With a daunting travel schedule to Colorado and back ahead of them this weekend, Roughnecks coach Curt Malawsky is promising that the team won’t be using it as a cop-out.
“I think there’s potential for it to be an excuse but I’ll tell you right now it won’t be for us,” said Malawsky. “Every team has travel issues in the NLL and every team has challenges getting city to city on the back-to-backs. So it’s the nature of the NLL. There won’t be any excuses out of us. Travel won’t be a factor in our mind, that’s for sure.”
Calgary is coming off of their fourth straight loss and are embarking on a long double-header weekend that will see them play in Colorado on Friday night and return to Calgary for a contest against the Georgia Swarm on Saturday.
Last Saturday against the Saskatchewan Rush, the Roughnecks played a strong 60-minute effort, but fell 12-11 in overtime.
The complete performance by Calgary comes on the heels of a few games where they seemed to sputter out of the gate and tried to play catch up late in games. The team looks like they found a solution.
“I think as a group we’ve identified some things that we need to do within ourselves to give us success and I think the guys did an exceptional job of doing those things that we have coined as the cornerstones to success,” said Malawsky. “If we can do that over the next couple of games, it gives us a real good chance for us to be successful in this back-to-back weekend.
“I thought the boys committed and their focus was exceptional from the time they got to shoot around to the time they had the first warm-up, the second warm-up, it was excellent. The bus ride to the game, guys were really focused. Kudos to them for being true professionals and battling. It’s just unfortunate that we didn’t get the result based on the effort they gave.”
They’ll need to rely on those cornerstones this weekend as they play two talented teams who are playing some excellent lacrosse.
In their first game of the weekend, the Riggers will travel south to take on the Colorado Mammoth. With two wins under their belt against the Mammoth already this season, Calgary is hoping for clean sweep.
“We’ve lost four in a row so were just looking to right the ship and get back into the win column,” Malawsky said. “They’re playing good lacrosse right now. Their defence and goaltending has been exceptional and they’re doing it with a short line-up up front. We imagine they’ll have a full complement of their players back and we will see their best.
“We’re a desperate team right now, so I don’t imagine our guys will play any different than full desperation and give everything they’ve got like they did every night. It’ll be a tough test, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Colorado goaltender Dillon Ward has been outstanding so far this season, ranking second in save percentage (.796%) and goals-against average (10.31). However, he has been chased from both of the previous games against the Roughnecks this year.
Calgary’s forwards will be in tough against a Mammoth back-end that has been a force in recent weeks. Three prominent members of Colorado’s defence — Greg Downing (15), Joey Cupido (13), and Robert Hope (13) — are all in the top eight in forced turnovers in the NLL.
While the back door is operating at full capacity, the front door has been short-handed recently with Callum Crawford, Jeremy Noble, and Zack Greer on the IR. The Mammoth did add righty Stephen Keogh in a trade with the Rochester Knighthawks, but they are relying on a lot of unproven players to carry the offence.
After what should be a hard fought battle against Colorado on Friday night, the Riggers will hit the road — or sky, in this case — back to Calgary to get ready for a clash with the Swarm.
Georgia is the class of the league right now, sitting at the top with a 7-1 record and have won their last three games.
Just like the Mammoth, the Swarm are short a star player as Randy Staats was sidelined with an injury on Feb. 12. However, he was subsequently replaced by three-time NLL Champion Johnny Powless. If that transition is seamless, the league’s best offence will be looking to eat once again on Saturday.
It’s not just their offence that’s playing well, either. Georgia’s defence has been stout, allowing just 95 goals in eight games. Having allowed the second-most goals (240) in 2016, the improvement in 2017 has largely been due to netminder Mike Poulin. The former Roughneck has compiled a solid 11.51 GAA and a great .793 save percentage. Saturday will be his first game back in the Rough House since signing with Georgia after spending parts of seven seasons in Calgary.
The Swarm are coming off of a bye week and so far in 2017, teams coming off of a bye week hold a paltry 2-8 record. The time off may affect the momentum that Georgia has built over the last number of weeks.
“It’s the nature of the NLL that they’re sitting in our rink coming off of a bye week and we’re travelling a full day. That in itself is something we’ll have to over come,” said Malawsky. “It won’t ever be an excuse, but we have to make sure that we take care of Friday. We’ll maybe make some line-up changes potentially after the game to get some fresh legs in there, but right now it’s full concentration on Colorado. We’ll be prepared come Saturday night at home as well.”