CALGARY, AB — The Calgary Roughnecks entered the 2016 season as a team in transition.
They had lost their leading scorer, captain, one of the League’s top lefties, and the top face-off man from the previous year.
Filling the gaps with rookies has presented the team with the opportunity and challenge of finding a new identity.
It seems they’ve found that identity – through defence and goaltending.
After being considered one of the most explosive offensive teams in the NLL over the past few seasons, the Roughnecks offence is off to a slow start in 2016.
The Roughnecks offence has been temperamental through three games. At times, they’ve shown their brilliance with fantastic passing plays and shooting ability, but at others, they have looked out of sync.
Calgary averaged 11.78 goals per game in 2015, but are down to 8.67 in 2016. While it’s still early in the season, there is some cause for concern on offence.
However, those concerns have been negated by the outstanding play by Calgary’s defence.
The 2015 version of the Roughnecks defence was considered one of the teams’ greatest weaknesses and part of the reason that they opened last season 0-6.
However, the defence has taken a step forward in 2016, despite losing both Andrew McBride and Jeff Moleski in the offseason. The infusion of young defenders Tyson Bell and Kellen LeClair has helped the Riggers.
Last season, the defence allowed 11.83 goals against per game, a vast difference to the 9.33 the team has allowed this season.
Led by captain Mike Carnegie, the defence has been extremely aggressive is attacking opposing forwards and forcing loose balls. They’re averaging 64 loose balls per game, which is a nice step up from the 59.22 they averaged last season. That difference results in fewer second chance opportunities for the opposing offences.
The back-end has also been assailing in pushing the ball up the floor in an attempt to create offence. Dan MacRae and Jon Harnett each have two points, while Kellen LeClair and Mike and Scott Carnegie have one.
Anchored by goaltender Frankie Scigliano, the Roughnecks have been very effective at keeping the ball out of the net.
The fifth year netminder has truly embraced becoming the Roughnecks starter. Scigliano holds a 9.35 goals against average and a .789 save percentage in three games this season, besting both of his 2015 levels.
Routinely throughout the first three games, the 6’4” 290-lb goaltender has made some ridiculous saves to keep the Roughnecks in games.
With the Coquitlam, BC, native flourishing in his new role, and the defence being super aggressive while still remaining disciplined, the Roughnecks are going to cause a lot of problems for opposing offences.
It’s a new era for the Roughnecks, and to use an old cliché, defence wins championships.