The fact that the Calgary Roughnecks beat the Colorado Mammoth 11-6 on the road last Saturday means nothing now.
The Riggers briefly enjoyed their first-round playoff victory over the Mammoth in Denver at the Pepsi Center on Saturday and then immediately turned their attentions to facing the Edmonton Rush in the NLL’s West Division Final, which begins on Friday (7:30 p.m., TSN2) with Game 1 of the series at Rexall Place.
“It’s just about building,” said Riggers defenceman Greg Harnett. “Every game, we’ve got to get better.”
The ’Necks will then host Game 2 on Saturday, May 23. If the series ends up being tied at one win apiece, the two teams will play a 10-minute mini-game immediately after Game 2 to determine who will move onto the best-of-three NLL championship.
By virtue of compiling the best record in the West Division, the Rush (13-5) earned home-field advantage over the Riggers, but had to give it up due to lack of building availability on May 23.
Harnett was part of a Calgary defence corps that limited the Mammoth to a paltry six goals, including just one by John Grant Jr. and none off the stick of Adam Jones, who potted 51 in the regular season.
That being said, Harnett believes that the ’Necks will actually have to improve upon their defensive performance if they hope to shut down the likes of Rush forwards Mark Matthews, Robert Church, Ben McIntosh and Zach Greer.
“It’s not going to cut it,” Harnett said. “We actually have to be better than we were last week.”
Calgary coach Curt Malawsky said his players definitely know how difficult it is to win in the post-season after their run to the Champion’s Cup last season, which ended in heartbreaking fashion at the hands of the three-time defending NLL champion Rochester Knighthawks.
“Winning ain’t easy,” Malawsky said. “Everybody wants to win, but you’ve got to have some personal sacrifices and you’ve got to do some things that maybe some guys aren’t willing to do.”
The Riggers had a measure of success in the regular season against the Rush as they won two of the four games contested between the Alberta rivals.
“It’s a clean slate,” Malawsky pointed out. “It doesn’t mean anything now. In the playoffs, everybody’s different. Every team’s a different animal than they are in the regular season.”
Harnett agreed wholeheartedly with his bench boss.
“Obviously it’s not going to be easy,” he said. “They’re a really good team that came first in the West for a reason. They’re well coached. It’s going to be a battle.”
Calgary captain Andrew McBride echoed the comments of his teammate and coach.
“Moving forward against Edmonton we need to be a great team,” McBride said. “We need to continue to work together and everybody needs to contribute. I think the two teams know each other well. There’s lots of animosity. It’s the Battle of Alberta.
“It’s going to be a great test. We’ve had a great series with them this year. We knocked them out of the playoffs last year. We have a lot of respect for that organization – the coaching staff and the players. They’ve got some elite players, but we believe we have some elite players in this league too, so it’s going to be exciting for NLL lacrosse and it’s going to be exciting for the fans.”
“We thought it’s been tough to get to this point and it’s going to be even tougher,” Malawsky said. “We’re going to prepare ourselves for a war up in Edmonton. It’s going to take every little ounce of energy and every bit of effort to be successful up there.”
“I think you saw a team that’s been battle tested,” said McBride in regards to Calgary’s 11-6 win over Colorado. “I think you saw a team that stayed calm and remained confident in each other and that’s what we need to do up in Edmonton against a great team. They’re a very, very disciplined team. They play very well and that’s why they’re a first-place team, so it’s going to be a great battle.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Greg Harnett won back-to-back Minto Cups in 2008 and 2009 with the Orangeville Northmen. “Winning those Minto Cups was the highlight of my junior career and something I’ll never forget,” said Harnett, whose older brother Jon was also a member of two-time Canadian junior men’s lacrosse national champions. “It was pretty amazing. It was pretty special that he could play with me.”
PLAYER PROFILE – #11 Greg Harnett
Height & weight: 5-11, 185
Birthdate: June 30, 1990
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. “We’ve got to win the WLA again,” said Harnett, who believes the Shamrocks have a good chance to get back to the Mann Cup this summer. “What it’s going to come down to is who wants it more and all those clichés.”
Stat attack: Set career highs by scooping up 49 loose balls, while also chipping in with 13 forced turnovers while playing in all 18 games in the 2015 NLL regular season. “I don’t pay too much attention to those things,” he said. “I just try to help the team in whatever way I can, jumping in front of shots or whatever it may be.”
Family ties: Older brother Jon also plays defence for the Roughnecks.
Occupation: Lacrosse instructor
Notable quotable: “We go to schools around Calgary,” said Harnett, who works with McBride as a lacrosse instructor for Triumph Lacrosse during the daytime. “A lot of kids have never played. In their regular gym class, we teach them lacrosse. I love it. It’s done wonders for my confidence being able to talk in front of groups. It’s really nice to see the kids enjoy it. At nighttime I actually coach with Elev8 Lacrosse (which is run by another teammate Geoff Snider).”