CALGARY, AB – The 2015 NLL season has not had the prettiest of starts for the two Alberta clubs.
After a season in which the NLL saw the Edmonton Rush and Calgary Roughnecks finish with the first and third best records respectively, the two teams sit at a combined 0-4.
“Going into this game, its huge.” Calgary transition player Karsen Leung said. “Both teams are 0-2, so it’s going to be a dogfight. No one wants to be down 0-3 after this weekend.”
The Roughnecks will host the Rush at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Jan. 24th for the first of four meetings between the provincial rivals.
The ‘Battle of Alberta’ began prior to the season with the Showcase Weekend, where the Roughnecks lost 11-3.
They will look to put forth a bettor effort this time around.
“Every game is a challenge, every game is a battle,” Malawsky started, “and last we played them, they pretty much embarrassed us in front of our home crowd.“
Before the bye week, Calgary visited the Colorado Mammoth for their home opener.
The Roughnecks had a lead late in the fourth quarter, but coughed up two late goals that forced overtime.
In overtime, it was long-time Mammoth forward John Grant Jr. who put an end to the game. Grant Jr. scored just 31 seconds into overtime.
“He’s a good shooter,” said forward Shawn Evans. “You let him shoot and he’s going to put the ball in the net. Kudos to him, but we have to do a better job.”
Evans was by far Calgary’s most dominant player on the floor in the game as he registered 10 points (5g, 5a) in the loss.
And while Evans and a few others have had strong individual showings through the first two games, the team hasn’t done enough collectively to win games.
The same sentiment is echoed from the Edmonton staff.
“This league is what it is, its nine teams that can win on any given weekend,” Rush assistant coach Jeff McComb said. “We weren’t good enough the first two weeks, so we focused on making sure we’re better this weekend.”
Edmonton hosted the Minnesota Swarm prior to the bye week and was looking for a win in their home opener.
With a three goal lead late, Minnesota scored seven unanswered goals to ruin the festivities. The 14-10 loss left the Rush winless to start the season.
Mark Matthews (2g, 3a) and Robert Church (2g, 2a) were the bright spots for an otherwise listless Edmonton offence.
“I don’t know if the right term is concern yet, through two games,” said McComb. “But it is an certainly an area we need to improve on.
The Rush know that they can’t rely solely on their back-end and they must find a way to produce offensively.
“At the end of the day, I think we have to execute better and I that’s playing more physical on offence,” McComb said. “That’s something we’ve discussed in our weeks off. If we do that, the chances will come.”
Even though the season has just begun, this game is crucial for both of these teams, as they don’t want to get buried with an 0-3 record.
“Reality is, someone is going to be 0-3,” Malawsky said.