TOUGH TASK AT HAND: The Calgary Roughnecks (8-5) face a tough test this weekend with back-to-back road games against the Philadelphia Wings (5-9) on Friday and the Buffalo Bandits (8-5) the next night. “This is the toughest trip of the season for us,” said Calgary coach Curt Malawsky, whose squad can clinch a playoff berth with a win in either game or a loss by the Vancouver Stealth on Saturday to the Toronto Rock. “It’s a different style of lacrosse in the East as opposed to the West Division, so the boys will be up for it, but we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.” The Wings have won two games in a row, including a 14-12 road victory over the Colorado Mammoth last Saturday. “It’s always a tough building to play in Philly,” Malawsky said. “They play very well at home. It’s going to be a real challenge for our guys.” Philadelphia coach Blane Harrison said his squad has found a bit of a “turnaround” in the past two games. “Hopefully we can turn that turnaround into a run here,” Harrison said. “We’ve clawed our way back into playoff contention. Destiny is in our hands. We’ve got to take care of business, but there’s a lot of heavy lifting ahead of us. We’re not blind to that starting with the game Friday night.” Meanwhile, the Bandits have dropped three straight decisions after winning eight of their first 10 games. “That’s three in a row on the road we lost,” said Buffalo assistant coach Rich Kilgour. “It’s a tough spot. We want to get back to some home cooking here and hopefully we can get it done against Calgary come Saturday night.” Malawsky expects the crowd at Buffalo’s First Niagara Center to definitely give the Bandits a much-needed boost. “It’ll be a very hostile environment,” said the Calgary bench boss. “They feed off the crowd. They’re a very emotional team and when they get on a run, they don’t give you much. You better keep your head above water. We’re hoping to hang in there. Hopefully we catch a break late in the game.”

MINNESOTA SWARMED: The Roughnecks erupted for six goals in the fourth quarter en route to a 15-11 win over the Minnesota Swarm last Saturday. Daryl Veltman scored goals 39 seconds apart in the fourth quarter to finish off his hat trick and give the ’Necks a 13-10 lead. Veltman also had an assist for a four-point performance as the Riggers held on for their second straight win to send the 11,008 fans at the Scotiabank Saddledome home happy. For his efforts, Veltman received the game ball from Malawsky. “Daryl Veltman’s been our smartest player offensively,” Malawsky said. “No one really knows outside our four walls how valuable Daryl Veltman is. We talk about sharing responsibility, sharing of the floor, sharing the ball – he’s the epitome of it. He’s a special player to have.” Veltman was pleased to hear such kind words from his coach. “It’s definitely good to hear, knowing that you’re putting the work in and you’re getting the acknowledgement for it,” he said. Jeff Shattler scored twice and set up four others, while Dane Dobbie and Shawn Evans had two goals and two helpers each. Curtis Dickson scored once and had three helpers, while Geoff Snider, Dan MacRae, Tor Reinholdt, Karsen Leung and Matthew Dinsdale also scored. Goalie Mike Poulin made 37 saves to record the win. Shayne Jackson paced the Swarm attack with a hat trick and an assist, while Jordan MacIntosh scored twice and set up two others. Callum Crawford had a goal and five assists, while David Earl, Kiel Matisz and Scott Jones also scored. Starting Minnesota goalie Tyler Carlson made 31 saves, while Zach Higgins stopped six of eight shots he faced in a relief appearance.

ROUGHNECKS VS. WINGS: In their lone meeting last season, the Riggers doubled the Wings 16-8 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Jan. 27, 2013. Dobbie scored four times and added two assists in the win over the Wings, while Dickson (3g, 2a) and Snider (3g, 1a) had hat-trick performances. Evans scored twice and set up four others, while Scott Ranger (1g, 3a), Veltman (1g, 2a), Travis Cornwall (1g, 1a), Dan MacRae (1g), Shattler (3a) and Peter McFetridge (2a) also got in on the action. Poulin stopped 42 of 50 shots fired his way to pick up the win. Paul Rabil led the Wings in scoring with a hat trick and two helpers, while Kevin Crowley scored twice and set up three others. Kevin Ross had two goals and an assist, while Drew Westervelt also scored. Philadelphia goalies Kevin Croswell and Brandon Miller combined to make 36 saves in a losing cause. The Roughnecks have an all-time record of 3-2 (1-1 at home, 2-1 on the road) against the Wings in the regular season.

ROUGHNECKS VS. BANDITS: Calgary and Buffalo haven’t faced off against each other since the ’Necks ran to a convincing 17-6 triumph over the Bandits at the Saddledome on March 24, 2012. Evans had a nine-point performance with two goals and seven assists, while Dobbie (3g, 3a), Ranger (3g, 2a) and Dickson (3g, 1a) all fired hat tricks. Veltman chipped in with two goals and five assists, while Shattler (1g, 3a), Mike Carnegie (1g, 1a), Cornwall (1g) and McFetridge (1g) also scored. Poulin only had to make 27 saves to record the win. Luke Wiles had three goals and two assists for the Bandits, while NLL veteran John Tavares also recorded a hat trick. Buffalo goalies Mike Thompson and Anthony Cosmo combined to stop 51 shots fired their way. Calgary has compiled an all-time record of 3-4 (3-3 at home, 0-1 on the road) against Buffalo in the regular season. The Riggers have also faced the Bandits twice during the playoffs, losing their first meeting 16-9 in Buffalo on April 19, 2003 before getting their revenge with a 14-11 win at home on May 7, 2004 during the NLL championship final to capture their first Champion’s Cup.

MOUSE’S MUSINGS: Curt Malawsky is in his second season as head coach for the Roughnecks. Despite playing the night before and then travelling during the day to Buffalo, Malawsky said his players will be up for the task of playing two games in two nights. “Back-to-backs are tough in the NLL,” said Malawsky, who also serves as Calgary’s assistant general manager. “We do have some young guys, but we’ve got a veteran laden squad that’s been down that road and they know how to take care of their bodies when it comes to rest and nutrition and getting back at ’er. I expect our guys to have nothing but the best effort come Saturday night, so it’s going to be a great battle.” Malawsky is being assisted once again this season by Bob McMahon as offence coordinator and Bruce Codd as defence coordinator. It’s the fourth season for McMahon with the ’Necks, while Codd is in his second season on the Calgary coaching staff.

SHARP SHOOTER: Dickson, who is currently riding a 10-game goal-scoring streak, is in a tie for fourth at 30 for the NLL’s goal-scoring lead. Only Dobbie (37) and Toronto’s Garrett Billings (32) and Stephan LeBlanc (31) have scored more. Dickson admitted his start to the season wasn’t what he hoped for, but quickly pointed out that the supporting cast of offensive talent has helped him find his groove again. “Obviously, I had a slow start there, but I’ve been feeling it as of late and as cliché as it sounds, I’ve been saying it over and over again, playing with the guys I do on offence they make your life a heck of a lot easier,” he said. “Guys like Veltman, Dobbie, Shattler, Evans, Marty (Dinsdale) out there feeding you the ball; if you get open they’re putting it in your stick so it’s just a matter of putting in the back of the net.” Dickson also made history earlier this season when he scored while the Riggers were playing a man down in the third quarter of Calgary’s 15-13 road win over Minnesota on Feb. 8. That moved him out of a tie with Roughnecks legend Tracey Kelusky to become the franchise leader in all-time short-handed goals during the regular season. Dickson added two more shorties during Calgary’s 15-7 setback at home to the Rush on March 14. He has now compiled 15 career short-handed goals, three more than Kelusky.

FACEOFF ACE: Snider continued his dominance in the faceoff circle against the Swarm last weekend as he won 22 of 30 attempts in that department. Two weekends ago, Snider surpassed Jamie Hanford’s previous all-time NLL record for faceoff wins of 2,091. Now in his eighth NLL season, Snider has amassed a career total of 2,130 faceoff wins. “I just think is shows how long I’ve been in the league,” Snider said. “I don’t know if it’s necessarily correlated to winning a lot of faceoffs. I’m old and I’ve been around a long time and when you get old you play in games and there’s statistics (like that) that just show up. It’s part of my role and I’ve just been competing and trying to help my team win.” Snider also surpassed the 100-goal plateau this season (he’s at 108). The hometown Calgary product has also scooped up 1,687 loose balls in 117 games, placing him third all-time behind Jim Veltman and John Tavares in that category. With 160 loose balls this season, Snider has increased his totals in that category for the Riggers in the regular season to 798 during just his fourth season with Calgary. Snider has moved past Kaleb Toth, who finished his career with 661 loose balls during his time with the ’Necks, and into second spot behind Shattler on the franchise leader board. In eight seasons with the Riggers, Shattler has collected 824 loose balls, while Snider is quickly closing that gap. Snider and Shattler are also neck-and-neck for the franchise record for loose balls in the playoffs. Snider is sitting at 86, while Shattler is six behind with 80.

EVANS ALMIGHTY: After recording just one assist during Calgary’s 15-7 loss to Edmonton on March 14, Evans rebounded with a goal and three helpers a week later as the Riggers downed the Stealth 13-8. In his three seasons with the Roughnecks, Evans has recorded at least one point in 45 consecutive games. His single point against the Rush was his lowest total, while his best outing occurred during a 19-12 road win over the Colorado Mammoth on Jan. 25, 2013 when he racked up four goals and nine assists. That 13-point performance set a record that still stands for the highest output by a Roughneck in a single game. Overall, Evans is riding a 61-game point-scoring streak. In 138 career regular-season games, Evans has only been held scoreless on two occasions and one of those was in his very first NLL game with the Rochester Knighthawks on Jan. 7, 2006. Evans then went on a run of 75 straight games where he recorded at least one point before he was blanked during Rochester’s final regular season game of the 2010 season. In addition, Evans has recorded at least one point in all 10 playoff games he has played.

RIGGERS STAND PAT AT DEADLINE: The National Lacrosse League’s trade deadline came and went on March 18 and Calgary’s roster didn’t change as the Riggers stood pat for the second straight year. General manager Mike Board admitted his phone was busy leading up to the deadline but he ultimately couldn’t pull the trigger on anything. “We were busy, we were pro-active too,” Board said shortly after the 1 p.m. MT deadline passed. “We didn’t end up doing anything this year so we’ll move forward with what we’ve got.” With just five games remaining on Calgary’s schedule, Board is content with his club’s roster. “We’re very happy with our group,” he said. “It’s always a work in progress and you want to peak at the right time in the season, but we like our personnel so that’s part of the reason why we didn’t end up doing anything because we didn’t think that we would get an upgrade on what we’ve already got.”

DID YOU KNOW?: The Roughnecks haven’t played a road game in Buffalo since their second season in the league in 2003 when they made their only two previous trips out East to face the Bandits in their home arena. Calgary dropped a 23-17 decision to Buffalo in the regular season on Jan. 25, 2003 before the Riggers also lost their first-ever NLL playoff contest 16-9 to the Bandits on April 19 of that same year. “It’s been a long time since they’ve been here,” Kilgour said. “Our fans haven’t seen them in over a decade. It’s good to get some new blood in the arena.”

– By scooping up four more loose balls, Peter McFetridge will reach 200.
– Greg Harnett is four loose balls shy of 100.
– Shawn Evans needs to scoop up five loose balls to reach 800.
– Dane Dobbie is six loose balls shy of 300.
– Mike Carnegie is six points away from 50.
– Jeff Shattler needs 19 goals to reach 200.

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