Home sweet home.
The Calgary Roughnecks (5-6) return home after three games on the road to take on the Toronto Rock (7-2) at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday night.
After an impressive win over the Saskatchewan Rush to kick off the road trip, the Roughnecks dropped the next two contests against the Buffalo Bandits and a second meeting with the Rush respectively.
Head coach Curt Malawsky said returning home to comfortable and familiar surroundings could be just what they need to get back in the win column.
“We’re familiar with The Dome and we love playing in front of our fans. We missed it,” said Malawsky.
“They give us that extra shot in the arm. They really make a difference.”
Coming off two straight losses, Malawsky said one of the team’s biggest downfalls in those contests were turnovers.
He said while teams at the calibre of the Bandits and Rush will certainly do enough to force turnovers, they also had a lot of turnovers that were self-inflicted, which is an area they will look to clean up before Saturday night.
“The unforced errors are crucial in this league. They shift momentum very quickly,” said Malawsky.
“When you have that many turnovers against quality teams, they’re going to make you pay.”
One area that continues to be a strength of the Roughnecks is their penalty kill, currently tops in the league at 62.5 per cent efficiency.
With the Rock’s third-ranked power play waiting in the wings, Malawsky said their penalty kill will need to continue to be a strength Saturday night.
“We’ve always prided ourselves on understanding what the other team’s dynamic is from a situational play standpoint or a personnel standpoint,” said Malawsky.
“We’re going to continue to prepare that way and make sure guys have the best knowledge of what other teams like to do, their tendencies, and their favorite plays.”
Not only do the Rock find the back of the net often on the man-advantage, they also do so with regularity while even-strength. The Rock currently sit second in the league in goals-for per game with 12.89.
Roughnecks defenseman Dan MacRae said they’re preparing for a high-powered offense that’s a threat to score no matter who’s on the floor.
“Anytime you’re playing Tom Schreiber, Rob Hellyer and guys like that, they have threats all over the floor,” said MacRae.
“We know they really like to spin the ball around and they’re really creative with some of their offensive plays. It’s going to be a real battle of who’s playing whose game out there.”
MacRae and the rest of the defense have formed into one of the best defenses in the league, currently sitting second in the NLL in goals-against per game with 11.09.
MacRae said the key to their defensive success so far this year hasn’t just been the play of the players on the blue line, but each and every player on the roster.
“One of the biggest keys has been our goaltending. It’s been the play of Christian Del Bianco. He’s been standing on his head a lot,” said MacRae.
“The rest of it has just been buying into playing defense as a five-man unit. That’s the bread and butter of the system we play.”
With the NLL trade deadline fast-approaching, general managers around the league will be working the phones rapidly, looking for one last chance to improve their squad before playoffs.
While many players may be on edge during this time, MacRae said the majority of guys in the Roughnecks dressing room don’t get too worked up over it.
“Historically, trade deadlines haven’t had much activity, especially here in Calgary,” said MacRae.
“We’re pretty confident with the group of guys we have, and we also have a lot of guys coming back from injury, so it’s going to seem like we made a big trade.”