The Roughnecks begin their post-season quest on Saturday night and are prepared to give it their all.
By compiling a 12-4 record this season, the Calgary Roughnecks duplicated a club record that they also accomplished back in 2009.
That year, the Roughnecks also reeled off three straight playoff wins – including a 12-10 triumph over the New York Titans in the title game at home – to capture their second National Lacrosse League Champion’s Cup.
“We’ve got a lot of the same core guys again,” said forward Scott Ranger, one of 11 current Roughnecks who were also with the team back in 2009. “We’re a young team and we’re ready to roll again. We’re prepared for the playoffs – just as prepared as we were in ’09.”
The Roughnecks will begin their post-season quest on Saturday night when they host the Edmonton Rush (6-10) at the Scotiabank Saddledome (7 p.m.) in the West Division Semi-Final.
“There’s not a lot of times where opportunities present themselves like this and I think we’re really cognizant of the opportunity ahead of us,” said Calgary captain Andrew McBride, who’s looking to win his third NLL title. “I don’t want to win my third championship for myself. I want to win a championship for the guys that haven’t experienced that.
“I want to be able to look over at and see my teammates celebrating with their families and I think that’s the mentality we have. I think guys are really pulling to win it for the other people and I think that’s going to be a big intangible.”
McBride will once again anchor Calgary’s defensive corps, which includes Mike Kilby and brothers Mike and Scott Carnegie, who were also all part of the 2009 championship team.
“We really like to think of ourselves as a blue-collar bunch of guys,” McBride said. “We don’t need any accolades and every person is a piece of the wheel.”
Also back from the 2009 squad are forwards Jeff Shattler, Dane Dobbie and Kaleb Toth, transition players Nolan Heavenor and Peter McFetridge and back-up goalie Matt King, who was the starter the last time the Riggers won the Champion’s Cup.
“I think we have the killer instinct this year and I think we’re going to do really well out there,” said Shattler, who finished second in team scoring with a career-high 31 goals to go with 41 assists in 16 games.
In his first season with the Roughnecks, Shawn Evans led the team in scoring and matched career highs for goals (32) and points (79) in a season. Evans previously tallied 79 points in the 2009 season while playing for the Rochester Knighthawks, while he had 32 goals last year before being acquired by the Roughnecks in the off-season.
“We have a great team here, a great bunch of guys that stick together, so we’ve just got to be ready and get focused and keep doing what we have to do,” Evans said. “I’m just going to go in there and work hard and try to create great scoring opportunities for my offence. If we can work together, I think everything is going to be successful and things are going to go well for us.”
In one of his first big moves as general manager of the Roughnecks last September, Mike Board pulled off the deal to acquire Evans (along with a first round selection in 2012) from Rochester in exchange for Calgary’s fifth overall pick in the 2011 NLL Entry Draft.
“We knew what we were getting with Shawn Evans and he’s lived up to all the potential that we expected,” said Board, who has been pleased with the play of his team all season long. “It’s a great bunch of guys who are dedicated, who care about the game and care about that logo on the front of their shirt.”
Calgary bench boss Dave Pym was an assistant back in 2009 and he would like nothing more than to relive that excitement of winning another championship.
“It doesn’t matter to me whether I’m an assistant coach, head coach, filling water bottles, doing video or showing people to a seat,” Pym said. “I want it for the guys. It’s a players’ league and these guys have worked so damn hard, that they deserve it. The only thing that matters is a championship for these boys and the city of Calgary.”
Pym took over as head coach in 2010 and guided the Riggers to a 10-6 record before Edmonton, which also went 10-6, beat Calgary 11-7 at the Saddledome in the first round of the playoffs.
“Obviously three years ago them knocking us out from a dream in that first year after I took over as head coach is something that certainly has not been lost on us,” Pym said. “This is an opportunity for redemption.”
Since that disappointing post-season setback to the Rush, Calgary has beaten Edmonton eight straight times over two seasons, including a 9-6 triumph on the road on April 21.
“I think it’s going to be a hard-fought battle,” Shattler said. “I don’t think we’ll know the outcome until the fourth quarter. It’s going to go right down to the wire. They’re a good team.”
McBride said that the Roughnecks have learned a lot since being ousted by Edmonton in the 2010 playoffs and by the Washington Stealth last year in the West Division Final.
“We’re in the situation where we’ve learned a lot from our mistakes,” McBride explained. “We have a young team but we understand the last two years why we haven’t been successful. Throughout this year we’ve made the adjustments. We’ve done a great job at recognizing what we need to be successful and I think you’re going to see a more mature Roughnecks team in the playoffs.”
The excitement will all get started this Saturday night and the Roughnecks hope to have a large contingent of energized fans supporting them at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“The energy that we gain from having a packed house here allows guys to make that extra step, that extra dive, that extra bit of work ethic that maybe wouldn’t be there without that support,” Pym said. “You start running on adrenaline and when adrenaline kicks in because of the crowd getting behind you, it’s a special, special environment to play in.
“I’ve been in this building when it’s been absolutely packed and you can’t even hear yourself talk on the bench because it’s so loud. That’s what we want to see.”