CALGARY, AB — The Calgary Roughnecks will embark on a tough road trip beginning this Friday in Georgia as they take on the Swarm.
The two teams last battled at Scotiabank Saddledome on February 6th, where the Roughnecks used a late rally to beat the Swarm 12-11.
After that win, Calgary went on to have four straight losses, but they have won their last two games and are looking like a more complete team.
Meanwhile, Georgia has gone 1-4 since then and enter Friday’s contest on a three-game losing streak. In their latest loss to the Rochester Knighthawks, the Swarm were only able to put four goals past netminder Matt Vinc.
For the first time ever on Friday, the Roughnecks will venture into the Infinite Energy Arena in Georgia.
Calgary knows that their host won’t bend over and let them take a win without putting up a fight. The Swarm are a young, talented, and feisty team that hasn’t seen the results they would like, but they have been very competitive this season.
Their offence has scored 15 or more goals in four games this year, including a 20 goal outburst against the Toronto Rock earlier this season.
That offence, lead by sixth-year man Johnny Powless, is very creative and can be extremely dangerous when they get going. Brothers Lyle and Miles Thompson work seemlessly on the right side, while rookie stud Jesse King has been very effective on the left side. Shane Jackson has also been great at times and has compiled 20 goals on the left side of the Swarm’s offence.
While scoring has been there for Georgia, defence has been an issue.
The team has given up, on average, 13.55 goals per game – the second most in the NLL. With only four players officially listed as defence on the team, the Swarm rely heavily on their transition players to fortify their back-end.
That transition unit, however, is very talented. With Jordan MacIntosh, David Earl, Joel White, Chad Tutton, Ethan O’Connor, and Jason Noble, they can certainly make a difference in a game.
The Roughnecks have been much better recently in getting back on defence quickly to avoid many transition opportunities. Something that will be helpful on Friday.
In fact, they have limited opponents chances in transition while increasing their own. Eight goals have been scored by transition players or defenders in the past two games. That doesn’t include the few goals scored by forwards that jumped into transition plays or who hauled in a long pass from Mike Poulin.
Speaking of Mike Poulin, the NLL’s leader in save percentage with .803, he has been unbelievable since taking control of the Roughnecks starting goalie position. Along with that, the team has improved and the defence has been lights out. They shut out Adam Jones last weekend, ending his 56 straight game goal scoring streak.
Georgia will have to work hard if they want to beat the Roughnecks defence if they continue to play at level they showed last weekend against the Colorado Mammoth.
It hasn’t simply been the defence and goaltending carrying Calgary. The offence has been very effective, especially with the return of star lefty Dane Dobbie.
Curtis Dickson has been on fire lately – something other teams hate to see.
In the Roughnecks last two games, both wins, Dickson has registered 15 points (9g, and 6a). When he gets going, he can single-handedly beat multiple defenders and beat the goaltender or set up his other teammates. Superman will put the Swarm defence to the test on Friday.
Georgia will need to avoid putting the Roughnecks on the man advantage as they boast the league’s best road power play unit, scoring at a 59.3 percent rate. The Swarm’s 56.3 percent home penalty kill bodes well for them, but it’s never a good idea to put Dickson and company on the advantage.
This game will have playoff implications for both teams as the Roughnecks will be trying to hold off the Vancouver Stealth for third in the West and the Swarm will be trying to catch the surging Knighthawks.
With every game being important at this point in the season, the Roughnecks can’t afford to take this game lightly. But expect them to utilize some of their depth to avoid burning guys out with two games this weekend.
Garrett McIntosh, Frankie Scigliano, Kellen LeClair, and Patrick O’Meara could easily slide into the line-up if the team decides to give someone a night off or strategically keep certain guys fresh for Saturday’s contest against the Mammoth.
That being said, they don’t want to get ahead of themselves. It’s all about Georgia on Friday.
“We haven’t been to Georgia yet and we’re going to focus on that game first,” assistant captain Greg Harnett said. “I think we’re going to stick to our system and we’ve been working really hard. Learning from our mistakes in the past and working as hard as we have, we’re getting rewarded. Working hard, that’s our M.O. right now.”