ONE STEP AWAY: Following a 12-11 overtime win over the Edmonton Rush at the Scotiabank Saddledome last Saturday, the Calgary Roughnecks are one win away from advancing to the NLL Champion’s Cup series. The Rush will host Game 2 of the NLL’s West Division Finals at Rexall Place on Friday night (8 p.m.). If the Riggers win, they’ll advance to face either the Rochester Knighthawks or Buffalo Bandits in another two-game series to determine the 2014 NLL champion. A win by the Rush would force a 10-minute mini game immediately following the second game to decide who advances to the NLL Champion’s Cup series. “Our focus is 100 per cent on that first game,” said Calgary coach Curt Malawsky. “We don’t even want to look at (a mini-game) as a fallback. We’re coming hard and we’re going hard for 60. We want to earn it in true time.” Malawsky added that he’s preparing his squad to face a motivated Rush squad that will be looking for revenge. “They’re the top team in the NLL for a reason,” Malawsky said. “They play 60 minutes every game, they play hard every game. Their defence and their offence are exceptional and they have a top-notch goaltender. And they’re a very well prepared team.” Edmonton assistant coach Jeff McComb said the Rush players are eagerly anticipating playing their first-ever NLL home playoff game. “We’re looking forward to getting home in front of our home fans and playing 60 minutes and hopefully pushing it to the mini-game,” said McComb, while noting that last weekend’s OT loss to the ’Necks is a distant memory. “We have to put it behind us, be prepared to play in our home rink on Friday night in front of the home fans and be better than we were last (Saturday) night.”
REFUSE TO LOSE: Down by a goal with less than a minute to play in the fourth quarter, the Roughnecks didn’t panic. Instead, they rose to the occasion to eventually earn a wild 12-11 win over the Rush in Game 1 of the West Division Finals in front of 13,618 fans at the Saddledome. “It’s a testament to them and they just refuse to lose,” Malawsky said. “We’ve been responding pretty good under pressure lately and the guys just keep on believing.” Curtis Dickson scored the tying goal on a penalty shot with 21.6 seconds remaining in regulation, while Jeff Shattler notched the game winner 46 seconds into the extra session. “It was a great experience for me,” said Shattler, who couldn’t recall scoring a bigger goal in his NLL career. “It was awesome to see all the boys run out to the floor. It was just a great experience all around.” Dickson finished with four goals and two assists for the Riggers, while Shawn Evans scored once and set up four others. Jeff Shattler ended up with two goals and two assists, while Karsen Leung (1g, 1a), Daryl Veltman (1g), Scott Ranger (1g), Dane Dobbie (1g) and Greg Harnett (1g) also scored. Calgary goalie Mike Poulin set a personal best for a playoff game performance by stopping 45 of 56 shots fired his way. Mark Matthews led the Rush attack with a hat trick and four helpers, while Robert Church scored a pair. Zack Greer had two goals and one assist, while Curtis Knight, Riley Loewen, John Lintz and Nik Bilic also scored. Former Roughneck Cory Conway had four helpers, while netminder Aaron Bold finished with 28 saves in the Edmonton net.
FIVE ALIVE: The Roughnecks won their first Champion’s Cup on May 7, 2004 when they beat the Buffalo Bandits 14-11 in the NLL championship game at the Saddledome. Five years later on May 15, 2009, the Riggers downed the New York Titans 12-10 at the ’Dome and hoisted the Champion’s Cup for the second time. Now five years following their second league title, the ’Necks have a chance to capture their third Champion’s Cup in franchise history.
ROUGHNECKS VS. RUSH: The Roughnecks went 1-3 against the Rush in the 2014 regular season. The Riggers opened the season series between the two squads on Jan. 17 with a 15-8 setback in Edmonton to the Rush. Two months later on March 14, the Rush also prevailed 15-7 over the ’Necks, this time at the Saddledome. The two teams wrapped up their four-game set with a home-and-home series in mid-April. After Edmonton downed Calgary 15-11 on April 12 at the ’Dome, the Riggers responded with a 14-13 overtime triumph a week later at Rexall Place as Dickson scored his seventh goal of the contest in the extra session to avert a season sweep at the hands of their northern rivals. After failing to get on the scoresheet in the first game of the season series against Edmonton, Dickson fired 12 goals and added four assists in the remaining three contests. Dobbie paced Calgary’s scoring attack against the Rush with seven goals and 10 helpers in the four-game set, while Evans (4g, 10a), Veltman (1g, 12a) and Shattler (7g, 5a) also reached double figures. Curtis Knight led all Rush scorers with 12 goals and eight helpers against Calgary in the regular season, while Mark Matthews was also dangerous as he scored 11 times and set up seven others. Robert Church had points in all four games for the Rush as he finished with six goals and nine helpers, while Chris Corbeil (9g, 5a), Cory Conway (2g, 13a) and Jarrett Davis (3g, 9a) also surpassed the 10-point plateau. While the Rush won the season series against the Riggers, Calgary has compiled an all-time record of 24-8 (9-5 at home, 15-3 on the road) against Edmonton in the regular season.
DID YOU KNOW?: Prior to last weekend, Edmonton and Calgary had met twice previously in the playoffs with the Rush prevailing on both occasions, both times at the Saddledome. The Rush downed the Riggers 11-7 on May 1, 2010 in the West Division Semi-Final and then duplicated that same feat two years later with a 19-11 victory in Calgary on May 5, 2012. When the two Alberta rivals face off at Rexall Place on Friday, May 16, it will mark a significant milestone for the Rush, which will be hosting a playoff game for the first time in their nine-year history.
MOUSE’S MUSINGS: Back-to-back playoff overtime wins have taken their toll on Malawsky’s nervous system. “From a coach’s perspective, it would be a lot better if we didn’t have to wait until overtime,” said Malawsky, who’s in his second season as Calgary’s head coach. “Like I said earlier in the season, we’re playing with fire. I think it just shows the resiliency and resolve of our group. We’ve got very good composure with the veteran guys we do have. Our guys don’t seem to panic. Everybody understands that you have to have your composure especially at this time of the season. We’re very fortunate and we realize we have to get a lot better this week if we want the same result.” Malawsky is being assisted once again this season by Bob McMahon as offence coordinator and Bruce Codd as defence coordinator. It’s the fourth season for McMahon with the ’Necks, while Codd is in his second season on the Calgary coaching staff.
CAPTAIN’S COMMENT: Veteran Calgary captain Andrew McBride has never had to play a 10-minute mini-game in the playoffs and he’s hoping it stays that way. “We’re not focused on the 10-minute mini game,” McBride said. “Our goal and focus is on the first game. If it comes down to that point, we’ll worry about that then. Our coaches prepare us the best in the league — we’re ready with video, we’re ready with scouting reports. We’re focused on the first game and that’s where all our attention is.”
DOMINANT DOBBIE: Dobbie’s three-goal performance during a 14-8 road win for Calgary against the Vancouver Stealth on April 26 helped him break the previous regular-season franchise record of 50 set by Lewis Ratcliff in the 2007 season. Dobbie finished the 2014 NLL campaign with 51 goals in 18 games to lead all players in that category. “It’s nice to get three goals and set that (record), but it has a lot to do with our offence and guys moving the ball and finding me when I was open,” Dobbie said.
OH CANADA: When the Canadian Lacrosse Association announced the 24 players selected to the Canadian National Men’s Field Lacrosse Team earlier this month, it included a pair of Roughnecks. Dickson and Geoff Snider were among the group of players chosen to compete for Team Canada at the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championships on July 10-19 in Denver, Colorado.
PLAYOFF MILESTONES WITHIN REACH
– By setting up just one more goal, Jeff Shattler will set a new franchise record for career playoff assists. Shattler and Kaleb Toth are currently tied for the franchise mark with 34 assists each.
– Scott Ranger is three points away from 50.
– By stopping seven more shots, Mike Poulin will set a personal best for saves in one playoff year. Through two post-season games, Poulin has stopped 80 shots fired his way. In 2011, Poulin made 86 saves in two playoff games with the Riggers.
– Dane Dobbie is within striking distance of a pair of franchise playoff records. Tracey Kelusky currently holds the franchise marks for both post-season points (60) and goals (34). With seven more points, Dobbie will surpass Kelusky, while he needs to score nine times to take over the career playoff goal-scoring lead.