our mouth from the West Final last year. We’re going to be hungry and we’re glad we have a shot at them right away.”
Getting a chance at revenge in their first game is a welcome opportunity for the Riggers.
Play the reigning champions is also a good way to find out where the new-look Roughnecks sit.
“I think that we’ve always had a good rivalry with Edmonton and we’ve matched up well,” Roughnecks general manager Mike Board said. “On any given night we can dominate or get close games or get transitional games. They’re a good team and this is a measuring stick for us because they are the champs.”
Calgary will have their work cut out as they will face one of the toughest defences in the NLL.
New additions Tyler Digby, Wesley Berg, and Reilly O’Connor all bring some size that should help fight back against the large Rush back-end.
“That is a good defence, so imposing yourself on them is quite difficult,” Board said. “We’ve got Tyler Digby who can clear up some space. I think more so than anything else, we’ve got enough threats on offence that they can’t key on any one guy. That’s a key against Saskatchewan. Move the ball, make sure they’re moving, and take advantage when you can.”
One major area of concern for the Roughnecks is their discipline. They led the NLL in times short-handed with 101. If they can keep play to five on five, they will stand a much better chance of beating Saskatchewan.
“Discipline is a big one,” Board opined. “They’re a very disciplined team and they don’t take many penalties. You don’t want to take penalties and give their offence a run of power plays. Controlling their transition game is another key for us.”
While the match-up will be different because of all of the new faces, expect the game to be just as heated as past affairs.
The veterans are well engrained in the rivalry and the rookies are about to get their first taste.
“It’s going to be another grudge match between us,” defenseman Garrett McIntosh said. “It’ll be a good game.”
By Paul Mawdsley for CalgaryRoughnecks.com. Photo by Rob McMorris.