Edmonton Rush forward, Mark Matthews finished second in NLL scoring behind only Shawn Evans of the Calgary Roughnecks.
Of his 115 points, 24 of them were scored in the four games against Calgary. Given the success versus the Roughnecks, shutting him down will be a priority for Calgary.
“He’s definitely a guy we will be highlighting,” said Roughnecks defenseman Dan MacRae.
Added Jon Harnett: “We’ve just got to come in a work hard. It’s going to be a ten man group for us. He’s a great player, there’s no drying that. He’s done well against us before, but our group back there is playing really well and Frankie is in the zone. It’s more about making him uncomfortable and taking time and space from him. Making him work for everything that he gets. There’s no secrets to success.”
In the West Division Semi-Final against the Colorado Mammoth, the Roughnecks defensive unit had to deal with one of the best one-on-one players in the league — John Grant Jr.
Calgary held Grant to just a goal and a pair of assists and hope to conjure up some of that success again this weekend.
“We are going to utilize a lot of the same strategy that we had with John Grant Jr.,” Harnett continued. “We were using our angles, utilizing both guys on that side of the floor to take away his shooting angle. Also, taking away his time to limit his creativity because when you sit back and let him come at you, he’s a big human being so he can run you over. We’ve got to take away his time to stop his momentum, but also limit his creativity because he can hit anyone on the floor with one or two hands on his stick.”
While Matthews presents a dangerous matchup, he is not the only weapon on the Rush offence. Robert Church, Zach Greer, and impressive rookie Ben McIntosh will also pose a challenge for Calgary.
They know it will take a group effort to shut down Edmonton’s potent attack.
“He’s going to be a huge challenge for us,” said Scott Carnegie said of Mathews. “I think they are more balance than Colorado. Getting good match ups are important. Mike has done a good job on the big name players, Curtis Manning and Jeff Moleski too. The support guys and secondary guys need to do there jobs too and step up. It’s going to be a whole [defensive] effort.”
The Roughnecks have been playing must-win games long before the playoffs got underway.
With Friday’s game in Edmonton being the first of two games (and a possible mini-game), the Roughnecks season will not be over regardless of the outcome.
However, they must maintain the same attitude that has got them to where they are.
The first game of any series is must-win, that’s how every sports team looks at it,” said Roughnecks sniper Dane Dobbie. “You can’t go into Edmonton and lay an egg and say ‘It’s not a must-win, we’re not going to play hard’. We’re going to go out there [Friday] and play with our lives on the line. That’s how we’ve been successful, so we’re not going to change that too much. The big one is that we’ve got to go out there, compete, play our game, stay disciplined, and stuff will start going our way.”
Even with home-field advantage, the Roughnecks would rather be looking at taking the series in game two rather than relying on the mini-game.
After enduring the stress of two mini-game’s in last year’s playoffs including a mini-game loss to Rochester in the Champion’s Cup, they would prefer to avoid it if possible.
“You don’t want to go into next weekend — in Calgary — knowing you have to win that game to get to the mini-game,” said Curtis Dickson. “You want to avoid the mini-game at all costs. It’s there for a reason, so if we get there, we have experience with it, having played in them twice last year. You’d definitely like to go in to game one a get a win.”
After an achilles injury in training camp last year, Scott Carnegie was forced to watch the Roughnecks playoff run from the sidelines.
Not being able to be on the floor and contribute to his team’s run was something he didn’t enjoy.
“Having that year off, it hurt a lot watching,” Carnegie recalled. “I was excited for the guys and how far they went.”
After a year of rehab and another training camp, Carnegie has been a key member of this year’s Roughnecks team. The 29-year-old is beyond excited to be on the floor in the playoffs. He is hoping that he can help his team reach the same level as last year.
“I’m so excited,” Carnegie smiled. “Being able to play and be at this point again, it’s just awesome for me.”