CALGARY, AB — And so it all comes down to this.
One final game to decide whether or not the Calgary Roughnecks will get to strut their stuff in the NLL Playoffs for a 14th straight year.
The team that stands in their way? The last place Toronto Rock.
While that may seem like an easy win, the Rock have been playing very well and should give the Roughnecks a run for their money.
Since taking over the crease for the Rock, goaltender Nick Rose has been one of the better goalies in the NLL. His 10.53 GAA ranks third in the league, while his save percentage (.792) is second only to Dillon Ward of the Colorado Mammoth.
Clearly, guarding the crease has not been an issue for Toronto.
The real issue for the Rock has been finding the back of the net. They have scored a league-low 178 goals entering Saturday’s game.
The injury bug hurt Toronto’s offence, taking the likes of Colin Doyle and Brett Hickey, among others, from the line-up at various points throughout the season.
If Calgary can find a way to shut down Rob Hellyer, Josh Sanderson and Stephan Leblanc, the Rock will have to lean on some less experienced players like Turner Evans – the cousin of Shawn Evans – to contribute.
Similarly to Rose, Mike Poulin did not start the season as the starter for the Roughnecks. Since shedding the back-up tag, the Poulin Wall has been fantastic, working an 11.21 GAA and a .783 save percentage.
When the Roughnecks were in Toronto earlier this season, they controlled the game right from the start with a quick goal from rookie Tyson Bell. Curtis Dickson took over the game and scored a sock-trick to lead the Riggers to a 15-10 win.
Coming home to a packed house will be a great way for the Necks to finish their regular season schedule and make a push for the playoffs.
However, hitting the road will be a problem for the Rock, who have won only one road game so far this season. Part of the issue has been the fact that they have averaged only 8.5 goals per game and have been outscored by 33 goals.
That bodes well for Calgary’s offence, which has been strong at the Rough House as of late. In fact, the Riggers have averaged 11.37 goals per game at the ‘Dome.
Toronto has a propensity for penalties, evidenced by their league leading 23.18 penalty minutes per game, which is six more than the Roughnecks. While Calgary’s 44.4 percent home power play does not stand out, it should have success against the Rock’s 35.7 percent road penalty kill.
The biggest factor in this contest could be the motivation to push to get into the post-season.
While many Rock players are fighting for jobs on next years’ squad, the Roughnecks players are going to be going all out to make sure that they will be making a trip to Colorado next weekend.
Their destiny is in their hands.