The first ‘Battle of Alberta’ of 2015 lived up to its billing. At least in terms of intensity. The Calgary Roughnecks (0-3) played host to the Edmonton Rush (1-2) on Saturday night at the Roughhouse for the first installment of the West Division rivalry. But it wasn’t the result the ‘Necks were looking for, as the team lost 16-8 in front of 12,266 fans on Superhero Night at Scotiabank Saddledome.
This is the first time in Roughnecks history that the team has started the season 0-3 and head coach Curt Malawsky said it’s simply that the team is frustrated.
“When you start sliding, there’s emotion,” Malawsky said. “We’re 0-3, that’s straight up frustration.”
Curtis ‘Superman’ Dickson had three goals in the contest but with the loss, he acknowledged his team didn’t expect this kind of start.
“This is not where we expected to be,” he said. “Especially coming off a championship final season last year, but we knew we weren’t going to walk back to the finals this year. We knew it was going to be tough but I don’t think anyone expected this.”
The Riggers have now given up 51 goals in three games, for the second worst goals against average in the National Lacrosse League.
“We slipped a little bit with our hard work,” Malawsky said. “They had a couple goals that were questionable from the outside I thought, and that’s tough.”
On the other side of things, Edmonton assistant coach Jeff McComb says he was very pleased with the way his team performed.
“I thought we got back to playing our style.” McComb said. “We dominate from the backend out, defense first and then run in transition that gets our offense going and I think we did that tonight.”
The Roughnecks were only able to muster up two goals in the second half of the game and McComb says that’s in large part to Rush goaltender Aaron Bold.
“Aaron’s been really good,” he said. “The first couple weeks he kind of had a rough fourth quarter in the second week, but he’s been mostly really really good for us all year.”
“When we get him playing solid like that, and with the defense he has in front of him, we’re going to give up eight or nine goals and then make it extremely difficult for teams to beat us,” McComb added.
Malawsky thought his team had some good opportunities to score, but just didn’t capitalize when those chances arose.
“We’re getting chances,” he said. “But we’re not getting to the prime scoring areas and I think sometimes we’re settling.”
“Look at the shots on goal, do the math,” Malawsky added. “We had some looks and then it comes back our way and it’s in the net, so in a way that’s a little bit deflating.”
When asked what he thought was wrong with is team, Dickson says it comes down to trying to find their identity again.
“I just think everyone needs to find their identity,” he said. “We’re playing some individual lacrosse out there, not everyone is playing the way they need too and it’s showing on the product on the floor… tonight we lost big and that’s just indicative of the way we played. “
The Rush were playing with a little extra encouragement tonight having bench boss Mike Keenan back behind the bench after the loss of his wife and Malawsky knew the Rush would be fired up.
“We knew they were going to come in like a caged lion and they did,” he said. “Our challenge was to try and match that intensity and compete.”
“Our guys are men, they just need to rise to the occasion. They knew what they were going to come out against and that’s all they had to do was battle, and for the most part we did, but it’s just didn’t go our way.”
The big point-getters for the Rush came off the sticks of Mark Matthews (2+5), Zack Greer (2+4) and Ben McIntosh. However, coach McComb says he has to give props to some of the unsung heroes of the game.
“I’d like to give kudos to our grinders that opened up a ton of space for our big guns,” he said. “Riley Loewen and Jarrett Davis were excellent for us, we needed those grinders on offence that did all the dirty work to open the space for our big guns.”
As for Malawsky and the Roughnecks, things are going to change.
“We are obviously going to have to make some changes,” Malawsky said. “We’re getting the same results, three times we’ve made line-up changes and now we’re going to have to make some more line-up changes and go a different direction.”
It’s all smiles on the Rush side, as McComb and the boys pick up the team’s first win of the season and one of four games against Calgary.
“I thought we were fantastic,” McComb said.
Three Stars of the Game as selected by the media:
1) Mark Matthews
2) Ben McIntosh
3) Jarrett Davis
Story by Kassidy Collins (@RoughnecksBeat) for NLL.com. Photo by Brad Watson.