CALGARY, AB – The Battle of Alberta begins early this season when the Calgary Roughnecks face the Edmonton Rush in a pre-season match on Dec. 20 at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Edmonton dominated the NLL with a 16-2 record last season. They did, however, surrender one of those wins to Calgary. In four meetings between the teams, the Rush prevailed in the first three, but dropped the final encounter, 14-13 in overtime.
“We’ll get after it against an Alberta rival and in a town that’s been really supportive of us,” said Geoff Snider. “So were excited to do it and its going to be really cool to get out there and play an exhibition game here at home.”
The Rush entered the playoffs last season as clear favourites in the West and the 12-6 Roughnecks would have to go through them to challenge for the Champions Cup.
Each team won a playoff game on their home floor, resulting in a 10-minute mini-game between the provincial foes. The game ended in dramatic fashion as the Roughnecks squeaked out a 2-1 victory. That excitement was soon met with disappointment as they went on to lose in the Champion’s Cup Finals against Rochester in another 10-minute mini-game tie-breaker.
“We all have one goal and we all have that bad taste in our mouth from last year, I know I do.” said Riggers forward Jeff Shattler.
There are some key differences this year, however. For the Roughnecks, they are without long-time forward Scott Ranger on the right side.
Even without Ranger, the Roughnecks boast the most prolific offence in the league led by stars Dane Dobbie, Shawn Evans, and Curtis Dickson. Last season, Dobbie led the NLL in goals with 51, while Shawn Evans placed second in the NLL in total points with 105.
“I think our defense has gotten stronger,” said Shattler. “I think we have the parts to win it and it just depends on putting it together in the right games, as we saw last year.
“We’re all hungry and we’re ready to go.”
With the core of the team returning, the biggest off-season addition was defenceman, Jeff Moleski, who will partake in his second tour of duty with the Roughnecks.
“I think Moleski is a huge part of our transition game,” said Shattler. “He is a horse, he’s a workhorse, always has been. So [we’re] happy to have him back.”
Moleski spent five seasons with the Roughnecks from 2005 to 2009 and was an integral part of the 2009 Champions Cup team. He hopes that, with the talent on this team, they can make a run at another one.
“In all honesty, it’s a great team.” Moleski stated. “It’s such an offensive talented group of players that defensively, if we can hold them to ten or under, I really like our chances.”
For the Rush, they will be without Head Coach and General Manager Derek Keenan who was forced to step away from his full-time duties due to personal family reasons.
Edmonton may not be as talented up front as Calgary, but they are extremely strong in their own zone and between the pipes with goaltender Aaron Bold who led the NLL last season in wins (15) and in goals against average at 8.73.
Regular season rosters will be set on Dec. 18, so fans will be able to see their favourite players square off in this exhibition game that promises to be an exciting, action-packed event!