After playing their first three games on the road, the Edmonton Rush will finally play their first home game at Rexall Place.
The Rush will host Alberta rival, the Calgary Roughnecks, on Friday before heading down the Queen Elizabeth II Highway to play at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Saturday.
It doesn’t matter if it is the Oilers and the Flames in the National Hockey League, the Eskimos and the Stampeders in the Canadian Football League, or the Rush and the Roughnecks in the National Lacrosse League; the battle of Alberta is huge in any sport for the teams playing and their respective fans.
“It is like any other sport, the Calgary-Edmonton rivalry is big and it’s bitter,” said Edmonton head coach Derek Keenan. “I’m sure it is going to be some great lacrosse games.”
Calgary (2-2) has lost two games in a row and with three of their next four games against their in-province rival, head coach Dave Pym said he knows how important it is to get some solid wins over the Rush.
“This is going to be a fairly determining point in our season on where we could end up in the standings,” Pym said. “We have to be focused and ready, because really everything is out the window when it comes to the battle of Alberta.”
Even with it being Edmonton’s home opener, a win isn’t necessarily guaranteed against Calgary, as the Roughnecks are looking to get back in the win column after a poor defensive showing in a 19-14 loss to Washington last Saturday.
“We need to bring it against them, because even with all of the changes that they have made, they are a very skilled and athletic team upfront and the same on the backend,” Keenan said. “Right now, we are not particularly playing very well so we have to bring it on Friday night.”
The Rush have scored 22 goals this season, the lowest of any team in the league. Edmonton will need to be more successful in getting the ball into the back of the net in order to catch up with the Calgary offense that has averaged 11 goals per game in their four contests this year.
Edmonton struggled to get inside shots two weeks ago against Boston, but they improved that last weekend versus Minnesota. However, even though they were taking more inside shots against the Swarm, the team’s shot selection was suspect at times. Keenan said he wants to see better shot selection from his players in the two games against Calgary this weekend.
“We did penetrate [inside] against Minnesota, but our shot selection was poor,” Keenan said. “We are putting the ball on the net 84 percent of the time, which is a good number, but our scoring percentage is only 13, that is a bad number. We need to shoot the ball better; it is as simple as that.”
Even though the Roughnecks lost last week to the Stealth, Pym said he was happy with his team’s offense against Washington and is looking for the same production this week.
“We scored pretty well every which way you could in the game of lacrosse,” Pym said. “We got some five-on-fives, we got some transitions, we got some short man, and we got some power plays. We had struggled obviously in the game before in putting the ball in the net, and we were pleased that we finally put up some numbers that we would like to do consistently. With that said, we can still be a heck of a lot better and we will have to be a lot better against the Rush.”
Friday’s game in Edmonton will begin at 9 p.m. EST while Saturday’s game in Calgary will start at 9:30 p.m. EST.
The Rush and the Roughnecks will play two more times this season after this weekend’s home-and-home series, Jan. 29 in Calgary and Feb. 20 in Edmonton.
Live video of both games will be available on the NLL Network at NLL.com.
Here is a look at the other five games in week four of the National Lacrosse League season.
Talk about a heartbreak weekend for the Boston Blazers.
After completing a three goal comeback to force overtime on Friday against Toronto and then giving up a late fourth quarter goal on Saturday against Rochester, the Blazers would lose both games in the extra frame, dropping their record to 2-2 overall and to fourth place in the Eastern Division.
“We felt that we competed in both games,” said Boston head coach Matt Sawyer. “We felt as a staff and as a team, we played better in those two games then we did in the two previous ones. We just didn’t get the results.”
The Wings (1-2) won their first game of the season last weekend in a thrilling 11-10 victory in Colorado in which they erased a four goal halftime deficit and held the Mammoth to just three goals in the second half.
“I’m very proud of our team and the way we responded, especially being down by a significant margin at halftime,” said Philadelphia head coach John Tucker. “We have a tremendous amount of character in our locker room. We changed the pace a little bit and started to get on a little bit of a roll. Hopefully we can keep that going in Boston in what will be a tough task for us.”
Philadelphia and Boston will both play on Saturday as well with the Wings hosting a rematch with Colorado while the Blazers will play at Rochester. Game time for Friday’s contest from the TD Garden in Boston is set for 7:30 p.m. EST.
Washington Stealth at Minnesota Swarm – Saturday Jan. 29, 8:30 p.m. EST
For the second straight week, the Washington Stealth will have the chance to revenge an early season loss.
The Stealth (2-2) will head to Minnesota to take on the Swarm in a game to decide first place in the Western Division.
Minnesota (2-1) has won two games in a row and is currently atop the division in the standings, a place many people thought they wouldn’t touch this season.
The Swarm has received a scoring boost from Ryan Benesch’s 10 goals this season and Callum Crawford’s and Mat Giles’ six red lighters. Minnesota has also had great goaltending with Nick Patterson making over 45 saves in the last two contests.
Washington and Minnesota met in week two with the Swarm beating the Stealth 16-8 at Comcast Arena in Everett, Wash.
The Stealth have certainly not forgotten that beat down and are looking for a similar result in the Swarm’s home building this time around.
“It is still pretty fresh in our memory,” said Washington head coach Chris Hall of the Jan. 14 game. “Getting beat by eight goals at home is unacceptable. Getting beat by eight goals anytime is unacceptable. It is the second game of a three game series against Minnesota so if we lose it, we lose the series and the tiebreaker.”
Faceoff for Saturday’s game is at 8:30 p.m. EST from the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.
Buffalo Bandits at Toronto Rock – Saturday Jan. 28, 7 p.m. EST
Even though the Toronto Rock split their two games last weekend, they are still on top of the Eastern Division standings and can get redemption for that one loss on Saturday.
The Buffalo Bandits defeated Toronto last week 15-14 in overtime in Buffalo. Now it is the Rock’s turn to get a win over a division rival at the Air Canada Centre.
Toronto (3-1) general manager and assistant coach Terry Sanderson said his squad didn’t respect nor had the mental focus needed against Buffalo last week.
“We are happy that we get a chance at redemption with the Bandits coming in,” Sanderson said. “Hopefully we can hold them in the view of giving them some more respect then what we showed them on Saturday. We were sugarcoating to think that we were in that game. [Buffalo head coach] Darris [Kilgour] and his boys taught us a valuable lesson about respecting opponents and competing and being ready to play. It could go for any team in this league but especially for Buffalo.”
The Bandits (2-1) will look to continue their climb in the standings as a win in Toronto and a poor showing by Rochester against Boston would put them in first place in the Eastern Division.
Saturday’s game will be available on TSN 2 for Canadian viewers and on the NLL Network at NLL.com in the United States (blackout in Canada).
Colorado Mammoth at Philadelphia Wings – Saturday Jan. 29, 7 p.m. EST
In a weekend that seems full of redemption stories, the Colorado Mammoth will have their chance as well in getting revenge and returning their record to .500.
Colorado (1-2) had a four goal lead at halftime in last Saturday’s home game against the Philadelphia Wings (1-2), but they could only score three times in the second half (all in the fourth quarter) as they watched the Wings comeback for their first victory of the season.
“It was a tale of two games,” said Colorado assistant coach Ed Comeau. “I thought we played very well and controlled the game in the first half and then I thought Philly did the same to us in the second half. I think we did some things very well, but we know in this league when you have a lead and you are playing at home, you have to find a way some how to get the job done and get a win. It was a disappointing loss, but we certainly learned some lessons and we are ready to go this weekend in Philly.”
Philadelphia will be playing the night before in Boston and Wings head coach John Tucker said it won’t be easy playing on back-to-back nights, especially against two tough opponents looking to bounce back in the standings.
“It is going to be a tough task for us to play back-to-back against a team that we played in an evenly matched game,” Tucker said of the Mammoth. “They’ll be back looking for revenge and they have a great coaching staff and I’m sure they’ll make some adjustments. Well have to be a little sharper from our end and clean some things up as well if we want to have success against a good Colorado team.”
Colorado won their first game last season at the Wells Fargo Center and will be looking for their second win this year in the same building.
Boston Blazers at Rochester Knighthawks – Saturday Jan. 29, 9:30 p.m. EST
Two wins for the Rochester Knighthawks this season, two wins in overtime.
If there is one thing Rochester (2-1) has been good at in the early season, it’s getting to and winning in the extra stanza. They proved that last week when Cody Jamieson scored with six seconds left to tie the game at 10 and Shawn Evans scored 48 seconds into overtime to deliver Rochester the win and Boston’s second straight overtime loss.
After losing two games last weekend, the Blazers (2-2) will have the chance to bounce back and win two games this week as they’ll play Philadelphia on Friday before playing in Rochester on Saturday.
While playing back-to-back two game weekends may fatigue a team, Boston head coach Matt Sawyer said he thinks these contests are a great chance for his team bond to and build chemistry.
“If anything, we feel that we should be stronger at the back half of the back-to-back weekends,” Sawyer said. “We don’t get an opportunity to get together a lot so the more games we are playing right now, the better for us.”
A win for Rochester would give the Knighthawks the season series victory. A Boston road win would make for an interesting week 14 game against the Knighthawks as the final seeding in the East will likely be on the line.
All seven week four National Lacrosse League games will be broadcast live on the NLL Network at NLL.com. Some blackouts may apply.