Last place isn’t where any team wants to be.
But the Calgary Roughnecks (1-4) currently sit tied with the Vancouver Stealth for the worst record in the NLL heading into Saturday’s home contest at the Scotiabank Saddledome with the league-leading Saskatchewan Rush (4-1).
One of the major reasons for the Roughnecks slow start to the season has been a lack of offense. But Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky said their offense was the best it’s been all season last game, but in order to convert it into a win against the Rush, they need to play hard the entire game.
“It was a three or four-minute lapse that cost us last game,” said Malawsky in an interview. “Those four minutes can turn a game, so we have to make sure we’re playing the shifts in front of us, put them all together, and add up to 60 solid minutes.”
The Roughnecks head into their date with the Rush coming off a bye-week, which Malawsky said was much-needed to allow all their injured players some time to heal up. At one point this season, the Roughnecks had seven players on IR, with that number now sitting at three. Kellen Leclair, Bob Snider, and Greg Harnett are all still on injured reserve, but the extra rest during the off-week will aid in their road to return. “Sometimes the bye-week comes at a good time, and for us, we need to heal,” said Malawsky. “In the NLL, you need all your horses going.”
For the Rush, there are three horses in particular that have had no problem getting going this season. Mark Matthews (36 points), Robert Church (30 points), and Ben McIntosh (30 points) all sit in the top ten in NLL scoring, which presents a tall task for the Roughnecks defense.
Malawsky said in order to neutralize them as much as possible, they need have the right matchups on them, and play smart. “All good offensive players have tendencies,” said Malawsky. “We’re going to do our best to try and take away some of their tendencies that give them success and try to put them in spots where they’re less comfortable, and probably less likely to put the ball in the net. That will be the challenge.”
Stopping the Rush offense is only half the battle, though. The Roughnecks will need to continue their strong offensive play from last game, and build off the many positives that came from the defeat.
“We need to stick to what we were doing against the Swarm because there were a lot of positives to take out of that game,” said Roughnecks forward Riley Loewen in an interview. “If we can continue moving the ball, swinging the ball and not keeping it on one guy’s stick for too long, we’ll be successful.”
The Roughnecks leading scorer remains Curtis Dickson, but he’s well behind his usual pace with just 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in five games. Although it’s only five games into the season, Loewen said they’re starting to feel a sense of urgency now, and it’s important for them not to wait any longer to start climbing the standings.
“It’s only five games in right now, but in a few more games it’s going to be halfway through the season,” said Loewen. “The urgency is definitely there. We know we need to win now, and it’ll be a big test against Saskatchewan on Saturday.”