CALGARY, AB — As the regular season inches closer to the end, the importance of every game increases.
For the Saskatchewan Rush, they worked a two-game sweep over the Toronto Rock last weekend and clinched a playoff spot. However, tied for first with the Colorado Mammoth, they are looking to lock up a home playoff game and a shot at a bye to the West Division Final.
Not guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, the Calgary Roughnecks are looking for a win to help fend off the Vancouver Stealth.
That makes this weekend’s contest between the Rush and Roughnecks so important for each club.
Last time the two teams met at the SaskTel Centre, Zack Greer had himself a great game, scoring seven goals and two assists to help the Rush down the Roughnecks 19-12.
Calgary will want a better result this time around.
Playing much better lacrosse lately and with the Dane Dobbie back in the line-up, the Roughnecks are poised to give Saskatchewan a tough fight.
If both teams come to play – and they will – than it may be a low scoring affair.
Each team boasts a strong defence and a top goaltender in the NLL. Saskatchewan’s Aaron Bold leads the NLL with a 10.55 GAA, yet is near the bottom in save percentage at .744 percent. Mike Poulin has been fantastic for the Roughnecks this year, compiling a 10.84 GAA and .787 save percentage.
The Rush defence may need to give special attention to Curtis Dickson, who was on fire last weekend, scoring 10 goals and adding six assists. Jeff Shattler on the other side is also worthy of some focus after a big 15-point weekend.
As with all games between these two teams, it’s almost guaranteed to be feisty.
That might lead to a number of penalties, though the Roughnecks and Rush rank second and third lowest in penalty minutes per game, respectively.
Should special teams become a major factor in the game, it could come down to which penalty kill unit breaks first.
Saskatchewan’s power play, while always dangerous, has been sub par at home this season. They only managed to score on 41.89 percent of their chances, which is second worst among NLL teams. They will go up against a Roughnecks penalty kill that ranks 4th in the NLL and is operating at 50 percent.
Flipping the script, it will be a battle of two very good units. The Roughnecks have the league’s best power play (62.2 percent), but are going to be in tough against the Rush’s top ranked home penalty kill (65.8 percent).
Things could get very interesting if the teams start cutting a rut to the sin bin.
This will be the third meeting between the clubs in 2016, with the Rush winning each game. Calgary will be looking to avoid the season sweep, while beating one of their biggest rivals – who haven’t lost a game since February 26th.
The Roughnecks are excited for the challenge.
“We want to play best to get us ready for the playoffs,” Shattler said. “We’re going to go up to Saskatchewan and we’re going to give it everything we’ve got. I think our team’s really rolling. Everyone’s pushing on the rope.”