By Rush beat writer Scott Zerr & Roughnecks beat writer Kassidy Collins for NLL.com
The Calgary Roughnecks (10-5) host the Edmonton Rush (14-1), who saw their historic 14-game win streak snapped by the Colorado Mammoth on Friday night, at Scotiabank Saddledome for the third installment of the Battle of Alberta on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET. Watch the matchup between the top two teams in the West Division live on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.
The Roughnecks are coming off what was a fine performance last weekend by winning both their games in the East, on a back-to-back road trip. Calgary beat the Philadelphia Wings 13-9 on Friday and less than 24 hours later, travelled to Banditland and stole a comeback win in Buffalo, 16-13.
“It was a real tough weekend, it was a battle and we just wanted to stay close in the Buffalo game and we were able to do that,” said Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky. “I like our chances late in the game from an offence perspective and ‘Pouly’ was real strong in both games. When we went on a run, he was able to stop them from counteracting our run game and getting a few of their own, so all facets of our game were solid in that weekend.”
Calgary’s veteran transition player Geoff Snider knew it would be a difficult weekend and liked what he saw from his teammates.
“Anytime you can travel East, and come out better than 50% on the road in back-to-backs is a testament to where our guys are mentally,” he said. “I felt better on Saturday then I did on Friday and I think a lot of guys did as well, we rose to the occasion and it shows how we’ve grown as a group.”
This weekend the ‘Battle of Alberta’ is back. The previous two outings have seen the Rush roll right over Calgary and Malawsky knows what his team faces come Saturday night.
“They beat us by seven, they beat us by eight, so we haven’t even been close to them in the two games we’ve played them,” he said. “They’ve really handed it to us, they’ve taught us lessons. And from a coaching perspective, we’re eager to see how our guys are going to respond to that and how we’re going to match up against the best team in the NLL.”
The Edmonton Rush set a new NLL record this year, winning 14 games in a row to start the season.
“They don’t have a lot of cracks in that armor and they don’t have a lot of holes,” said Malawsky. “We know them very well and they know us very well so I think the motivation for our guys is can we hang with the big dogs in the league, and that’s going to have to be proven this Saturday night.”
One of the biggest stories in the Necks’ locker room right now is the play of forward Dane Dobbie, who has eight goals in his past two games.
“Dobs (Dobbie) has a big heart, he’s a very passionate guy and he’s an old school lacrosse player,” said Malawsky. “The way I look at it, he plays in the dirty areas and he’s a pure goal scorer. He’s also a warrior, he’ll go right in the middle and get his head taken off. You’re not going to deter him from getting there so when people say the guy scores big goals, he scores big goals for a reason.”
The Riggers have won four in a row and eight of their last ten, with their last loss dating back to March.14th against the Rush. Calgary is the number one offence in the league averaging 13 goals a game this season, but that doesn’t bother Edmonton, who has an undefeated record and the number one defense in the league thanks to goaltender Aaron Bold with an 8.31 GGA.
“We need to be prepared to do everything we can to play the best team in the league,” said Snider. “I think 14-0 in any sport is pretty unbelievable and especially in lacrosse. We’re going to have to do everything we can to play a group of guys that are really motivated and dedicated to winning at this point in the season. Edmonton’s the type of team that will exploit you if you’re making mistakes and I think this weekend will be an awesome lacrosse game to watch.”
“They’ve got a great club, but we have a great club too, so we’re looking to see what happens Saturday night. Should be a good one,” added Malawsky.
The Rush had a chance to complete a season sweep of the Mammoth on Friday. Edmonton had won five of its last seven in Denver including the 2014 season opener.
The Rush will then trek to Calgary for Part III of this season’s Battle of Alberta. Edmonton has dominated both matchups so far this season, winning two clashes by a combined count of 30-15. But the last thing the Rush want to do is take either opponent or their secured playoff spot for granted.
“We want to peak in the playoffs as opposed to peaking at an earlier point in the season,” added McComb. “There are a lot of little areas to improve on because once you get into the playoffs anything can happen.”
It might be hard to find faults in a team that has yet to lose this season, but tiny cracks can become giant chasms in the playoffs.
“We’re not going to take our foot off the gas in these last four games,” said Rush defenseman Ryan Dilks. “Every team is coming for us so we can’t be taking anyone lightly.”