CALGARY, AB — The Calgary Roughnecks are in familiar territory this weekend.
Just like that season, the Riggers will be in Denver to take on the Colorado Mammoth in the West Division Semi Final.
And they’ll be hoping for a similar outcome, too.
Last season, Calgary went into the Loud House and completely shut down the Mammoth, to the point of shutting down the lights (that was really caused by a snow storm, but it made for a very dramatic atmosphere in the building).
However, things have changed a bit since then.
Colorado added star forward Callum Crawford to their already stacked offence. Joining Adam Jones and John Grant Jr, the trio have helped the Mammoth to a 12-6 record on the year.
Stopping this offence is always a challenge, but it’s going to be a necessity if the Necks want a chance to beat the Mammoth.
“Same game plan that we’d had for them all season long. We’re no strangers to them,” said assistant captain Dan MacRae. “They have some big guns; John Grant Jr, Adam Jones, and Callum Crawford. That’s their big three. We’ve got to get to Dillon Ward early. Their last game he was playing really well. It’s going to take a full 60 minutes.”
On the Roughnecks bench, they lost a lot of heart when captain Andrew McBride and long-time face-off specialist Geoff Snider retired. They also traded 2015 NLL MVP Shawn Evans to New England.
Replacing those guys – which no one really can – are rookies Wesley Berg, Reilly O’Connor, Tyson Bell, Kellen LeClair, and third-year man Tyler Digby.
While the rookies have been extremely valuable to the success of the Roughnecks this season, there’s no way of knowing how they will handle the pressure of the playoffs.
With the excitement in the building, and the importance of the game, it will be important they stay focused and don’t get overwhelmed.
That message applies to the entire team.
After logging 42 penalty minutes against the Rock in their final regular season tune up, lowering that number will be a major key to the game.
“I think discipline is a big part of it,” noted defenceman Peter McFetrdige. “They have a lot of talent up front, so staying out of the penalty box will be big.”
Colorado has averaged 9.28 penalty minutes per game this season, five less minutes on average than the next lowest team. They’ve remained incredibly disciplined all season and that trait will help the Mammoth negate the effects of the Roughnecks league-best road power play unit.
If either team starts to gift power play opportunities to the other team, it could have a major impact. Games between these clubs are generally very tight. Since 2012, eight of the 14 games that the teams have played needed an extra frame.
Heading into the contest, the Mammoth have a little extra motivation to win.
The team hasn’t won a playoff game since 2006, when they won the Champion’s Cup. Getting that monkey off their back will be a motivating factor for them. During that time, they are 0-6 in playoff games against the Roughnecks.
Calgary comes into the game having dropped two of three against Colorado this season.
With one of those games being decided by overtime and the other being a fairly decisive win, the Roughnecks know they can handle their own against the Mammoth.
“I think we can’t be intimidated by them,” rookie Kellen LeClair opined. “We have to expect that we can win, because we can. We have to prepare like that.”
Having the right mindset is a great first step, but you can’t win with that alone.
In this single-elimination game, it’s all going to come down to one thing: hard work.
“I know it’s cliche to say it, but when it comes down to it in the playoffs, it’s going to come down to hard work,” admitted McFetridge. “Whatever team works harder and wants it more is going to win.”