After two straight losses to the top two teams in the NLL, the Calgary Roughnecks (4-7) will look to move back into the win column when they welcome the streaking Rochester Knighthawks (6-6) to the Scotiabank Saddledome Saturday night.
The Roughnecks have dropped back-to-back road contests to the Saskatchewan Rush and Colorado Mammoth, while the Knighthawks come in as one of the hottest teams in the league, having won four straight.
Despite the two losses, the Roughnecks defense and goaltending has continued to be stellar, allowing just 18 goals combined in the defeats. But in order to win in this league, head coach Curt Malawsky said you need to be firing on all cylinders on all areas of the field.
“The biggest thing is we have to make sure all facets of our game are going,” said Malawsky in an interview.
“In Saskatchewan, our short-man wasn’t very good, but our power play was exceptional. Last game, our power play wasn’t great, but our short man was good. Our defense and goaltending has been great the last couple games, but our offense needed to better.”
If the Roughnecks hope to end the winning streak of the Knighthawks and start a win streak of their own, they’ll absolutely need to have all facets dialed in.
With the strength of the Knighthawks’ special teams, a Roughnecks win is going to rely heavily on their ability to neutralize the power play and penalty kill of the Knighthawks, while also improving their own.
The Knighthawks own the second-best power play and third-best penalty kill in the NLL at 59.1 per cent and 54 per cent respectively. The Roughnecks sit at the other end of the spectrum, holding down the seventh-ranked power play and worst penalty kill at 40.9 per cent and 44.2 per cent respectively.
“I’ve watched a lot of tape on them this week, and they’re an outstanding team. Arguably the best team in the East,” said Malawsky.
“It’s going to take a full 60 minutes with everyone contributing, including the power play and the short man.”
To go along with their strong power play, the Knighthawks have one of the top offenses in the league, currently averaging 13.25 goals per game.
A big reason behind their ability to put the ball in the net with regularity is the production of Joe Resetarits and Cody Jamieson, who sit third and sixth in NLL scoring respectively.
In order to slow them down, Malawsky said it’s going to be important to play defense by committee, stick to the system, and try and adapt to some of the tendencies they have.
“Jamieson is their quarterback, and he does a great job of making everyone around him better. And with the departure of Dawson, Resetarits has been the quarterback on the other side of the floor, and has also done a great job of making everyone else better,” said Malawsky.
“Those two guys are playing great from an individual standpoint, yet they’re making everyone around them better from a team dynamic standpoint.”
While it’ll be key for the Roughnecks to slow down the Knighthawks’ two stars, they will still have to contend with the remainder of a well-balanced offense.
Roughnecks goaltender Christian Del Bianco said it’s going to be important not zone in on just Resetarits and Jamieson, in order to avoid being burned by the many other snipers they have.
“One thing the Knighthawks have done well throughout the season is they’ve kept a good floor balance,” said Del Bianco in an interview.
“I think the biggest thing with us is we can’t get caught chasing, and we just have to stick to our system.”
Although the defense will need to do their part, the Roughnecks will continue to rely heavily on Del Bianco for timely saves and boosting confidence.
Del Bianco has been a rock for the Roughnecks this season, and continues to lead the entire NLL in both GAA (9.57) and save percentage (.813 %).
“I’ve just been focussing on what I can control,” said Del Bianco.
“I put in the time during the week, watch the film and when game-time comes, I’ve been able to stay even keel and just enjoy the experience.”