In need of a defender who could make an impact in transition, the Roughnecks turned to the trade market at the end of February.
With the Buffalo Bandits looking to shake things up, the two teams came together on a deal that would send Mitch Wilde to the Roughnecks in exchange for draft picks.
Initially, Wilde was apprehensive and unsure abo3ut the move, but as he got into the locker room and engaged with his new teammates, all doubts disappeared.
“Coming in halfway through the year, it took an adjustment,” said Wilde.
“Transitioning from Buffalo to Calgary, I feel this group was so welcoming and you can tell that this group is amazing and the guys in here are such character guys. I’m very fortunate to play in this organization. For me, I’m just happy to be here and end the season on a positive note.”
Wilde joined the Roughnecks on Feb. 25 in Saskatoon, just three days after the trade, for a game against the Saskatchewan Rush. He was immediately penciled into the starting line-up and provided strong defence and a much-needed boost in transition.
In that first action with the team, Wilde picked up a pair of assists and a pair of loose balls. His strong performance got rave reviews from the Roughnecks bench boss.
“He really facilitates our transition,” said Calgary coach Curt Malawsky after that game. “He’s a big body and we had him on the left side of the floor trying to slow down (Mark) Matthews and (Adam) Jones and I thought he did a great job in the defensive end.”
Unfortunately for Wilde, he sustained a lower body injury late in the contest against the Rush and would miss the next two games. Upon his return, he was still an effective player for Calgary, but his transition offence slowed as he recorded just one assist the rest of the way.
As the Brooklin, Ont., native became more comfortable in his surroundings with Calgary, his understanding and ability to execute his role in the defence improved. With his comfort level in this system, he won’t have the same learning period next season, so things should be easier heading into 2018.
“From a defensive perspective, (a close locker-room) makes it a lot easier to communicate with each other. If everyone is on the same page it makes your life a whole lot easier. Just take a look at this room, everyone is positive and everyone believes. We didn’t get the result we wanted this year, but we’re building towards something next year.”
One major positive heading into next season was that Calgary was finally able to beat the Rush. After 10 straight losses to the club since they moved to Saskatoon, it became a repetitive talking point among fans, media, and players.
Wilde hasn’t been apart of the Rush-Roughnecks rivalry for very long, but he was caught up to speed quickly, losing two road matches to their divisional foe. He, along with the entire team, was thrilled to finally earn a win, beating the Rush 14-7, in their season-finale in front of a record-setting regular-season Calgary crowd of 18,845.
“They’ve picked on us the last few games we’ve played against them. We’ve had chances, but it feels really good to play a complete 60 against them and be able to end the season on a positive note.”
Wilde will take those positive vibes into the off-season, where he’ll be playing for the Brooklin Redmen of the Major Series Lacrosse (MSL) league.
The 25-year old will open the MSL season with the Redmen on May 31. Wilde will be looking to continue building his game over the summer in advance of the 2018 NLL season.
“Just going to put one foot forward in the off-season and think about when we start in January.”