CALGARY, AB — The magic number for the Calgary Roughnecks (7-9) is down to one.
With the final playoff spot in the West within reach, the only team standing in the way of the Roughnecks is the Vancouver Stealth (3-11).
And Calgary will run into the Stealth this weekend with a chance to clear a path to the playoffs. Should the Roughnecks take down Vancouver for a second straight weekend, the Riggers will be off to the playoffs for the 14th consecutive season.
Last weekend, Calgary downed the Stealth 16-12 at Scotiabank Saddledome, backed by a record-breaking four-goal performance by Curtis Dickson. Dickson, who now has 55 goals on the year, holds the Roughnecks franchise record for goals in a single-season. Dane Dobbie held the previous record at 51, set in 2014.
“That was a huge win against a team that’s right on our tail for that last playoff spot,” said Dickson, who has recorded at least three goals or better in seven straight games. “We’re going to celebrate this win and we have to go out and play a similar game next week against the same opponent.”
This weekend, Jeff Shattler will be looking at setting a couple of significant milestones. Currently, Shattler is one point and one loose ball away from reaching 600 and 1000 respectively. When he scoops his 1000th loose ball, he will be only the 23rd player in NLL history to hit that mark.
The Langley Events Centre (LEC) will be the battleground for this weekend’s contest — a place that hasn’t been friendly to the home team this season. Vancouver is 2-5 when playing at their home venue so far this season.
While that seems to benefit Calgary, the LEC was not kind to the Roughnecks earlier this season, either.
Taking a 12-5 lead into the third quarter of a Feb. 20 game, Calgary stumbled and the Stealth rallied back to take the lead in regulation. Calgary forced overtime with a late goal, but Corey Small scored 1:16 into extra time and sent the home fans happy.
Since that date, the Stealth has not been having fun. Vancouver has lost seven in a row, including last weekend’s loss to the Roughnecks.
Calgary will be looking to extend that streak one more game.
To do that, they will need another stellar performance from goaltender Mike Poulin. The Poulin Wall currently ranks second in both goals against average (10.99) and save percentage (.784) in the NLL and has given the Roughnecks a shot to win every game.
Across the floor, un-retired goalie Tyler Richards hasn’t had the same type of success. His 12.88 GAA ranks 10th among qualified goalies and his save percentage (.762) ranks seventh.
Calgary has managed chase Richards from the net in each of the two games that he has played against the Roughnecks.
A big reason for Richards getting pulled is Dickson, who has scored nine goals in the last two games versus the Stealth. Superman scored five goals in the first half — including a crazy between the legs goal — against Richards the last time Calgary was in Vancouver.
Last weekend, the Roughnecks once again ran the floor and had a great deal of success when their defence and transition players had numbers up the floor. Using their legs to push the pace from the back-end will likely be in the cards again this weekend.
Calgary will also try to keep their power play going, after scoring on four of five chances on Saturday.
The Roughnecks’ road power play has been the best in the NLL this season, converting 58.1 percent of their chances. But their road penalty kill has not been great, ranking sixth in the NLL, so staying out of the box will be a priority.
Calgary averages the second-least amount of penalty minutes per game in the NLL with 16.38. That bodes well as the Stealth hold the leagues best man advantage at home, scoring at a 62.5 percent clip.
In the season series to date, approximately 20 percent of all goals have been with the extra man. The biggest factor will be whether or not the teams can win the battles five-on-five. Regardless of special teams contributions, this game could wind up being a battle of attrition and will be a fight until the final whistle.
With playoffs on the line for both teams, expect fireworks early and often between two teams that don’t care much for each other.