It’s safe to say that the Calgary Roughnecks had the Vancouver Stealth’s number last season.
The Riggers finished the 2014 National Lacrosse League season with a 12-6 record. Along the way, they beat the Stealth all four times they played the Vancouver squad, which finished tied for last with the Minnesota Swarm in the nine-team circuit with a woeful 4-14 mark.
“Last year they had our number, for sure,” said defenceman Jeff Moleski, who played the last four seasons for the Stealth franchise before signing as a free agent with the Roughnecks in the off-season. “The years before, we took them out of the conference finals.”
Moleski has seen success with both franchises. He won a Champion’s Cup with the Riggers in 2009 before also capturing an NLL title with the Washington Stealth two years later.
Simply put, last year was a tough season for the Stealth, which relocated from Everett, Wash., to B.C.’s Lower Mainland where they play their home games out of the Langley Events Centre.
While the ’Necks didn’t tinker much with their roster from last season – Moleski is the only notable addition to their lineup – the Stealth made numerous changes including pulling off a blockbuster deal with the three-time defending NLL champion Rochester Knighthawks to land forwards Johnny Powless and Joel McCready.
“Their management is talking about a deep playoff run already,” said Calgary coach Curt Malawsky. “That’s probably indicative of what they’ve been doing in training camp. I know they battled Edmonton hard in their exhibition game and they’ve been having a few games and playing really, really tough.”
In addition to several new additions, the Stealth also welcome back 12 players including former Roughneck sniper Lewis Ratcliff, newly-named captain Curtis Hodgson and the always-dangerous Rhys Duch.
“In all honesty, it’s a great team that’s such an offensively talented group of players that defensively if we can hold them to 10 or under, I really like our chances,” said Moleski in regards to what the Riggers will have to do to continue their winning streak over the Stealth when the two rivals kick off their NLL campaigns on Saturday (7 p.m.) at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“It’s a whole different animal to skin there and I know we’re going to have our work cut out for us,” said Malawsky of facing the Stealth at home to start the 2015 season. “I know our guys will be hungry and we’ll be up for the challenge. I think it’s going to be really exciting and I hope the fans support us like they have all season last year and in the pre-season game.”
“I know guys are excited,” said Calgary captain Andrew McBride, while adding the Riggers hope to score early and often against the Stealth. “We want to try to electrify our crowd. I think the thing with our crowd is that we really want to get momentum. When we score early and get the crowd involved, it’s a really big asset for us.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Former Roughneck great Kaleb Toth will make his return to the ’Dome on Saturday as the Stealth’s assistant coach in charge of offence. In 11 seasons with the Riggers, Toth scored 274 times and added 354 assists for 628 points (all club records) in 160 regular-season games. He added 22 more goals and 34 more helpers in 16 playoff contests and was a key component of Calgary’s two NLL titles in 2004 and 2009. On March 2, 2013 the Roughnecks inducted Toth into the “Forever A Roughneck” program, a first in team history, by raising a banner with his likeness to the rafters of the Saddledome.
PLAYER PROFILE – #14 Jeff Moleski
Height & weight: 6-1, 205
Birthdate: Feb. 3, 1982
Hometown: Prince George, B.C.
Fast fact: Second tour of duty in Calgary after playing for the Roughnecks from 2005 to 2010
Stat attack: In 17 games with the Stealth last year, Moleski recorded eight points (2g, 6a) while scooping up 93 loose balls and forcing 23 turnovers
Occupation: Custormer service technician for FortisBC
Family ties: Wife Cara and sons Jackson, 7, and Hunter, 6
Notable quotable: “I’m a real family guy. That comes first for me, for sure, like it should. My boys will be coming to some games. They’ll be around the arena a few times, so they’re looking forward to it.”