ROCHESTER, NY — It all comes down to this.
The Calgary Roughnecks will conclude their season Saturday in Rochester with a chance to capture their third NLL Champion’s Cup.
The Roughnecks hold a 1-0 advantage in the two-game final after a decisive 10-7 win over the Knighthawks in front of almost 17,000 fans at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday.
“We battled hard right from start to finish,” Curt Malawsky said. “I think we did some real good things out there. Reviewing the tape and looking at some things I definitely think there’s areas where we have to improve on if we expect to take the next step.
“They’re a very, very good lacrosse team and they exposed us in certain situations, especially offensively. We’re going to need to make those adjustments and be ready to go on Saturday night so we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”
Although the Roughnecks are going into the Blue Cross Arena with the lead in the series, Malawsky said given the circumstances there is no reason to think they should feel comfortable.
“If you walk in that game thinking you’ve got a buffer you might as well not even show up and play,” he said Wednesday during the weekly NLL coaches call. “We take the experience we had in the playoff round against Edmonton and we’re going to use that to our advantage in a positive aspect — take the positives out of it — out of the situation we were in before.
“There’s zero comfort level. We’re coming in to play 60 minutes of lacrosse and we’re playing against a world-class lacrosse club and we’re going to need to be at our best — better than we were the previous Saturday — this coming Saturday It’s a big mountain to climb and our guys are prepared and confident and we’re excited to play.”
Calgary will be looking to match their game plan from Game 1, where they held the Knighthawks to just seven goals, a mark unfamiliar to Rochester’s offence, who topped that performance all but twice this season.
“I thought Mike Poulin was our best player,” Riggers captain Andrew McBride said. “Whenever your goalie is seeing the ball like that and making big saves to bail you out of situations. I thought he made some key saves down the stretch and when we really needed a save he was there for us.”
McBride knows the toughest test is yet to come.
“It was nice to put together a solid defensive game but at the same time we know they’re going to come back hungry” he explained. “They’ve got world-class guys over there, they’ve got guys who have played in big games and we’re going to have to continue to watch the video and make little adjustments to be able to continue to do that.”
Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen lauded Calgary’s effort but said his team simply has to be better to have a chance in front of their home crowd Saturday.
“A lot of credit goes out to their defence,” Hasen admitted. “They were putting us in positions to change our direction and our shots and then [Mike] Poulin was dynamite when we did have some good looks. I think for the most part a lot of credit has to be going to Calgary.
“They played a dynamite game and we just have to make sure we’re better. Sometimes when you’re pressing a little bit you try to do too much and we just have to keep it as simple as possible and relax.”
Rochester hasn’t lost a home playoff game since 2004 and were defeated at the Blue Cross arena just once this season.
Calgary found success on the road in the last half of the season, dropping only 1 contest in their last six games away from the ‘Dome. McBride, however, isn’t taking that for granted.
“It’s one of the toughest barns to play in the NLL and that’s evident by the Rochester Knighthawks home record,” McBride pointed out. “It’s going to be a really tough test. Their big bruising defence really went to work and it was a close game down the stretch. We’re going to have to be prepared in the hostile environment and be ultra-focussed to get the job done.
“We expect nothing but the best — they’re the two-time champs for a reason — champions show their will when they need to. It will be a big test for us and we’ll be ready.”