CALGARY, AB — There’s but one thing standing in the way of the Calgary Roughnecks third Champion’s Cup in franchise history.
The back-to-back defending Champion’s Cup Rochester Knighthawks.
The Knighthawks, an East Division-leading 14-4 this season, are searching for their third straight league title after capturing the Champion’s Cup in 2012 and 2013. They’ve lost just one playoff game since 2011, too.
“Rochester, the two-time NLL champions, we’ve got a lot of respect for those guys from top to bottom,” said Roughnecks captain Andrew McBride, who has earned titles with Calgary in 2004 and 2009. “Any time a team can climb the ladder of your league two years in a row, it just shows as a franchise and an organization, how good they are. We’re really excited for the challenge. To be able to play the best team the last two years, it’s going to be exciting for us.
“Anytime you can get to the top of the mountain twice, it’s something to be said. They’re battle-tested. They’ve been through lots of games.”
And while the Knighthawks have back-to-back titles in their back pockets, Rochester forward Cody Jamieson insists his club isn’t about to rest on past accolades.
Instead, his squad is focused on looking forward in an attempt to clinch a third straight championship.
“It’s every teams goal to be here at the end of the year and we’re no different,” said Jamieson, who led the NLL in scoring this season with 108 points. “We haven’t really spoken about last year or the year before at all, this is a totally different group, a totally new team. Our goals at the start of the year remain the same.”
Though the Knighthawks aren’t looking back at the two titles, it doesn’t make them any less dangerous heading into the NLL final, according to Calgary coach Curt Malawsky.
“On their side of it, they’re going to be using that experience and I don’t know how we say ‘hey, lets get ourselves some experience to get on an equal playing field’ — you just can’t do that, you just have to go out and play the games,” said Malawsky, who won a title with the Roughnecks as a player five years ago.
“Once the ball drops, most of that stuff is out the door because winning the championship — whatever level it is — you get that winning pedigree and you know how to be calm under the intense pressure of the situations in these big games. I’m very confident of our guys that have been through it, been through the wars.
“We’ve got quite a few guys that are still there from the 2009 team. We will be more than ready and I don’t think that confidence will be any type of issue for our group.”
The Roughnecks have respect for their opponent, no doubt. The Knighthawks have earned it, after all.
But it doesn’t mean Calgary will be any less ready to stake their claim on a third NLL title.
“They’ve earned all the respect they’ve got,” Roughnecks forward Curtis Dickson said. “They’ve been the cream of the crop in the league for the last three years now. It’s one of those things, they’re playing their best lacrosse right now as they have in the past at this time of year.
“We have to come out ready to play.”