The last time the Toronto Rock and Calgary Roughnecks played each other doesn’t matter. Who cares that the Rock held onto a 13-11 win in the home opener at the Scotiabank Saddledome. That was an eternity ago in lacrosse terms.
Calgary was unfocused on their home floor, allowing too many balls to hit the floor and too many transition opportunities. That’s been all cleaned up. They are now on the four game winning streak, and are the top team in the West Division.
Toronto rightfully pounced on those mistakes and became one of the most consistent teams in the league, winners of five out of seven and tops in the East Division.
Two different teams will be taking the floor on Friday night at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
“We made errors early in the season,” said Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky. “Not systematic stuff but situational stuff. So we made the error once and made the corrections on it and the guys are familiar with it.”
The stakes are high this time around. With a win, the Roughnecks will be first in the NLL and even out the season series and potential tie-breaker with the Rock.
“I’m sure that we’ll see some new stuff and some stuff that we’ve seen before,” opined Geoff Snider, the league leader in faceoff percentage. “They are a team that if you make mistakes, you could be in a lot of trouble.”
The rivalry runs deep between the two squads, with the coaches running similar systems. Rock head coach Troy Cordingley brought with him to Toronto the high-pressure defence that he originally perfected in Calgary. The Roughnecks still use that style.
“We are aware that they know our defence inside and out so we are going to have to make some systematic changes and tweaks along the way to keep them guessing,” Malawsky commented. “It is a sixty-minute game and it goes quick and it’s the game within a game that we have to play. It’s the team that makes the adjustments throughout the game that is going to be successful.”
The Roughnecks head into the game as the hottest team in the NLL, winners of four straight while outscoring opponents 62-43 in that span. They are also at the top of the NLL with goals per game, averaging a tad under 14 goals a game.
However, the Rock have used their pressure defence to perfection this year, with former Calgary goaltender Nick Rose leading the circuit in wins and saves, while second in GAA.
“We love playing Toronto as much as they love playing us,” Malawsky said. “It’s going to be a battle. It’s a good litmus test for our guys to see how we stack up against the top team in the NLL.
“We’ve improved from the start of the year, cleaned up a few things that cost us in games at the start of the season and I like where we sit right now.”
Game time is 5:30 p.m. MT and fans can watch live on TSN 2.