‘Necks stronger than expected
by Bryce Forbes
From nearly missing the playoffs to eyeing the Champions Cup in the course of one season. That’s the path the Calgary Roughnecks are currently on this National Lacrosse League year.
Some experts questioned the Riggers’ ability to compete following an off-season with an exodus of veteran players. Others debated how far they could keep moving on with the team’s financial burdens over their heads.
But they keep pushing through opponents left and right — six in a row to be exact at press time.
Currently tops in the NLL at a 10-3 record, the Roughnecks will start the NLL playoffs at the end of April with home field advantage for the first two rounds guaranteed. They also own tie-breakers over all of the East Division teams, should it come down to that.
“Our goal this year was to clinch and get the home playoff game,” says Kaleb Toth, who has been with the Roughnecks since the team’s inception. “Now we are in a situation for us to get first overall in the league and possibly host a championship again.”
It could be for an important money-maker for owner Brad Banister, who is looking to sell the team, but hasn’t had any official takers so far this year. After failing to make payroll for two games earlier this year, the extra two or three games of revenue could help the cash-strapped Roughnecks.
“That would be great for our ownership group,” said Toth.
What makes the Roughnecks a top contender in the league? Look no further than their battle with the Toronto Rock at the end of March, a 14-9 Roughnecks win. Facing the then-top team in the NLL, a team they lost a heartbreaker to in February, the game wasn’t even close.
The Roughnecks dominated every facet of the game, including offence , which was expected to struggle this year.
“The whole offensive set has developed strong chemistry over the last five games,” said Roughnecks head coach Dave Pym after the game. “They are getting much more familiar with each other and are understanding the principles we want them to play with.”
With the strong play of Jeff Shattler, Dane Dobbie, Scott Ranger, rookie Curtis Dickson and Toth, the Roughnecks are the only team with five players with 45 plus points. And while the team is quick to not get ahead of themselves, there is little question who is the hottest team in the NLL nearing the end of the season.
“I don’t know if we are the number one team in the NLL, but we beat a very good lacrosse team tonight,” said Pym.