He’s the epitome of what the Calgary Roughnecks wanted to become.Younger. Faster. More athletic.
And Karsen Leung has given Riggers head coach Curt Malawsky all that and more from start to finish during his rookie National Lacrosse League season.“It’s not always him putting the ball in the net, but he drags a lot of the opposing offensive guys up and down the floor, which bites a lot of their minutes off, and it just helps our offence-attack guys that are a little bit fatigued back on defence, or even when they came back to play offence, they’re a little bit tired,” Malawsky said of the versatile 24-year-old on whom the Roughnecks used the 10th overall pick in the 2013 NLL Draft.
“He’s very good at shutting down the transition the other way.“He’s just not a one-trick pony, and he’s going to be a force in the NLL.”
This season’s numbers — 11 goals, 18 assists and 93 loose balls, which put him second on the team to Geoff Snider’s 209 loose balls — are modest.But Leung, who has suited up for every single Roughnecks game this season, has shown glimpses of being able to do it all.
A scorer with the Western Lacrosse Association’s Victoria Shamrocks, Leung has been focusing on 180 feet of solid play during his freshman NLL campaign.“My goal was just to make the team, first off, and, obviously, help the team out in any way possible,” Leung said. “I really didn’t have any expectations regarding points, I just wanted to go on the floor every shift and play my best so that we had a chance to win.
“I feel my game is a lot stronger than it was at the beginning of the season, and I feel a lot more confident and comfortable playing with my teammates on defence and, as well, pushing the ball up the floor in transition. As the season goes on and you kind of find your role with the team, it gets easier.”
Now, with just 18 regular-season games and five playoff contests to his credit, Leung is in position to add an NLL title to his resume.“I really couldn’t ask for more,” Leung said. “It’s, obviously, a huge blessing to play in the finals in your first year and have a chance to win a championship.
“Winning a championship, it stays with you for life. Hopefully, we can do it Saturday.”The two-time defending NLL champion Rochester Knighthawks are standing in the way, and despite the Roughnecks holding a one-game lead thanks to a 10-7 win last Saturday at the Saddledome, going on the road and getting it done in Game 2, or in a potential 10-minute mini-game showdown, is as tough as it gets.
“It’s a do-or-die situation, and both teams want to win,” Leung said. “I feel our will to win has been incredible this year, and, hopefully, going into the last game, we can out-will Rochester.
”While Leung has shown the ability to get out in transition and create chances on the offensive end, the focus has been squarely on his own end during the Champion’s Cup.
You won’t catch Leung cheating and leaving his teammates high and dry against the savvy Knighthawks.“It starts with our defence,” Leung added. “We need to shut them down for 30 seconds at a time and make sure we get our stops before we do anything crazy. For me, it’s taking a more cautious approach because they do have a lot of weapons. It’s important to play honest defence and not to cheat — and the opportunities in transition will come.”