In the Battle of Alberta rivalry, Ryan Ward always brought ‘it’ when facing off against the Calgary Roughnecks.
Since arriving with the Edmonton Rush in 2010, Ward has been a constant thorn in the side of the Roughnecks side even when the Rush were going through some down years.
When the Roughnecks were first in the West Division, facing off against the Rush in the 2012 playoffs, Ward scored five goals and added six assists as Calgary was upset 19-11.
Last year in four contests, Ward fired seven goals and 19 assists against the Roughnecks for 26 points – an average of over six points a game. It accounted for more than a third of Ward’s point total for all season
Now here is the good news for the Roughnecks fans – Ward is no longer representing Alberta’s capital city.
As a free agent this off-season, Ward took his talent to the City of Brotherly Love, signing with the Philadelphia Wings.
It would appear on paper with the departure of Ward and the long-term injury to Corey Small that the Rush would be weak on the right side, but they look to be adapting just fine.
The combination of rookies Riley Loewen and Robert Church on the right side seem to be just as dangerous. The freshmen combined for ten points last week in a 17-6 win over the Colorado Mammoth, while incumbent Jarrett Davis scored a hat trick and finished the night with seven points.
Now that part might not be good news to Roughnecks fans.
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH
1. Mark Matthews – The reigning NLL Rookie of the Year took the league by storm last year with 38 goals in just 16 games. He appeared to struggle versus the Roughnecks, averaging just three points a night last season. But no one can sleep on the 6-foot-4, 210 lefty, proven last weekend when he put up 10 points versus the Mammoth.
2. Robert Church – At one time, it appeared Church would be a possible #1 selection in the NLL Entry Draft, before slipping to the pick five when the Rush scooped him up. In his first career NLL game last weekend, the righty put up five assists.
3. Jarrett Davis – As was mentioned above, Davis was one of the players expected to play big minutes with fellow righty Corey Small tearing his ACL in Western Lacrosse Association action over the summer. The fourth-year veteran is on pace to put up career-highs in every offensive category.