These are the dates coaches circle on the calendar – the daunting double-header weekend. It has the potential to reveal your team as a legit playoff contender or it can expose all of the weaknesses you really possess. Just two weeks ago, the Calgary Roughnecks came off a crushing OT loss to the Toronto Rock that could’ve put this team on life support – especially if this weekend went badly.
First up, and ahead of Calgary in the standings, were the 4-2 Saskatchewan Rush. After a tightly contested first half, the Riggers exploded for 10 second-half goals on their way to a 13-6 win.
Twenty-two hours later, the reigning NLL Champions stepped onto the teal-coloured turf of the Scotiabank Saddledome looking to take advantage of a tired Roughneck team. However, the Roughnecks offense continued to sizzle, scoring 11 goals in the opening half. The Mammoth responded, but it wasn’t quite enough as the Riggers held on for a 13-9 win.
“Our guys battled so hard,” stated head coach Curt Malawsky after the Colorado game. “That’s a lot of heart. I’ve talked for years about old school heart. This group’s got that. They just refuse to lose, refuse to give up and just stayed in the fight the whole time and that’s a huge two wins for this team.”
The “refuse to lose” reputation has not come easy to this club and there’s been plenty of heartache along the way. An early game against San Diego had the Riggers down by 10 goals on home turf before battling back to within three. The aforementioned game against Toronto had the Roughnecks down by three with minutes left to play. A flurry of late goals tied the game up and forced overtime – which they lost. Finally, that elusive spark was ignited last week with a thrilling overtime win against the powerhouse Thunderbirds. Yet another game in which they trailed and had to fight back.
While we’re only at the halfway point of the season, the Roughnecks may look back at this part of their schedule as a turning point in their year.
Combined stats from the weekend:
Tyler Pace: 7 Goals, 3 Assists
Tanner Cook: 6 Goals, 4 Assists
Jesse King: 1 Goal, 10 Assists
Zach Currier and Eli Salama: 36 Looseballs, 10 Caused Turnovers and 3 Goals
Christian Del Bianco: 88 Saves, 7.50 GAA, and 3 Assists
All remaining games for the Roughnecks will be against Western Conference opponents. Next week Calgary (6-3) travels to Vancouver (1-8) for their third and final meeting. Calgary already owns the season series against the Warriors with two early season victories.