As the old sports cliché goes: any team can beat any other team on any given night.
Heading into their road game on Saturday night (6 p.m.), the Calgary Roughnecks (5-11) know that they’ll have to be at their best to beat a desperate Minnesota Swarm (5-10) squad that needs a win to remain in contention to qualify for the National Lacrosse League playoffs.
“I feel like that saying’s truer in this league than any other,” said Roughnecks defenceman Jon Harnett. “The parity in this league – a nine-team league, there’s so much talent on each team. If you don’t show up and give it your all and execute a game plan, you’re going to fall on the short end of the stick.”
After splitting a home-and-home series with the Edmonton Rush last weekend (a 9-8 win at home on Friday followed by an 11-9 setback on the road the next night), the Riggers will be looking to get back in the win column against the Swarm at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN, on Saturday.
“Going up to Edmonton, we didn’t start well and they put a run on us and we were able to battle back,” said Calgary coach Curt Malawsky in regards to the narrow decision against the Rush last Saturday. “The tale of the two games for us was composure. I think when it got tough in the first game we battled through it. Zero penalties to seven was a big tell-tale sign for us to possibly fold up, but we battle through that.
“In the second game, they were determined and resilient and when it got tough on us we took the parade to the penalty box. I think that’s a valuable lesson to learn down the stretch.”
With just two games left in the regular season, Malawsky has confidence that his squad can emerge with a victory in Minnesota before winding down the campaign with a game in Langley against the Vancouver Stealth (5-10) on May 2.
“I thought over the last 10 games we’ve played very well,” Malawsky said. “We played some real tough opponents, the upper echelon of the NLL. We’re better right now than we were last week, I’ve kept saying that. We’re still fighting for our lives. We don’t want to limp into that last game against the Stealth. We want to continue to play well and if we continue to play well, we will see the results on the scoreboard.”
Harnett agreed that the ’Necks will have their hands full against the Swarm this weekend.
“They always play us tight,” he said. “We’ve lost to them a couple times before and whenever we win it’s close. Whenever we go there, it’s a shootout. They get like six in the first quarter somehow and we’re in a dogfight.
“They always play us well and they have a good crowd there at, they call it the Hive. They’ve just got a young dangerous team that’s hungry to make some noise.”
“They’re playing at home and they always play well there,” said Malawsky of the Swarm. “They want to have a good showing for their crowd and they’ve got young guys fighting for jobs. There’s no secret that they have lot of draft picks next year and there is going to be changes. So not to take away from that, but we know what we need to do.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Harnett won back-to-back Minto Cups in 2008 and 2009 with the Orangeville Northmen. “We actually won it in 2008 in Calgary, so whenever I drive by the Max Bell Centre it brings back good memories,” said Harnett, whose younger brother Greg was also a member of two-time Canadian junior men’s lacrosse national champions. “Then in my last year of junior, the Minto Cup was also 40 minutes down the road from Orangeville in Brampton, so there was a lot of fans there from our hometown. It was basically as close as you can get to winning it at home.”
PLAYER PROFILE – #33 Jon Harnett
Height & weight: 6-1, 185
Birthdate: May 28, 1988
Hometown: Orangeville, Ont.
Fast fact: Has won back-to-back Western Lacrosse Association titles with the Victoria Shamrocks. Unfortunately for Harnett, the Shamrocks went on to lose the Mann Cup, Canada’s senior men’s lacrosse championship, in six games two years in a row to the Six Nations Chiefs. “I’m going to be back there this year, so I’m looking forward to hopefully getting back there again and this time coming out on top,” he said.
Stat attack: Scored one goal in each of his first five NLL seasons before bulging the twine twice last year. He’s yet to find the back of the net this season, though. “I’ve had like five breakaways and hit three posts,” he said.
Family ties: Younger brother Greg also plays defence for the Roughnecks.
Notable quotable: “It’s a bit of a hotbed of lacrosse,” said Harnett of growing up in Orangeville. “There’s a lot of guys from here in the NLL. I started playing when I was four or five and all the way up, I didn’t take a year off. There are just great coaches all the way up.”