CALGARY, AB — On Saturday, the Calgary Roughnecks (0-1) venture to the First Niagara Center to battle the Buffalo Bandits (0-0) in their Home Opener.
The Roughnecks are coming off of a disappointing 10-8 loss to their division rival, the Saskatchewan Rush. Despite the loss, they looked very strong for the most part in a see-saw battle that could have gone either way.
Calgary will be hungry for a win after seemingly having last Saturday’s match snatched from their grasps.
“We’re 0-1 now and we’re desperate for a win,” said Roughnecks coach Curt Malawsky. “I expect that our team is going to have their best effort. It’s going to be a greasy road game and come down to the wire.”
As for Buffalo, they did not play in the NLL’s opening week and are set to launch their season this weekend.
In the offseason, the Bandits made a couple of big splashes. First, Buffalo dipped into the free agent pool and signed former Roughneck Daryl Veltman. Later, lacrosse legend John Tavares announced his retirement and would move behind the bench as Buffalo’s assistant coach.
After the dust settled, the Bandits, who finished with a record of 11-7 last season, look to be stronger this season.
“They’re a good team. They’re very well coached and they’ve got a great goaltender,” explained Malawsky. “It’ll be their home opener, so they’ll be very excited. It’s a great place to play and it’s a great atmosphere.”
Last season, the two big guns for the Bandits were Ryan Benesch and Dhane Smith. The duo led the team with 113 and 107 points, respectively and will be difficult to contain.
Calgary’s defence will be looking for a similar effort as the first half of Saturday’s season opener when they managed to stifle the Rush’s high-powered offence and limit them to just two markers.
In the lone meeting between the two clubs last season, the Bandits prevailed in a 15-14 in overtime on a Jerome Thompson blast from the point.
Similar to last year, the game could come down to which defence or goalie can make the big stops.
With Calgary showing an improved back-end in last weekend’s contest against the Rush, they are well suited to slow down top offences.
Considering that Mark Matthews, Ben McIntosh, and the Rush offence totaled the most goals in 2015 and that they were held to two goals in one half shows the height of the Roughnecks potential in their own end.
Surrounded by the excitement of the home opener and the Bandits 25th NLL season, this should be an all-around exciting battle of two strong teams.
“Hopefully we’ll be on top in the end,” said Malawsky.