The Roughnecks will face off against their northern rivals on Saturday in the opening round of NLL playoffs.
BATTLE OF ALBERTA, PLAYOFF EDITION: After winning all four games they played against the Edmonton Rush in the regular season, the Calgary Roughnecks will face off against their northern rivals on Saturday (7 p.m.) in the opening round of the National Lacrosse League playoffs. The Roughnecks (12-4) compiled the best record in the NLL this season to secure home-floor advantage throughout the post-season, while the Rush (6-10) will be looking to pull off a major upset. Despite losing 10 straight regular season games over three seasons to the Riggers, the Rush won the lone playoff contest between the two Alberta rivals – an 11-7 triumph for Edmonton on May 1, 2010 at the Scotiabank Saddledome. “Obviously three years ago them knocking us out from a dream in that first year after I took over as head coach is something that certainly has not been lost on us,” said Calgary bench boss Dave Pym. “This is an opportunity for redemption.”
ROUGHNECKS VS. RUSH: The Roughnecks now boast an all-time record of 20-4 (8-2 at home, 12-2 on the road) in the regular season against the Rush. The 20 wins over Edmonton are the most that Calgary has recorded against any NLL franchise. Calgary beat Edmonton all four times the two teams faced off against each other in the 2012 NLL campaign. The Riggers opened the season series with a 12-8 win over the Rush at home at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Feb. 18. The ’Necks then ran to a 13-10 win in Edmonton on March 9 before downing the Rush 16-9 the next night back at home in Calgary. The Riggers then swept the season series by virtue of a 9-6 triumph at Crystal Glass Field at Rexall Place on April 21. Calgary forward Shawn Evans led all players with 11 goals and seven assists in the four-game series, while Jeff Shattler scored nine times to go with six assists. Despite not recording a point in the final game, Curtis Dickson tallied seven goals and six assists against the Rush, while Scott Ranger scored three times and set up 10 others. Daryl Veltman (4g, 8a), Dane Dobbie (4g, 5a in three games) and Geoff Snider (3g, 5a) also fared well against Edmonton. Shawn Williams led the Rush scoring attack with a goal and 13 assists in the four games, while Scott Evans scored eight times and set up four others despite only playing the first two games of the series. Corey Small (3g, 7a), Ryan Ward (3g, 6a), Zack Greer (5g, 1a) and Tom Johnson (3g, 3a) were also solid contributors for the Rush.
PYM’S PERSPECTIVE: Pym, who took over as the fifth head coach in Roughnecks’ history prior to the 2010 season, said he’s hoping to see an electric atmosphere at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday during the West Division Semi-Final clash between the Roughnecks and Rush. “The energy that we gain from having a packed house allows guys to make that extra step, that extra dive, that extra bit of work ethic that maybe wouldn’t be there without that support,” Pym said. “I’ve been in this building when it’s been absolutely packed and you can’t even hear yourself talk on the bench because it’s so loud. That’s what we want to see.” Once again this season, Pym is being assisted by Curt Malawsky as offence coordinator and Bob McMahon as defence coordinator. It’s the third season for Malawsky on the Calgary coaching staff, while McMahon is back for his second year.
CAPTAIN’S CORNER: Calgary captain Andrew McBride said he and his teammates have tremendous belief in each other that they can get the job done in the playoffs. “We have the ability to win games,” McBride said. “It could be a fast-paced game. It could be a game where we really need to grind it out and have a defensive battle. I think we really covered all our bases this year. I think we’re peaking at the right time. Guys are feeling comfortable. We’ve just got to believe in each other and understand the ability to get this done. There’s not a lot of time where opportunities present themselves like this and I think we’re really cognizant of the opportunity ahead of us.”
TOP SEED SECURED: By virtue of their hard-fought 9-6 road win over the Rush on April 21, the Roughnecks clinched first place overall heading into the NLL playoffs. Shawn Evans scored four times and added two assists to help the Roughnecks (12-4) match their best regular-season record, which they also accomplished back in 2009, the same year that they won their second Champion’s Cup. “You don’t get that kind of record with individual play,” said Evans, who matched career highs for goals (32) and points (79) in a season. “When the team’s playing well, everything else goes well for you.” Evans previously tallied 79 points in the 2009 season while playing for the Rochester Knighthawks. Evans also had 32 goals last year with the K-Hawks, who traded the 26-year-old forward to the Riggers in the off-season. “He makes everybody on our team better,” said Pym, who commended all of his players for a bounce-back effort a week after a 14-12 loss in Rochester. “We got huge contributions from a lot of different guys.”
CLUTCH PERFORMANCE: Shattler had two goals and an assist against the Rush in Calgary’s final regular season game, while Nolan Heavenor scored twice to triple his goal total for the season. “He comes in and pots two for us up front that were key, momentum type of goals,” said Pym of Heavenor. “It fired up the bench and got everybody rallying again.” Dobbie tallied a goal and an assist, Curtis Manning had four helpers, while Ranger and Veltman set up three goals each. With Mike Poulin still out of the lineup with a lower-body injury, rookie Frankie Scigliano started his second straight game and made 38 saves to improve his record to 2-1. “He’s playing well and our defence is doing a great job of taking the middle of the floor away (and) forcing those bad-angle shots,” Pym said. “He’s doing a fantastic job for us.” Williams and Aaron Wilson led the Rush attack with a goal and two helpers each, while Small had three assists. Brett Mydske, Johnson, Ward and Kyle Rubisch also scored. Aaron Bold stopped 44-of-53 shots he faced in the Edmonton net.
DID YOU KNOW?: Despite missing the final two games of the regular season, Calgary netminder Mike Poulin finished the campaign with an impressive 10-3 record to go with a 10.27 goals against average and a .789 save percentage. Poulin backstopped the Riggers to three wins over the Rush and recorded at least one assist in all three contests. The mobile netminder, who will be available to play on Saturday, finished the campaign with 12 assists in 13 games.
VETERAN ROSTER: Captain Andrew McBride leads a group of 17 returning vets on Calgary’s roster this year. The Roughnecks are also pleased to welcome back Jeff Shattler, Dane Dobbie, Scott Ranger, Curtis Dickson, Cory Conway, Daryl Veltman and Kaleb Toth at forward. Joining McBride on defence are the brother tandems of Mike and Scott Carnegie and Jon and Greg Harnett (the latter of whom is a rookie), along with Mike Kilby and Dan MacRae. Transition players Nolan Heavenor, Peter McFetridge, Curtis Manning and Geoff Snider are also back in the fold along with Mike Poulin in goal. The Roughnecks acquired forward Shawn Evans from the Rochester Knighthawks in the off-season and the veteran sniper has fit in nicely. Three of Calgary’s five picks from the 2011 NLL Entry Draft earned spots on this year’s roster: transition Travis Cornwall (first round, seventh overall), defenceman Greg Harnett (second round, 11th overall) and goalie Frankie Scigliano (second round, 18th overall). Veteran netminder Matt King has also been added to the active roster after being released by Washington earlier this season.