STOPPING JOHN GRANT JR.
At 40-years-old, John Grant Jr. is still one of the elite scorers in the NLL.
Grant registered 91 points (34g, 57a) this season and managed to record 13 of those points against the Roughnecks when playing at the Pepsi Centre. Two of those points were overtime goals to beat Calgary.
“You’ve just got to be ready for anything,” said Roughnecks’ defenseman Dan MacRae. “One-handed, behind-the-back, around-the-world, through the leg, pass, or shot. We’ve just got to take away his time and space. Try to take away the opportunity for him to be that creative.”
The Roughnecks will need to be aware of where Grant Jr. is at all times due to his incredible shot and natural scoring ability from anywhere on the floor.
It won’t be an easy task.
“He’s the best one-on-one guy in the league,” said Roughnecks coach Curt Malawsky, who played alongside Grant as a member of the Rochester Knighthawks. “When he’s not one-on-one, he’s one of the best passers in the league.
“It’s not just one guy who is going to beat you. They have a multitude of guys out there. So if you focus on Junior, someone else is going to kill you.”
Keeping Grant off the scoresheet as much as possible is key for Calgary having any hopes of advancing to the West Division Finals against the Edmonton Rush
POLLOCK PLAYOFF RETURN
Sean Pollock is back in his old digs.
The Roughnecks signed the 12 year veteran on Mar. 16 to a one-year contract after he was released by the Colorado Mammoth. Having played there for four seasons, he still has good memories of his time in the Mile High City.
“I loved it, I loved every second of it,” Pollock recalled. “They treated my family well and it was top notch. I have nothing but good things to say about them, but I have a job to do and that’s to win a game tomorrow night.”
Since joining the Roughnecks, Pollock has been a very valuable member of the offensive group filling the void left by long time Roughnecks’ sniper Scott Ranger after he announced his retirement prior to the start of the season. Pollock has contributed 12 points in a Calgary uniform but his work off the ball is where he earns his keep.
“He’s got a will to win,” Malawsky said. “He’s a guy that’s done a lot of the heavy lifting for us. He gets to the middle of the floor and creates space for Dickson and Evans. It’s not easy playing with those two guys.”
This will be his first time playing a playoff game as a member of the Roughnecks and it will be against his former team, no less. Pollock will definitely need to deal with some emotions Saturday but he is trying to focus on the task at hand.
“It’s playoff time,” Pollock said. “Everything is emotional. Everything is ramped up. I’m looking forward to it. It’s the best time of year.
“I’m trying to block that out and try not to think about the past three years. Just try to think about a new beginning here with a good group of guys who are ready to battle and win a playoff game. They’re not teammates anymore. This is my family now and it’s time to get a win.”
FAITH IN ROOKIES
While the Calgary Roughnecks kept their veteran roster intact after a successful 2014 campaign, the Colorado Mammoth went in a different direction.
The team brought in a lot of young talent and have mixed them in with some elite veteran players like John Grant Jr. and Adam Jones.
Of the rookies in the starting line-up, none has been more impressive than Robert Hope, who set an NLL Rookie record for caused turnovers with 28. That’s one more than the Roughnecks leader, Curtis Manning.
With that said, all of the rookies have been impressive so far this season.
“They’re gamers,” said Mammoth coach Dan Stroup. “That’s why they’re on the team. They’ve proven themselves. The coaching staff has all of the confidence in every player on that team. They will bring some energy and in the end it’s going to come down to, probably, one goal. It’s going to be tough. I know every Mammoth player will be ready to go.”
The Roughnecks have a clear advantage from an experience perspective. Almost their entire was part of last year’s run to the Champion’s Cup. That experience could be a benefit for the team as they play such a young, inexperienced group. However, they are wary of the energy and excitement that the young players will bring to the floor.
“We’ve got to be ready for their hunger,” MacRae said. “I remember my rookie year, or some of our rookies coming up. You remember the tenacity and the hunger they have. They will be buzzing out there. They will be working hard and they will be crashing and banging.”