CALGARY, AB — Calgary Roughnecks coach Curt Malawsky wasn’t too concerned about the outcome of Saturday night’s pre-season game against the Edmonton Rush.
Despite the fact that the Riggers dropped an 11-3 decision to the Rush in front of 11,187 lacrosse-starved fans at the Scotiabank Saddledome, Malawsky saw some positive signs from his players.
“We kind of challenged our back end to compete with our offence because we knew we had some offensive guys out,” said Malawsky, referring to the fact that forwards Curtis Dickson and Shawn Evans sat out of the exhibition affair. “It was a little bit of a challenge there and I thought we hung in. We outshot them. I don’t know if the score, 11-3, was really indicative of the play.
“I thought we had some good chances that didn’t drop. We made a few errors that ended up in the back of our net, but it is pre-season and that’s what it’s for.”
Forward Karsen Leung, who was named to the 2014 NLL All-Rookie Team, scored two of Calgary’s three goals and assisted on the other, a shorthanded marker by Dane Dobbie.
“I thought certain guys pushed the ball up and down the floor,” Malawsky said. “Karsen Leung was just a horse out there. I thought he was our best player.”
Leung was pleased to contribute offensively, but would have rather done so in a winning cause.
“It was nice to get on the scoresheet, but the end result was not what we wanted,” said Leung, who finished with 11 goals and 18 assists in 18 games last year.
Robert Church led the Rush attack with a hat trick, while Mark Matthews scored twice and set up two others. Corey Small had a goal and two assists, while Mitch Banister, Riley Loewen, Tyler Melnyk and Jeff Cornwall also scored.
The ’Necks actually outshot the Rush 52-45, but were continually stymied by Edmonton goalies Aaron Bold and Tyler Carlson. Bold played the three quarters and stopped 37 of 39 shots he faced, while Carlson made 12 saves in a relief appearance in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, Calgary netminder Mike Poulin finished the game with 34 saves in a losing cause.
Both teams agreed to expand their rosters for the exhibition affair, which meant that Calgary’s practice-roster players Connor Goodwin, Tor Reinholdt, Patrick O’Meara and Tyson Roe were able to get in some game action.
“That’s what everybody wanted to do,” Malawsky said. “The guys that went to war and battled all throughout (training) camp, you want to reward them in a stage like this. Some of them never ever had an opportunity to do this, so it’s kind of nice that they get to experience the NLL side of it in a true format like it was today.”
Malawsky also commended the boisterous crowd for their support despite the disappointing setback.
“It was awesome,” Malawsky said. “They were banging on the glass and they were cheering. I like the way that they responded. That just shows the true fans that we have. They’re not fair weather. They don’t pick their spots. They’re always there supporting our club and we know that. That’s why we don’t stop. We play right until the end, so it’s greatly appreciated.”
Calgary captain Andrew McBride concurred with Malawsky while adding that the Roughnecks are going to do everything they can to bounce back with a win over the Vancouver Stealth in the NLL season opener at home at the ’Dome on Jan. 3 (7 p.m.).
“Obviously, it’s not the effort we wanted at home,” McBride said. “I think it’s really important to defend the home turf. We had 11,000 fans for an exhibition game, which is absolutely fantastic. You’re not going to see that in many places.
“It’s a big step up from training camp to playing scrimmages in a small arena to coming to the big stage. It’s good we got that one under our belt. We can come back in a week after Christmas, know what we need to work on and go from there.”
QUICK STICKS: After the game, the two teams treated the fans to a shootout which Edmonton narrowly won 5-4. Dobbie, Daryl Veltman, Matthew Dinsdale and Leung scored for the Riggers, while Ben McIntosh, Loewen, Matthews, Church and Zach Greer responded for the Rush.