At one point this season, it appeared the Calgary Roughnecks were in deep trouble. But that’s all in the past now.
After being 1-5 just two weeks ago, the Roughnecks (3-5) head into Friday’s matchup with the Vancouver Stealth (1-8) having won two in a row, both against teams currently in playoff spots.
Head coach Curt Malawsky said despite them now being back in the playoff hunt, they will continue to not focus on what’s going on around the league and in the standings, but instead focus on what they can control.
“We didn’t scoreboard watch at 1-5 and we’re not scoreboard watching at 3-5,” said Malawsky in an interview.
“We’re getting better week-to-week, and it’s honestly just about ourselves. We’re doing our thing and making sure we’re prepared.”
Over the last two games, Malawsky said it’s “like splitting hairs” trying to find an area to improve on.
Other than the special teams last game, he said they’ve been great in all areas. The Colorado Mammoth went four-for-four with the man advantage last week, which is one of the only areas that needs cleaning up.
“Special teams always need to be on the right side of 60 per cent for the short man at least, as well as 60 per cent on the power play is what we target,” said Malawsky.
Entering Friday’s contest, the Roughnecks currently rank seventh in the NLL at 43.8 per cent, while the visiting Stealth sit just below them in eighth at 36.7 per cent. The Stealth also sit eighth in penalty killing at 42.9 per cent, while the Roughnecks are one of the more efficient penalty killing teams, ranked fourth at 48.3 per cent.
Another big reason for the Roughnecks recent success has been the play of goaltender Christian Del Bianco. After Frank Scigliano began the season as the starter, Del Bianco has now started the past two games, allowing just eight and nine goals respectively.
Del Bianco now leads the NLL in both GAA (9.49) and save percentage (.807). Although he hasn’t officially been named the starter for Friday night, all signs are pointing to a third straight start for the youngster.
“I think the best thing about Christian is his mental toughness is exceptional,” said Malawsky.
“If he gets a goal scored on him, his demeanour doesn’t change. I’ve watched him for a lot of years now. He’s very calm in the net and doesn’t get rattled.”
Not only is Del Bianco doing his job keeping the ball out of the net, but he also brings a whole new level of confidence to the team.
“He’s been a spark. He’s a ball of energy back there,” said Roughnecks defenseman Dan MacRae in an interview.
“Either he’s the first guy to a loose ball in the corner, or he’s jumping out on face-offs to get a loose ball, or running to the bench. Whatever it is, he’s doing it 100 miles-per-hour.”
Although MacRae said the team has plenty of trust in Del Bianco, they still need to continue doing their part in what’s made them successful over the past few weeks.
MacRae said they’ve really been focussing on having the right players on the field, when the opposition’s “big guns” are out there, in order to limit their production.
In the Stealth’s case, MacRae said it’ll be players like Rhys Duch, Logan Schuss, and Corey Small that will require the extra attention.
“When those guys are firing, they can be one of the best offenses in the league,” said MacRae.
“If we’re controlling possessions, playing at our tempo, and do a good job of slowing down their big guns, we should continue to be successful.”