Cracks in the armour

TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:35 PM ET

After a terrible start to the 2005 season, Calgary Roughnecks goalie Curtis Palidwor can take solace in the fact history is on his side from here on out. Every since he arrived in the Stampede City two years ago, the New Westminster, B.C. product has made a habit of saving his best for last, as in stepping it up in the second half of the season.

"I always tell people you don't want to play your best three games of the year in your first three games of the year," said Palidwor.

"Every game in this league is important and you always want to play well but I'd rather peak in the second half of the season."

Last year, Palidwor backstopped the Roughnecks to the playoffs and an eventual Champion's Cup victory. He peaked in the post-season, making 142 saves in three playoff games and was named the championship game MVP after making 43 saves in a 14-11 win over the Buffalo Bandits at the 'Dome.

So far this season over the first eight games, Palidwor has struggled, posting an inflated GAA of 14.12, ninth out of the 12 goalies who've seen action this year in the NLL.

To be fair, some of the blame for that number rests with an inconsistent Riggers' defence that has been plagued by injuries.

Overall, though, there's no arguing Palidwor's play has been sub par compared to past performance, agreed Calgary head coach Chris Hall .

"We do need better goaltending than we've been getting, there's no doubt about that," said Hall. "We haven't played the greatest defence in front of him -- that has to improve as well. But we definitely need better from Curtis."

Hall knows if his team has any chance of repeating as NLL champions, he'll need better play from his

No. 1 netminder.

"Curtis had a great second half of the year last year and a great championship run, so I'm looking for Curtis to sort of get in his groove now," said Hall. "Our schedule is incredibly difficult from here on out and I expect Curtis to step up and play the way we know Curtis is capable of playing."

Palidwor admits he's looking at the final eight games of the season as a chance for redemption, starting with today's matinee against the Colorado Mammoth at the Pepsi Center in Denver (noon, Ch. 30 tape delay, 1:30 p.m.) On a side note, Colorado netminder Gee Nash has a GAA of 10.66, tops in the league.

Last season was a banner year for Palidwor. In his fourth season in the league, he finished the regular season with a GAA of 11.40 and a save percentage of .770, third-best in the league.

It was generally accepted Palidwor had finally proven himself as one of the top 'tenders in the league, which has made his struggles this year particularly tough for him to stomach, he said.

"I was disappointed and frustrated in the first half," said Palidwor. "I just wasn't playing my game. I talked to a few people, including (Roughnecks captain) Tracey (Kelusky) quite a bit, and just tried to figure out what I was doing wrong and what I can do better for the second half of the season."

In a nutshell, Palidwor said he wasn't stepping out to challenge shooters quick enough and wasn't squaring up to the ball. As well, he was worrying too much about what was going on around him and not focusing on just making the save.

"I think I have a pretty good grasp on what I was doing wrong from talking to people and watching lots of film," said Palidwor. "I'm feeling confident."

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QUICK STICKS: The NLL trade deadline is March 24 and Calgary head coach Chris Hall said there are no plans to deal at this point but that might change.

"The next three games -- against Colorado and back-to-back vs. San Jose (next weekend) -- we obviously have to take a look and say 'Do we have the right combination to take us through to another championship,' " said Hall. "These are three critical games for us to measure where we are and what we have."


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