CALGARY, AB – The battle of Alberta is set to re-ignite this weekend.
Scotiabank Saddledome will play host Friday to the first game of a home-and-home double-header against the Edmonton Rush second game is slated for Saturday at Rexall Place in Edmonton.
Last weekend, the Calgary Roughnecks split a double-header with the Colorado Mammoth dropping a 9-8 overtime decision in the first game and winning 14-9 in the second game.
“I thought the first game was a good defensive battle,” said Roughnecks coach Curt Malawsky. “The goalies played very well on both sides of it. It came down to that one shot again. I thought we had a real good look in overtime and Buque made a big stop. They put the ball on John Grant’s stick and Junior does what Junior does. He got a big one for them.”
After scoring only eight goals on the road in the first game, the Roughnecks re-configured a few things offensively and found their groove in the second game. Moving the ball and spreading the floor was a key point of emphasis for the team as Colorado had begun to anticipate where the ball was going.
The Riggers plan was successful.
“We were able to refocus coming home and made a couple of adjustments,” Malawsky said. “I think our offence got a bit predictable to which side of the floor the ball would be on. With the dynamic talent we have up front, if we play a little bit more unpredictable, we will be real tough to cover and that changes the dynamic of things. I think we did that in the second game and they saw the results.”
One major positive from the weekend was the play of goaltender Frankie Scigliano. The young netminder allowed less than 10 goals in each performance. He made 42 and 25 saves in the two games and gave Calgary every chance to win.
“Frankie gave us another great game and defensively, we kept the shots to the outside,” said Malawsky.
Also playing in a double-header, the Edmonton Rush did the Riggers a favour and swept the Vancouver Stealth.
With the wins, Edmonton was able to clinch a playoff spot and extend their lead atop the West Division as well as closed the gap between Vancouver and Calgary.
“I thought we had a pretty good weekend,” said Edmonton coach Derek Keenan. “Vancouver pushed us pretty hard on Friday but we managed to pull it out in overtime. I thought we were better on Saturday night in Vancouver. I look forward to this weekend, we just got to keep looking to get better and put some distance in between ourselves and Colorado, but it’s going to be tough.”
For Edmonton, they are not going to put on the cruise control for the rest of the season. They are going to try and improve as they push closer to the playoffs with the sting of last season’s early exit in mind. Coach Keenan wants his team to get some separation from the Mammoth and hold the first place position.
“This is playoff time, pretty much,” Keenan said. “We are trying to get into a good position and Calgary is trying to get into position, so they’re going to be desperate. They are always great games, so we look forward to the weekend for sure.”
In recent years, when the battle of Alberta has come to Calgary, it has not been a pleasant experience for the Roughnecks. Since 2013, Calgary has a 1-4 record against the Rush at the ‘Dome after years of dominating their Northern rival.
The Roughnecks will look to reverse this fortune when they meet Edmonton on Friday..
“We don’t usually play well at home against Edmonton,” Malawsky said. “So we will be looking to change that.”
Added transition player Geoff Snider: “We’re just focusing on us. We’re preparing accordingly and we know what’s in front of us. We’re going to continue chipping away and playing as a group.”
Even though the Roughnecks remain last in the West Division, the Rush will not take them lightly. Knowing exactly the kind of talent Calgary has on it’s roster, Edmonton will be well prepared for a tough, physical battle.
“Calgary is a great team and where they sit in the standings doesn’t dictate that,” said Rush forward Robert Church. “It’s going to be a great battle with them, as it is every time we play them.”
This is a crucial series for the Roughnecks as they try to climb their way into a playoff spot. Desperate for a win, the Roughnecks will come out fighting. However, they will need to bring an even better effort than last weekend if they plan on taking down their Alberta rival.
“It’s going to really be a challenge and we need to build off the positives and we’ve got to focus on what we did successfully,” Malawsky said. “It’s a different animal playing Edmonton.
“If we thought we played well last weekend, we’re going to need to be much better this weekend. I think our guys understand that and they understand the desperation looking at the team’s above us in the standings.”