The Calgary Roughnecks travel to Vancouver to face the Stealth tonight at 7:00 pm PST in a game that may very well determine the third and final playoff berth in the NLL’s West Division.
The Roughnecks (7-9) currently hold a half-game lead over the Stealth (6-9) in the standings, but Vancouver has a game in hand, so they still control their own destiny. Further, the Stealth go into this matchup with a 2-1 advantage over the Roughnecks in games they’ve played this year.
If Calgary can pull off the road win tonight, they will tie the season series and have the plus-minus advantage in games against Vancouver. They’ll also ensure that the Stealth can do no better than tie them in the overall league standings. If the Stealth win, it puts them in the driver’s seat going into the last two weeks of the season, needing just one win in their last two games to snag that last playoff spot.
The Roughnecks are currently riding a three-game winning streak, giving them some good momentum going into this pivotal contest. In that stretch they’ve held opponents to just 10 goals against per game while scoring 14 per game, significantly improving on the numbers they had been putting up earlier in the season. Curtis Dickson is currently leading the NLL in points (96) and goals (46). Starting goalie Frankie Scigliano has improved his goals against average in the last month by 14 points, to a respectable .765.
On the other side of the floor, the Stealth have lost three of their last four. They will be leaning heavily on two players who are enjoying career years: forward Corey Small and goalie Tye Belanger. “Kitten” Small is third in league scoring this year with career highs in points (92), goals (39) and assists (53). Belanger’s play between the pipes (11.37 goals against average, fifth-best in the NLL) has kept Vancouver within striking distance in several games this year.
Should Calgary win this game, Vancouver’s only hope of making the playoffs is to win both of their last two games, while also having the Colorado Mammoth lose all three of their remaining games.