The Roughnecks look to erase the sting from last season's early playoff exit.
The Calgary Roughnecks want nothing more than to turn a negative into a positive this season.
When they last took the floor at the Scotiabank Saddledome on May 5, the Roughnecks suffered a disappointing 19-11 loss to the Edmonton Rush in the first round of the 2012 National Lacrosse League playoffs.
“I know myself and a lot of other guys have a really bad taste in our mouths from last year,” said forward Jeff Shattler, one of 19 returning players from last year’s team that compiled a 12-4 record in the regular season. “We’re really going to battle and try to prove ourselves to our fans and the league and ourselves.”
Following the setback to the 6-10 Rush, General Manager Mike Board didn’t renew the contract of coach Dave Pym and instead promoted assistant coach Curt Malawsky to take over at the helm of the Roughnecks.
Following an intense training camp, Malawsky said his players are more motivated than ever to have a strong regular season in order to build towards taking a run at winning an NLL championship.
“They’re hungry,” Malawsky said. “I don’t think a day goes by that those guys don’t remember Edmonton coming in and putting the boots to us. They didn’t just beat us by a goal. They embarrassed us in our own rink, so I think we’ve got a lot of motivation this year.”
The best way for the Riggers to put the setback to the Rush behind them is to have a solid effort against the Toronto Rock this Saturday (7 p.m.) during Calgary’s home opener at the ’Dome.
“I can’t wait to get back on the floor against Toronto,” Shattler said. “Against Toronto, we’re going to pretend that they’re Edmonton. I know the last time we stepped on the floor a lot of guys were disappointed in our play. We really didn’t step up to our potential.”
Perhaps Calgary captain Andrew McBride took the loss to Edmonton harder than anyone else.
“As an athlete, that loss to Edmonton was probably my worst game as a professional athlete,” McBride said. “It was such a disappointing end to a great season. I think our core group of guys understands that we don’t have a lot of time and the window gets smaller and smaller. We talk about it every practice and we talk about it before games and it’s definitely going to be in the forefront of preparation this year, because we’ve got to get the job done here. We’ve got all the pieces in place here. It’s about getting over the hump and doing that.”
Despite being upset by the Rush, Board decided to keep the core of the Roughnecks intact.
“Obviously it was disappointing in the playoffs last year, but we had a really good regular season,” Board said. “We didn’t deliver in the playoffs but we still liked the group we had. So really what we did is we went out and got younger and we think we got some players that will be here for a long time.”
One of those players is forward Joe Resetarits, who the Roughnecks took in the first round of the 2012 NLL Entry Draft with the sixth pick overall.
“He’ll have a seamless transition to our offence, because he doesn’t need to carry it,” explained Malawsky. “We want to get Joey involved. When he gets his feet wet a little bit more, we expect big things out of him. I think he’s a goal-a-game guy in this league.”
In the same draft, the Riggers also took transition player Matthew Dinsdale seventh overall in the first round and forward Jackson Decker 17th overall in the second round. Both players made Calgary’s 23-man roster out of training camp.
The only other new additions to Calgary’s roster are forward Aaron Pascas, who the ’Necks acquired from the Toronto Rock in exchange for a draft pick, and defenceman Brad Richardson, who signed as a free agent.
“Pascas is a gritty guy that plays up front that’s going to get us multiple possessions which are big,” Malawsky said. “A guy like Richardson, he gives us some sandpaper. We thought it was a little easy to play against us, especially at home. The middle of our floor, guys were walking through all the time and not paying the price and not being accountable for it. Put a guy like Brad in there and hopefully some bodies hit the turf.”
Back from last season at forward are Shattler, Shawn Evans, Curtis Dickson, Daryl Veltman, Dane Dobbie and Scott Ranger. Dobbie will miss the first game of the season as a result of a game misconduct penalty he took during Calgary’s playoff loss to Edmonton.
Joining McBride on defence for another season are Dan MacRae as well as the brother combinations of Mike and Scott Carnegie and Greg and Jon Harnett.
At the transition position, Geoff Snider, Curtis Manning, Travis Cornwall, Nolan Heavenor and Peter McFetridge are all back for the 2013 campaign.
Mike Poulin will once again be the starter in between the pipes, while Frankie Scigliano will be counted upon to be a reliable back-up goalie.
“The confidence is high; I am very optimistic about the season,” Poulin said. “We’ve got a very similar squad coming back that won 12 games last year so we know what we can do. Now it’s just a matter of putting it all together at the right time.”
Heading into the 2013 season, Board is optimistic that the Roughnecks can do what it takes in the regular season to put themselves in a position to ultimately win a championship.
“We expect to be a fast, athletic team that’s going to run the ball a lot,” Board said. “We are going to play hard defence. We want to be better in our own building and we want this to be a hard place to play. We have a lot of stuff we want to achieve throughout the season so that we are ready for that playoff run that we didn’t have last year.”