The Edmonton Rush (9-4) and Calgary Roughnecks (4-10) resume the Battle of Alberta on Friday night when they face each other in Calgary. The Rush are trying to lock down first place in the West Division while the Roughnecks are fighting just to make the playoffs.
With only four games left on their schedule, Calgary needs to catch fire to take that last playoff spot from the Vancouver Stealth, who are currently a half game up on the Roughnecks, with a game in hand.
I predicted at the start of March that the Roughnecks would have to go 7-3 in their last 10 games to earn that final postseason berth. Through six of those games they’re only 3-3, which means that they need to win all four games remaining to punch their ticket. The way things are going for the Stealth right now (they’ve lost five straight), it might be easier, but has at least one easily winnable game ahead—a matchup this Sunday against the struggling New England Black Wolves.
The good news for Calgary is that they’ve looked pretty good in their last four games; even in their losses. Following a 12-point night last weekend, Shawn Evans has broken the 100-point barrier once again and is on pace to shatter the single season record in that category. Likewise Curtis Dickson is just one goal shy of 40 for the third straight year. Frankie Scigliano (11.48 goals against average) seems to have settled into the starting role between the pipes. Geoff Snider’s .696 faceoff winning percentage is once again tops in the NLL.
But they badly need to put a stop to Edmonton’s five-game winning streak.
The last time the Rush lost, it was in overtime to the Roughnecks on March 8. Since then they’ve only been giving up 8.6 goals per game while scoring 15.6 goals per game. With that ratio of goals for and against, it would be tough for any team to beat them.
The Rush are currently a game and a half ahead of the Colorado Mammoth for first in the division, so taking both games this weekend would virtually assure them of locking down that top spot.
Mark Matthews has notched 34 points in the last five games and is currently sitting in fifth place in the NLL scoring race. Robert Church and Zack Greer have both reached the 30-goal plateau. Defensively, five of the top 10 in the league for caused turnovers belong to the Rush and goalie Aaron Bold has the lowest goals against average in the NLL, at 9.27.
Taken all in all, Calgary should probably consider themselves lucky if they win one of two this weekend, considering how well Edmonton as been playing in the last month. But the Roughnecks are desperate for wins and they’re the last team to beat the Rush, so anything is possible.
The Battle of Alberta resumes Friday night at 7:30 MT in the Scotiabank Saddledome.