Revenge will be on the minds of the Roughnecks after the Rush knocked them out of the playoffs last year
In the regular season, the Battle of Alberta hasn’t been much of a battle at all recently. The Roughnecks (2-2) have swept their Edmonton (1-2) counterparts for two straight years, eight wins in total.
But when it counted last year, it was the Rush that came to play in the West Division Semi-Final, beating the home team Roughnecks to the tune of a 19-11 on their way to a NLL Champion’s Cup berth.
“Most guys didn’t forget what happened to them last year but it’s a new year,” said Roughnecks forward Shawn Evans, the reigning NLL Player of the Month after leading the league with 31 points in four games.
“What happened last year was last year so we are just looking forward to getting back at them and keep the momentum going from last weekend.”
Instead, he said that game will be used as motivation for when the two bitter rivals face off for the first time this season. With four matchups, these games will have major playoff ramifications by the time the end of the season rolls around.
The Roughnecks are returning the majority of the same roster from last year, a squad that played well throughout the regular season but came out flat in the playoffs. Goaltender Mike Poulin was also battling an injury last time around, but has been healthy and spectacular through four games.
The Rush, on the other hand, is continuing in their path to bring a younger squad to the floor. First overall pick Mark Matthews has been a godsend on the front end, with 19 points in four games, good enough for the team lead and Top 10 in the NLL. He was named Rookie of the Month for January.
Following two great performances on the road last weekend, Evans said it’s important to keep that style going into this weekend.
“We just got to keep playing how we did last weekend,” Evans said. “We moved the ball, our defence played well and we buried our chances. We were tough to stop.
“It’s going to be a tough game against Edmonton, a nice little rivalry.”
The weekend, which saw the Roughnecks outscore the Colorado Mammoth and Philadelphia Wings combined 35-20, garnered Calgary three out of four player of the week nods from the NLL. Besides Evans, Poulin scored the Defensive Player of the Week honour after allowing only 19 goals in two games, while faceoff stalwart Geoff Snider earned Transition Player of the Week for winning 43 of 55 draws over the two games.
Game time is 7 p.m. at Rexall Place. Fans can watch live on Sportsnet One.