Riggers goalie focused

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:11 PM ET

Mike Poulin knows the matchups and sees it all evening out in front of him.

That’s where he comes in.

The Calgary Roughnecks and Edmonton Rush both have offensive weapons and both National Lacrosse League clubs have punishers on defence.

There are exceptional athletes running the floor on either side in Jeff Shattler for the Riggers and Brodie Merrill for the Rush.

So it comes down to goaltending in the first-round playoff matchup Saturday at the Saddledome (1 p.m.), and Poulin knows he will have to be better than his counterpart Matt Disher.

When it comes to playoff experience, Disher has the decided edge.

Poulin is making his first career NLL playoff start. Disher went to the Champion’s Cup final a couple years ago with the Portland LumberJax.

They won’t get close to each other on the floor, but this is the battle to watch.

“Every night I want to be better than the guy 200 feet down from me,” said Poulin, who took over as the Riggers official No. 1 in the final week of the regular season.

“It’s a heck of a challenge on Saturday because Matt is a heck of a goalie and he’s had a great career. He’s had some big playoff wins.

“I know I need my best game in order to outplay Matt. I’m up for it. I’m really excited for the opportunity given to me.

“As well as I have to play, I know this game will come down to hard work. There’s good matchups both ways. We have a ton of talent and so do they. I know it will be whoever works harder.”

It could be just a coincidence, but the Riggers season turned around when Poulin joined the team after four games.

The defending champions were off to a 1-3 start — right after a loss to the Rush in Edmonton — when goalie Chris Levis was shipped off to Colorado for a draft pick and another draft pick was sent to Boston for Poulin.

Starting netminder Matt King continued to play the role of main man, but Poulin was there for relief.

Since Poulin joined the team, the Riggers are 9-3.

The goalie from Waterloo, Ont., has picked up three straight wins, including beating the Rush nearly three weeks ago on the road.

Poulin, whose previous teams in the NLL include Boston, Toronto and Buffalo, felt at home in Calgary almost immediately, and that’s what made the team success so satisfying, even if he wasn’t on the floor the entire time.

“They welcomed me right away,” Poulin said. “I have a loose personality in terms of having fun, but I like being serious when it comes to game time.

“I’ve been welcomed and had a lot of fun with the guys. So far, we’ve had some success since the trade and that made things easier.

“When I got here, Matt played great. We got a lot of wins after that … That makes it easier when the team is doing well.”

Although Disher has had success in the past, there were some notable struggles this season for the 33-year-old.

Before going the distance in the final two games, Disher was yanked in four of five starts.

His goals-against average in April alone was 15.44 and he only has one win in five starts.

But it only takes getting hot for a day to advance in the NLL post-season.

The toughest thing is to rebound from a bad start when it looks like you just don’t have it that day.

The 24-year-old Poulin feels he can do it.

“There are times when you have a bad day,” Poulin said.

“In any game, and especially Saturday, you have remember that 20 other guys are counting on you.

“You need to remember that you fought all year with these teammates.

“The last thing you want to do is let anybody down.”

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca


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