CALGARY, AB -- Despite a heartbreaking Champion’s Cup setback to the Rochester Knighthawks on Saturday, the Calgary Roughnecks believe they have a lot to take away from the season.
The Riggers were two minutes away from capturing their third NLL title in franchise history and, although they fell short of their goal, the team isn’t dwelling on the negatives.
“We started back in December and we grew as a family and we grew as a group,” Roughnecks coach Curt Malawsky said. “I’ve won championships and I’ve lost championships and this one doesn’t sting as bad because of the group of men and how they handled themselves all season long. I can’t be more proud to lead this group of men down the road because they’re special.”
Malawsky declared his pride in the group he led all season.
“Everyone says you’ve got to hold your head high when you lose -- that’s an easy cliché -- I really believe that these men should hold their head high,” he said. “We were two minutes and fourteen seconds away. I can’t be more proud of the Calgary Roughnecks in that room and the organization.
“I’m proud to be a Roughneck and I know these guys are too. It’s going to sting but you know what? We’ll be better for it, these men will be better for it.”
After dropping the second match of a two-game final, Malawsky’s group was clinging to a 2-0 lead over the Knighthawks in a 10-minute mini-game tie breaker. Three goals in the final two minutes gave Rochester their third straight Champion’s Cup crown.
“I’m proud of the guys, I think it was a great season for us,” said Andrew McBride, who came out on the losing end of the NLL championship for the first time in three appearances. “Sorry to the fans that we let down and kudos to Rochester for coming out and being able to get three straight [championships].
“It was a good lacrosse game and that’s what lacrosse is all about – coming down to those final bounces and final two minutes and we just weren’t able to seal the deal on the defensive end.”
Falling short makes it even more difficult in a league where the majority of the players hold other jobs and are required to give up weekends to play the game they love.
“Everyone has other jobs and everyone makes so many commitments from family and coaches,” McBride said. “It’s really tough and it’s not like any other sport in the world in that sense. We’re not full-time guys and we don’t get paid a lot of money – I don’t think the average fan knows that, it’s not a lot – it’s a big sacrifice.
“I’m proud of the guys on this team and we made some friendships that will last forever. We went on this journey together and it’s tough to go in this locker room and look everyone in the eye because you feel like you let guys down.”
Calgary general manager Mike Board echoed McBride’s comments.
“I'm extremely proud of these guys,” Board said. “They bonded as a group and they did everything we asked. I feel bad for them. They put a lot of time and effort and sacrificed a lot for this, and to come up just short, it stings. They're in shock, but they've got to hold their heads high.
“Two teams make it to this point and we lost it in a mini-game. You can't get much closer.”
Malawsky expressed his gratitude for everyone involved.
“I learned a lot from Bobby McMahon and Bruce Codd,” he said. “Bobby McMahon might be one of the wisest lacrosse men I’ve ever been around and Bruce Codd is a great young mind. So I learned a lot from those guys. I learned a lot from Mike Board, the way to manage an organization. I learned a lot from all of our media people and all the people that are here to support us and the Calgary Roughnecks organization -- that’s what I learned from.
“I learned how to be a better person and I learned how to care. I learned how to put my heart more on my sleeve. You surround yourself with good people you have a good team and I think Mike [Board] and the organization have done a great job surrounding themselves. I’m a better person being around these people.”
Like most championship teams, suffering a loss like the one Calgary did in Rochester has the ability to turn hard lessons into making a team even better.
“You’ve got to lose sometimes before you win,” Malawsky said. “It’s a tough pill to swallow but you look down the road of life and we’re going to say ‘you know what? That’s what maybe turned the corner for us’.
“We’re still believing in each other. We’re not turning, we’re still believing and we’re proud to be Roughnecks.”