CALGARY, AB — 60 minutes.
That’s the focus for the Calgary Roughnecks.
Game 2 of the West Division Final is a must-win for the Riggers if they hope to force a Game 3 tie-breaker.
But they can’t get ahead of themselves – it’s Game 2 or nothing.
The Roughnecks have embraced being the underdog so far this post-season, already taking down the 12-6 Colorado Mammoth in the West Division Semi-Finals in a thrilling OT game.
This weekend, they will need a similar performance to secure a spot in the Champion’s Cup Final.
It’s no easy task as the Rush were the best team in the West Division this season, sporting a 13-5 record while boasting the league’s best defence. Their offence is no slouch either. Led by Mark Matthews, who has put up 100+ points in back to back seasons, they can put up points in a hurry. The Roughnecks saw that first hand earlier this season, when the Rush went on a 12-2 run in the first half.
Stopping any big runs will be a key for the Roughnecks. They can’t afford to let Saskatchewan get ahead and then let their defence settle in.
The same can be said about goaltender Aaron Bold.
They need to find a way to beat him early in the game or he might get on a roll and start making saves that no one thinks is possible. Bold led the NLL in Goals Against Average at 10.30 and for good reason. Finding a solution for the talented net minder will be massive for the Roughnecks forwards.
For Calgary, if Mike Poulin can start rolling and perform the way he did in Colorado, the Riggers will be competitive all game. Last weekend, the Poulin Wall was strong for three quarters, but with some defensive breakdowns, the Rush were able to find some open lanes and score. The Roughnecks can’t rely on Poulin to make that many incredible saves to keep them in the game.
On special teams, neither team is spectacular, but if either gets into penalty trouble, it could spell doom. With some big time shooters on both sides of the floor, no team can afford to give the other that much space and time to operate.
In Game 1 of the West Final, Calgary was only able to string together three goals and they did not have any other runs. Part of that is that when they scored, they rarely were able to retain possession by winning the face-off.
Tyler Burton was battling fiercely all night and the rest of the ball team were chasing loose balls hard, but Jeremy Thompson and the Rush were able to win 19 of 30 draws. If the Necks can find a way to even that number out or come out on top, it would help put more continual pressure on the Rush defence.
The defending champion’s will be hungry for a chance to secure their spot in the Champion’s Cup Finals in attempt to defend the cup, but they can’t discount their rival.
Calgary tends to play better with their backs up against a wall – making this far from a guarantee that they will get the chance to defend.
Don’t ever count out the Roughnecks. It’s not over yet.