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Five-minute intervals have Roughnecks a win away from National Lacrosse League final

Jesse King Calgary Roughnecks Jesse King - The Canadian Press

You can set your watch to the Calgary Roughnecks' playstyle. In fact, they do.

Captain Jesse King and his teammates break every National Lacrosse League game into five-minute sections and focus on winning each one. That strategy has taken them to a do-or-die Game 3 against the Colorado Mammoth on Saturday in the best-of-three Western Conference final.

"We always say 'win the next five minutes.' Whenever there's a new five-minute increment, we try and win those five minutes," said King, who leads Calgary with 16 points this post-season. "You break that game down into those increments and make things a little bit less stressful and a little bit easier to focus on."

Forward Tyler Pace, who is second on the Roughnecks with 15 points, agrees with his captain.

"You can only score one goal at a time, you can only get one stop at a time, so just focus on that next shift," said Pace. "The five-minute increments allow us to stay calm on the bench and understand that this is a long game, and we have to remain focused on the task at hand.

"It's not always the end result, it's more about the things that get you there."

Calgary beat Panther City 12-9 in a single-elimination game in the first round of the NLL playoffs on May 6. Colorado took the first game of the best-of-three Western Conference final 8-7 on May 11 and the Roughnecks answered back 13-12 on May 13.

Pace said the division-rival Mammoth have become something of a measuring stick for Calgary over the course of the season.

"They've got a never-die attitude, you know? They've been down in both games late in the game and have managed to claw their way back and show that resiliency, similarly to what we've done all year long," said Pace. "So the matchup, from the intangibles to the game plan to the lineups, it's just so similar.

"It's almost like looking at our reflection, to be honest."

Saturday's winner will go on to face the Buffalo Bandits in the best-of-three NLL final. Buffalo dispatched the Toronto Rock in back-to-back games last weekend in the Eastern Conference final.

"We're a team that prides ourselves on how hard we work," said King on what it will take for Calgary to advance. "We know that when we're working our hardest, that there's nobody that can play with us.

"I think that that's been proven throughout the entire season."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 19, 2023.