CALGARY, AB — After a loss in Game 1 of the West Final against the Edmonton Rush, a mini-game is necessary for the Calgary Roughnecks to advance to the Champion’s Cup.
However, before they can force the mini-game, they will need to win Game 2.
“It’s just the reality of the playoff scenario,” said defenceman Mike Carnegie. “You’d love to be able to play in a series where you can play full games. Kudos to them, they played well in the first game and they beat us. We need to be good for 70 minutes, that’s about it. You’ve got to win Game 2 before you think about Game 3.”
In last year’s playoffs, the Roughnecks experienced both the highs and the lows of the mini-game.
“I remember building the momentum and smelling the blood in the water,” Dan MacRae said of their 2-1 win over the Rush in the mini-game of the West Final last year.
“We had a big high and then things slipped through our fingers,” added MacRae about the mini-game loss in the Champion’s Cup to the Rochester Knighthawks. “A lot can happen in ten minutes. I think that’s what we can take out of last year. It can go your way and it can go against you. You’ve got to be focused for the whole ten minutes.”
Calgary sees that experience, especially the loss to the Knighthawks, as a source of motivation.
“It was really interesting, but heartbreaking in Rochester.” said transition player Geoff Snider. “You have to move on, but it stays with you motivationally. I think that is fuelling this group. We had a rough start to the season, but it’s a team of competitors. We’re proud to be here.”
In Game 1, the Rush were without a key cog of their offence. Robert Church, who was out with an injury, will be back in the line-up on Saturday for Game 2. In 2015, he scored 37 goals and 55 assists, good for 10th in the NLL in points.
“He’s a guy that can create out there on that right side,” MacRae said. “He likes to drive over the top. We might see the ball starting on the right side a little bit more. It’s going to add another dynamic to their offence, but luckily we play them four times a year, so we’ve seen it before and we’ll be prepared for it.”
Having lost to the Roughnecks in the mini-game in 2014 and missing the first game of this series, Church will surely be eager to get back on the floor.
“Having him back helps them out and adds to their deep line-up,” Snider said. “I’m sure he’s hungry to get back into the mix and contribute.”
With the addition of Church back to the line-up, the Rush will be even more dangerous.
However, this won’t have a major impact on the Roughnecks defence.
“I don’t think we need to change too much,” Carnegie said. “You don’t really try and key on one guy in the playoffs. It’s every single guy playing together. I think we need to stay with our system, play better fundamentally and the result will take care of itself.”
Special teams played a deciding factor in Game 1. Edmonton converted on three of their six chances with the extra man, while Calgary managed only one power play goal in three opportunities.
“They were good on the power play,” Carnegie said. “We’ve got to stay out of the penalty box for one thing, but we need to be better on our short man too. I think we’ve got one of the best percentages in the league. We’ve got to be a lot better than what we showed last Friday. Staying out of the penalty box is important to us.
Having been the most penalized team in the NLL, they will need to find a way to reverse that trend, even if they had the best penalty kill in the regular season.
Despite being good on the PK, it is not an ideal position to be in.
“We can’t take penalties 100 feet away from our net,” MacRae said. “You can’t do that with that power play. The more we have our guys out there that need to be on the penalty kill, it takes away from those energy levels for when they need to be out there for five on five shift. That’s a big focus.”
Staying out of the penalty box will be a point of emphasis for the team as they face the team with the most power play goals, with 48, in 2015.
“It’s a point of emphasis in every game,” Snider said. “We play tough, we play heavy, and you walk that line. They’re doing the same thing. Anytime you want to win a championship, you’ve got to play disciplined. Anytime you want to win a game, you’ve got to play disciplined. It’s definitely a focal point for us.”