BATTLE OF ALBERTA, ROUND 4: The Calgary Roughnecks (10-6) hope to earn a measure of redemption when they face off against the Edmonton Rush (15-1) for the fourth and final time in the regular season on Saturday night (7 p.m.) at Rexall Place. The Rush has taken the previous three meetings, including a 15-11 decision last Saturday in front of 15,167 fans at the Scotiabank Saddledome. “They’ve done a good job over the years drafting and put a really good team together up there and it’s a good measuring stick for us every time we go to battle,” said Calgary coach Curt Malawsky. “You throw the fans in on top of that – it’s important to the organizations and it’s important to the fans in Alberta. We’re representing Southern Alberta and we want to go up there and show well.” Meanwhile, Edmonton coach Derek Keenen is pleased that his squad has fared so well against the Riggers this season. “It wasn’t that long ago that we were the little brother up the road, getting beat around by the big brother down the road,” Keenan said. “It was a pretty one-sided rivalry for a long time but we’ve been fortunate to turn that around a little bit this year. [The rivalry] is definitely there. You can tell with the intensity of the games. I thought [last] Saturday’s game – considering both teams solidified where they are going to be in the playoffs – there was a lot of intensity on the floor and I can’t see that changing down the road.”
COMEBACK COMES UP SHORT: Jeff Shattler scored four goals, including a natural hat trick in the third quarter, to pace Calgary’s attack during last Saturday’s 15-11 setback at the ’Dome. “We came back on them, but they’re a great team,” said Shattler, whose squad trailed 9-5 after two quarters before battling back to tie the game 11-11 in the fourth. “You’ve got to play this team every shift to the best of your ability and if you don’t they’ll capitalize on you.” Dane Dobbie and Scott Ranger had two goals and two assists apiece for the Roughnecks, while Shawn Evans and Curtis Dickson scored once and added three assists each. Dan MacRae had a goal and an assist, while goalie Mike Poulin finished with 30 saves in a losing cause. Curtis Knight paced Edmonton’s attack with six goals and three assists, while Riley Loewen had a hat trick and a helper. Robert Church had two goals and four assists, while Mark Matthews scored twice and set up two others. Chris Corbeil and Zack Greer also scored, while former Roughneck Cory Conway finished with seven assists. Edmonton goalie Aaron Bold stopped 30 of 41 shots he faced to record the win.
RUSH WIN ROUNDS 1 & 2: Dobbie led the way for Calgary in Edmonton on Jan. 17 as he had a hat trick and an assist during Calgary’s 15-8 road loss to the Rush. Ranger scored twice during the setback, while Karsen Leung and Evans had three helpers each. Shattler had a goal and two assists, while Geoff Snider and Tor Reinholdt added singles. Matthews, the 2013 NLL Rookie of the Year, led the Rush with four goals and three helpers, while Knight (4g, 1a), Corbeil (3g, 2a), Church (2g, 1a), Jarrett Davis (1g, 2a) and John LaFontaine (1g) and also got in on the action. Bold made 38 saves to record the win. Calgary netminder Frankie Scigliano, who made 23 saves, ended up taking the loss. Poulin also saw time in net as he stopped 14 of 21 shots he faced. The Riggers then fell 15-7 to the Rush in front of 10,691 fans at the ’Dome on March 14. “When you get down early, it’s tough to come back especially against a good team like Edmonton,” said Dickson, who scored four times and added an assist. Shattler had a goal and two assists for the ’Necks, while Dobbie (1g, 1a) and Reinholdt (1g) also scored. Poulin started in net for the Riggers and stopped 23 of 31 shots he faced. Scigliano made 24 saves in a relief appearance. Greer led the way for the Rush with a hat trick, while Conway had two goals and two assists. Matthews (2g, 1a), Knight (2g, 1a), Corbeil (2g), Jeff Cornwall (1g, 2a), Jeremy Thompson (1g, 2a), Ryan Dilks (1g, 1a) and Nik Bilic (1g) also hit the scoresheet for Edmonton, while Bold made 27 saves to record the win.
ROUGHNECKS VS. RUSH: The Roughnecks boast an all-time record of 23-8 (9-5 at home, 14-3 on the road) in the regular season against the Rush. The 23 wins over Edmonton are the most that Calgary has recorded against any NLL franchise. Calgary went 3-1 in the regular season against Edmonton last year. The Riggers started the 2013 season against the Rush with back-to-back wins (18-15 in Edmonton on Feb. 2 and 9-8 at home a week later) before dropping an 18-13 road decision on March 2. The ’Necks then captured the season series with a 12-11 win over the Rush in Edmonton on April 20. Both Shattler (7g, 15a) and Evans (6g, 16a) piled up 22 points each for Calgary in the four-game set against Edmonton. Daryl Veltman was also dangerous with eight goals and 11 assists, while Dickson (10g, 2a) and Ranger (3g, 7a) reached double figures in points as well. Poulin played in goal for Calgary in all four games, winning three of them. Ryan Ward, who’s no longer playing for Edmonton, consistently paced the Rush attack last season against the Riggers as he finished with seven goals and 14 assists in the four games. Greer (6g, 7a), Matthews (8g, 4a), Davis (7g, 5a) and Corey Small (6g, 5a) were the next top offensive contributors for the Rush.
MOUSE’S MUSINGS: Malawsky, who’s in his second season as Calgary’s head coach, said the Roughnecks want to have a strong finish to their regular season starting with a solid showing in Edmonton against Rush on Saturday night. “We don’t want to be going into the playoffs and not competing and not playing the way we need to or it will be over really quick,” Malawsky said. “It’s great that we have the motivation to go up there and show that we can grab a couple of points out of them. It’s definitely a good rivalry and a challenge …two good teams battling hard and it’s great for the NLL and great for the province of Alberta.” 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.
LOOSE BALL FRENZY: With 189 loose balls to his credit this season, Snider has increased his totals in that category for the Riggers in the regular season to 827 during just his fourth campaign with Calgary. Earlier this season, Snider 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 836 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: Since recording just one assist during Calgary’s 15-7 loss to Edmonton on March 14, Evans has put up 26 points on nine goals and 17 assists in Calgary’s past five games. In his three seasons with the Roughnecks, Evans has recorded at least one point in 48 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 64-game point-scoring streak. In 141 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.
SHARP SHOOTER: Dickson, who is currently riding a 13-game goal-scoring streak, is tied for fourth among NLL goal scorers at 34 with Vancouver’s Rhys Duch. Only Dobbie (47), Toronto’s Stephan Leblanc (39) and Colorado’s John Grant Jr. (37) have scored more. Dickson pointed out that the supporting cast of offensive talent has helped him thrive this season. “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.
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.”
DID YOU KNOW?: Both the Roughnecks and Rush are heading into unchartered territory this weekend. With the expansion of the NLL’s regular-season schedule to 18 contests, both Calgary and Edmonton will play their 17th games of the campaign, marking the first time that either team has played more than 16 times in a single season.
MILESTONES WITHIN REACH
– Dane Dobbie is four goals shy of setting a franchise record for most goals in a single season. The current record is 50, set by Lewis Ratcliff in 2007. Dobbie also needs just one loose ball to reach 300.
– Shawn Evans is nine assists away from breaking the franchise record he set last year for most assists in a single season (80).
– Mike Carnegie is six points away from 50.
– Jeff Shattler needs 13 goals to reach 200.