EDMONTON - The Edmonton Rush hold the advantage in the NLL’s Battle of Alberta when it comes to playoffs, winning the ones that mattered most over the Calgary Roughnecks in 2010 and 2012.
The problem is, those two post-season victories are the slices of bread in an otherwise loser sandwich stacked eight games high.
Edmonton is 0-8 in regular-season meetings with the Roughnecks over the last two years, and haven’t beaten them in league play since a 14-11 outcome early in 2010.
Worse still, Calgary has won 13 of their last 15 regular-season matchups and hold a dominant 20-4 all-time record over Edmonton outside of playoffs.
“We need to learn how to beat these guys in the regular season,” said head coach Derek Keenan, whose club eliminated Calgary in the 2010 West semifinal and are coming off a 19-11 West division title victory in their last meeting. “The bottom line is, we’re 0-8 in the regular season in the last two years, so we need to fix that if we ever really want to be taken seriously in our league and in our division.
“And we need to play better, obviously, than last week to get that done.”
The Rush are still searching for their first home victory of the season and are coming off a 12-10 loss to the visiting Washington Stealth last Friday.
“We need to start earning the respect of the fans of Edmonton and show them that we can compete in their market,” said Rush defender Chris Corbeil. “Everyone’s aware it’s the Battle of Alberta and it’s quite a rivalry between us. They’ve had the upper hand for the past couple years.
“It’s frustrating as players. Yeah, we got a playoff win against them last year but I think we know what we’re capable of.”
The Roughnecks proved their capability by bouncing back from an 0-2 record out of the gates with a pair of impressive wins on the road last weekend. They now come into Edmonton boasting league-leading scorer Shawn Evans, who has 13 goals and 18 assists.
“Our character came into question after the first two games and guys took that personally,” said new Roughnecks head coach Curt Malawsky. “But we came together as a team and obviously we’re better now than we were two weeks back.”
Second-place Calgary is half a game up on the Rush, who are in a three-way tie for third place in the West Division with the Minnesota Swarm and Colorado Mammoth.
CUP FOR GRABS: Adding more fuel to the fire of the provincial rivalry this year is the presentation of something called the Homes by Avi Battle of Alberta Lacrosse Cup. Mouthful of a title aside, the cup will be given to the winner of the four-game season series, along with a cash donation to the Kidsport charity in the winning city on April 20.
In the event of a tie, the winner will be decided by goals for and against.
RUSH GAME ON
Calgary Roughnecks (2-2) at Edmonton Rush (1-2)
Rexall Place, 7 p.m. MT
Game broadcast: Sportsnet ONE
EDM — The Rush split back-to-back weekends with the Washington Stealth, ending with a 12-10 loss last Friday, and are preparing for a two-game series against the Calgary Roughnecks over the next two weekends. Saturday marks the first of four meetings this season between the provincial rivals.
CAL — The Roughnecks have turned a corner on an 0-2 start to the season with a pair of victories on the road against the Colorado Mammoth, 19-12, and the Philadelphia Wings, 16-8, last weekend. They are looking to make it 3-0 on the road Saturday at Rexall Place, before turning around and hosting the Rush a week later at the Saddledome.
WHO TO WATCH:
EDM — Mark Matthews, F
The first-overall draft pick was named the NLL’s rookie of the month for January after leading all rookies with eight goals an 19 points to sit tied for seventh overall in league scoring after three games. The thing is, anyone with more points than him has played one or two more games than Edmonton has so far.
CAL — Shawn Evans, F
Thirteen goals and 31 points in Calgary’s first four games made Evans the NLL player of the month for January, thanks in no small part to a single-game-high four goals and 13 points last weekend in Colorado.
Kids under 13 get into Saturday’s game free with an adult ticket … NLL teams are averaging 12.2 points a game in 2013, while Edmonton has 37 in three games for a 12.3 average thanks to an 18-goal outing against the Washington Stealth in Week 2 … After defeating the Rush in last year’s Champions Cup, the Rochester Knighthawks are 0-3 on the season, looking for their first victory at home against the West Division-leading Washington Stealth Saturday … Having played just three games so far, the Rush have scored the fewest goals in the league (37) and have allowed the fewest goals (32) … Both Edmonton and Calgary are 1-1 against division opponents on the year … The Rush are trailing opponents in loose-ball collection (191-179) .… Roughnecks F Shawn Evans is second in the NLL with six power-play goals … Backup Rush G Brodie MacDonald was given the loss in last week’s relief effort … Rush D and reigning NLL defensive player of the year Kyle Rubisch is tied for the league lead in penalty minutes (26) with Stealth D Matt Beers, whom he got in a fight with last week before his game ejection.