This is the game everyone has had circled on their calendars for a while now.
It’s the biggest game of the Roughnecks regular season.
The Roughnecks head into Vancouver for a date with the Stealth Saturday (7 p.m., NLLTV.com) that will play a large role in determining which team advances to the NLL Playoffs.
A veteran of seven seasons in the NLL, all with the Roughnecks, defender Dan MacRae is all too familiar with this situation.
“The last couple of years the regular season has always come down to a game against Vancouver,” MacRae said. “The accumulation of all our hard work has come down to this game. It’s do or die.”
With a rollercoaster season, the Riggers have been able to kick it into high gear as of late, winning their last three games. The run has improved their record to 7-9, and a half game ahead of the Stealth (6-9) for the final playoff spot in the West Division.
The last time the Riggers tasted defeat was at the hands of division leaders, the Saskatchewan Rush, on March 24, a game that saw them come together in the second-half as a unit.
“Those 30 minutes were some of our best lacrosse,” MacRae said. “It was eye-opening to see how good we can be. That was a big moment of ‘hey, lets believe in each other and do everything we can.’”
After trailing 8-3 at halftime, the Roughnecks would come out in the second and outscore the Rush 7-5, falling just short in the comeback.
However, it lit a spark in the dressing room.
The team knew what their situation was after that game and since have been playing their best lacrosse in hopes to extend their season, playing to the old saying, better late than never.
“We’ve figured out what makes use successful and it feels like it’s coming together at the right time,” MacRae said. “We kind of had to find our identity and who we are.
The group has gotten so much tighter since.”
With an extra step in their game, they know that they control what happens and wouldn’t have it any other way. The stakes are high with one final game against their rivals, to prove that they belong in the post-season.
“We know what the formula is to be successful,” MacRae said. “They’ve got guys that can really shoot the lights out and we’re going to have to make them take shots under pressure, whether it’s the first second of the shot clock or the last.”
With a playoff-like intensity assured, emotions will run high and the Riggers will not accept anything but a win. Although there is confidence and pride in what they have done together, the mentality is simple, playoffs or bust.
“Whenever you look back on the regular season, it’s not successful unless you make the playoffs,” MacRae said. “The job is not done. It’s just going to come down to our performance this Saturday night. It’s an opportunity to control our own destiny.”