It took a dramatic overtime win in the last game of the season, but the Calgary Roughnecks won the NLL West Division for the third straight year and fourth time in five years.
Calgary is now the second seed in the playoffs and will hold home field advantage for at least two rounds of their quest for the Champion’s Cup.
But first things first.
On Saturday night, the Roughnecks host the re-energized Colorado Mammoth and they have to put that team to bed before they can look any further ahead.
The Roughnecks beat Colorado twice in three tries this year, splitting the two games held at the Scotiabank Saddledome. That’s an encouraging sign for Calgary.
Also encouragingly, one of those wins came later in the season after the Mammoth did some lineup juggling, resulting in a 5-2 finish to the year for Colorado. The addition of Tye Belanger between the pipes for the Mammoth made a big difference in their late-season results, but the Roughnecks still found a way to touch him up for 12 goals.
On the discouraging side of things, Calgary’s home record was just 3-5 this year, making them one of several NLL teams that didn’t really enjoy a home field advantage. If they want to move on this year, they need to find a way to win in front of their own fans.
There seems little doubt that Calgary can match any team in the NLL goal-for-goal. They led the league in goals for with 222, 13.9 goals per game average.
Shawn Evans is officially the league scoring champ after matching the fifth best scoring season in history with 112 points. Curtis Dickson scored 42 goals, Evans and Jeff Shattler were both over 30 and, if Dane Dobbie is healthy enough to play following a knee injury in Week 15, he scored 40 goals in just 13 games.
Team discipline has been an issue all year, however. The Roughnecks led the NLL in penalties, playing shorthanded 107 times and giving up 59 power play goals.
In games where the team has kept their emotions under control and not taken foolish penalties, they’ve been in good shape. Like last weekend, when they gave up just two shorthanded opportunities. But if they spend a bunch of time in the sin-bin, the Mammoth offense is more than up to the task of making them pay.
If Calgary can get past Colorado, they will face the winner of the Edmonton Rush-Washington Stealth game. The Roughnecks beat the Rush three times out of four this year but lost two of three to the Stealth, so it’s anyone’s guess at this point as to whether or not they can get past the second round.
But first things first.