CALGARY, AB — The Rocky Mountain rivalry continues this weekend as the Colorado Mammoth venture into the Rough House.
The Calgary Roughnecks, coming off of a 15-10 win over the Toronto Rock, may not be too excited to see the NLL’s top team.
After bringing a four-game losing streak to an end last Friday, things aren’t getting much easier for the Riggers. Colorado has a league-high eight wins and has won their last four contests – including a 13-8 win over the Roughnecks.
In that loss, the Roughnecks were without a major game-changer, though.
Forward Dane Dobbie missed the tilt with and upper body injury, but was cleared to play last weekend against the Toronto Rock and it is expected he will be in the line-up once again.
“We really missed Dane Dobbie,” Coach Curt Malawsky noted. “He makes a big difference out there, not only on the floor, but in the locker room. It was huge having him back. That really kick-started our offence.”
His presence will be huge for the Roughnecks as the left-side of the offence was not as much of a factor the last time the two teams played. Rookie Reilly O’Connor had one goal and three assists, but veteran Jeff Shattler and Brandon Goodwin combined for only two assists.
They will need more from their left-side if they hope to over power a very strong Mammoth defence.
To mitigate the Mammoth defence, the Roughnecks could try to utilize their transition offence that was very effective against the Rock. More than a few times Calgary caught the Rock sleeping and sent numbers down the floor, where they were able to create plenty of offence.
Expect to see that strategy once again.
“It was a big part of our game plan. We wanted to push the ball as much as we could,” explained Malawsky. “The message from the coaching guys was we trust you guys to make the right decisions. We never did really have the cuffs on the boys, but we wanted to just clarify that you know what, we trust what you’re going to do and you have our support.”
With their only two losses of the season coming on the road, the Mammoth must be ready to face a fast, young, hungry – and now healthy – Roughnecks squad.
A big factor in the contest will be discipline. The Roughnecks have occasionally found themselves in penalty trouble, something they can’t afford to do on Saturday.
Colorado has the second best road power play in the league, boasting a 56.5 percent rating with the extra man. Calgary’s penalty kill has been fantastic recently – evidenced by their strong performance in Toronto where they racked up three short-handed goals.
However, they may not want to take that risk and give the likes of Adam Jones, Callum Crawford, and John Grant Jr. that much space and time.
Crawford leads all Mammoth players with 65 points (18g, 47a) in 10 games. Jones meanwhile, has scored 34 goals in nine games, extending his goal scoring streak to 57 straight games – an NLL record.
With that type of firepower, the Roughnecks defence will have a big challenge.
They’ve stepped up to the challenge in most games this season and are coming off of a very good game against the Rock where they allowed only 10 goals, while creating multiple turnovers and laying plenty of big hits.
“They’re unbelievable,” Curtis Dickson said of the defence. “They’ve been fantastic the last few weeks and most of the season.”
While the defence has been great, a big reason the the Roughnecks have been a very tough team to play recently has been the emergence of goaltender Mike Poulin.
The ‘Poulin Wall’, as he’s referred to, has been lights out in recent weeks. In the last three weeks, he has faced 154 shots and has only allowed 31 goals, bringing his season GAA to 10.32 and his save percentage to .794 percent.
He will be instrumental this weekend, but so will the man on the other end of the floor.
Third-year goaltender Dillon Ward has been fantastic for the Mammoth this season, posting a 5-1 record with a 10.71 GAA and a .788 save percentage. He has not allowed more than eight goals in a contest since he allowed 12 to the Saskatchewan Rush on January 29th.
It will be a massive challenge for the Riggers offence to find the back of the net.
Earning a win against a division rival would be a big step forward for Calgary and it would help them keep their lead over the Vancouver Stealth for the final playoff spot in the West.
“It’s huge,” admitted Dickson. “They’re the No. 1 team in the league right now and on top of the West. We’ve had some trouble with them in the regular season here in the past, especially at home.
“This is a must-win game for us. We’re catching ground in the West for the last playoff spot.”