For the first time in his career, defender Dan MacRae won’t be suiting up in the NLL playoffs.
And while it’s not an ideal situation, the veteran knows that the team needs to use the favourable experiences from the year as building blocks for the upcoming season.
“It’s never a good thing when you don’t make the playoffs, but you’ve got to take the positives out of everything and we had a lot of those,” said MacRae.
Beating the Saskatchewan Rush 14-7 in the final game of the year was one of those positives as they hadn’t been able to accomplish that feat in almost two years.
Not only was the big win over a Rush a fantastic way to end the season, it showed the heart, passion, and character of the team.
“It’s a great way to finish the year,” MacRae said. “Coach challenged us to finish on a high note, to play for each other, and to finish with a good record.”
With a 5-9 record as of March 24 and coming off of a tough road loss in Saskatoon, the Riggers needed to find a way to bounce back.
And they did just that, starting the next night with a big win over the New England Black Wolves. They followed that with wins against the Rochester Knighthawks and Buffalo Bandits, before dropping a game to the Vancouver Stealth.
“We lost a close one theire in Vancouver, but we beat a lot of very good teams in the meantime,” noted MacRae. “Saskatchewan is the first place team in the West and they’re going to have a good playoff run as they usually do, so it’s something to hang your hat on and not be completely bitter going into the off-season.”
During that final five-game stretch, MacRae was a key contributor on both ends of the floor, collecting four points, scooping 26 loose balls, and forcing eight turnovers.
“Things didn’t go our way all season, but we finished really strong. So that speaks to the talent and camaraderie that we have in this locker-room,” MacRae said.
“We have a lot of good young talent on this team and a lot of good veteran leadership. We had a rough patch there, but it speaks a lot of volume the way that we reacted and turned things around after we had a tough middle of the season, winning four of the last five.”
The 2017 season presented more challenges for MacRae than simply missing the playoffs. The seven-year veteran of the NLL moved from Calgary to the Toronto area and was flying from East to West every weekend.
“It was a learning curve for me,” admitted MacRae. “I was flying in from out East instead of living in town, so it was my first time doing that since my rookie year (in 2011).”
The travel and the change to his weekly routine were challenging for MacRae, but not something he couldn’t handle.
“It’s part of being a professional, being consistent every night,” MacRae said. “Staying in the routine through the season long grind is something that everyone struggles with.”
Back in Ontario for the summer, MacRae will be very involved in lacrosse as he will continue playing with the Oakville Rock of the Major Series Lacrosse league and he will also take a spot behind the bench as a coach for the Burlington Jr. A Chiefs.