May 16, 2014

NLL Weekend: Division Champions to be Crowned

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | Stevens Archive

The NLL West champion will be crowned Friday night in Edmonton, while the NLL East champion will emerge Saturday night in Rochester. Here are the matchups:

FRIDAY

NLL WEST - Calgary vs. Edmonton - Calgary up 1-0

Calgary won Game 1 at home 12-11 on a Jeff Shattler goal 46 seconds into overtime last Saturday and a win in Game 2 in Edmonton (10 p.m. ET) would advance the Roughnecks to the Champion's Cup final for the first time since they won the trophy in 2009. Edmonton must win to tie the home-and-home set and force a 10-minute minigame that would decide things under the new playoff format.

Game 1 might have turned out differently had Mark Matthews not had his attempted goal disallowed upon video review early in OT because he landed in the crease before the ball crossed the goal line.

''It was a game that could have gone either way and we're looking forward to getting back home in front of our fans and pushing this to a minigame,'' said Rush assistant coach Jeff McComb.

The Roughnecks expect a strong pushback.

''We realize we have to be a lot better this week if we want the same result,'' head coach Curt Malawsky said during the league's weekly conference call.

His players want to win the series in the 60-minute game.

''We're not focused on a 10-minute minigame,'' says captain Andrew McBride. ''Our goal and focus is on the first game. If it comes down to (a minigame) we'll worry about that when we get to it. We're focused on the first game and that's where all our attention is.''

The Rush have set aside everything about Game 1, including the too-many-men penalty that led to the tying goal by Curtis Dickson on a Calgary penalty shot with 22 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the no-goal ruling on Matthews. It's all about preparing for the next game now, said McComb.

''At the time, you probably question it a little bit,'' said McComb, but ''there were things we could have done as a group to avoid being there. We've got to move on and get ready to play this game. At the end of the day, I don't think it's one all either way that changes the outcome of the game. We have to put that behind us and be prepared to play in our home rink on Friday night in front of our fans and be better than we were last game.''

Edmonton won the first three times these teams met during the regular season but lost the schedule closer and the playoff game last Saturday. That's two OT losses in a row to Calgary.

''Last game was tough but I thought we played a pretty good game,''said Rush defenseman Brett Mydske. ''Both teams played well. We were fortunate enough to get the higher seed and host the do-or-die game and I kind of think everyone wants to play a do-or-die game in front of their home crowd.''

The Roughnecks have been one of the NLL's hottest teams the last two months. They intend to win Game 2 and rule out the necessity of a minigame.

''If it gets to that, it's going to be important who gets the first couple of goals,'' said Malawsky. ''That could put the other team on their heels. But our focus is 100 per cent on that first game. We're coming out and going hard for 60. We want to earn it in true time.''

That said, he'd never underestimate the team that was first overall, 16-2, during the regular season.

''We're preparing to play the best team in the NLL,'' said Malawsky.

SATURDAY

NLL EAST - Buffalo vs. Rochester - Buffalo up 1-0

Buffalo won Game 1 at home 12-8. John Tavares and Mark Steenhuis scored four goals each.

''They came out with good jump in the fourth quarter that we weren't able to match and they ran away with it,'' said Rochester coach Mike Hasen. ''They were real good. They did a lot of things we weren't able to match. We have to be better . . . we just know we've got to be a heck of a lot better than we were last week.''

Rochester lost only one of its eight regular-season home games but must avoid a fourth-quarter collapse like the one they experienced in Buffalo if they want to keep playing.

''We need to be a lot better from start to finish to get ourselves the opportunity to win on Saturday night,'' said Knighthawks defenseman Scott Self.

The Bandits know what to expect.

''They tend to get the crowd behind them and get things going for themselves early so we've just got to be wary of the fact that they're going to come out ready to play,'' says assistant coach Dan Teat.

Forcing a minigame following the 7:30 p.m. ET game is a must if the Knighthawks want to retain hope of a title threepeat.

''It's going to be really intense,'' said Self. '''It's going to be exciting from a fan's perspective. Ten minutes of do-or-die lacrosse. It's going to be interesting.''

The goaltending match, Rochester's Matt Vinc versus Buffalo's Anthony Cosmo, will be something to see. Rochester outshot Buffalo 44-42 in Game 1.

''Both teams know each other extremely well,'' said Teat. ''There are no hidden secrets on what they're going to try and do or what we're going to try and do at either end of the floor. It's going to come down to who can execute their game plan better, especially late in the game.''

Teat was asked if Buffalo's coaching staff, should the team be too far behind on the scoreboard to win Game 2, opt to rest some key players in the fourth quarter so they'd be primed for the minigame.

''The problem with resting some guys is you're putting a lot of stress on guys you're not resting,'' he responded. ''You don't want to gas those guys out going into a minigame. You want to have guys as equally fresh as you can. I think you treat (the minigame) like you're playing an extra 10 minutes without taking your foot off the gas to rest guys. If you want to try and reinvent the wheel between the game and a 10-minute overtime, you're asking for more anguish than as if you're playing a regular game.''

Buffalo last advanced to the final in 2008 when it won the Champion's Cup.


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