CALGARY, AB – The Battle of Alberta is back.
The Calgary Roughnecks are riding into Rexall Place on Sunday to face the Edmonton Rush for the second time this season.
Calgary is coming into the game after a disappointing one-goal loss to the defending champion, Rochester Knighthawks.
“I thought we played very well,” said Roughnecks assistant coach Bob McMahon. “Rochester is the defending champ and it’s always a tough building to play in. We had a bit of a shaky first quarter there, but we actually out-scored them 10-4 until Cody Jamieson got one late for them to win. Matt Vinc made a couple of outstanding saves in the last five minutes.
“Their big guys came up big. That’s why they’re the champs. All-in-all I thought we played very well. I think that effort would garner you wins on most nights, unfortunately we were just a little short.”
It was the Roughnecks first visit to Rochester since the 2014 Champion’s Cup Finals.
“We’re right in these games,” added Geoff Snider, who won 19 of 24 faceoffs against the Knighthawks. “A couple of bounces here or there and things are a lot different for us and were not having these conversations.”
As for the Rush, they enter the game in similar fashion.
Edmonton scored a flurry of late goals to tie the game against Toronto and take it to overtime. However, Rock forward Rob Hellyer scored the game winner in a 16-15 thriller over the Rush.
“I thought we had a real good push in the fourth quarter,” said Rush coach Derek Keenan. “But overall I didn’t think we were great, especially in the defensive zone early. Once we did get our feet moving, I thought we were good in all three zones for the last 12 minutes of the game. We had a good push and a good opportunity to win it, but they got the goal to win it and we move forward to this week.”
The Rush know they can’t take the Roughnecks lightly. They understand the circumstances that have placed Calgary in the cellar and know that they will be pressing for a win.
“We are going to be facing a desperate team, that’s for sure,” Keenan said. “They’ve been playing extremely well lately and just haven’t been getting the results. That’s the nature of this league sometimes. We’ve been in that position before as well. We want to continue to get better and distance ourselves from division opponents, so this is a big game for us on Sunday.”
Despite their 1-7 record, the Roughnecks know that there is still time to make a run and compete this season The West Division’s top-ranked Edmonton holds a 4-3 record, so a win Saturday for the Riggers would go a long way.
All they need to do is look at last year for inspiration.
“You look at the league, there’s just so much parity,” McMahon said. “The history of the league just illustrates how much there is. Look at Toronto, they’ve got four one-goal wins and we’ve got four one-goal losses. They’re at the top of the pile and we’re at the bottom of the pile. We’re just continuing to give our best effort every night.
“You look at team like Buffalo last year, everybody had them written off after a six or seven game losing streak, they were within a crossbar of going to the championship game. We just have to continue to play well and hope the scores reflect our efforts at the end of the night.”
There will be no shortage of energy this weekend in the Battle of Alberta.
The Roughnecks will hope to carry their improving efforts forward and look to get their second win of the season.
“I know the guys are eager and fired up,” Snider said. “I know that we’ve been getting better every practice and game days, our preparation has been great. Our systems and what we’ve been putting into games has been great. They’ll fall, you just got to stay positive and keep working.
“As we’ve touched on already, you’re always in the fight here and that’s the mentality that were taking into this and we’re going to come ready to play this weekend.”