The Calgary Roughnecks knew they had what it took to make the playoffs this season. To them, that’s all that mattered.
“I don’t think a lot of people had a lot of faith that we’d be in the playoffs,” said Curtis Manning, who has been a big part of Calgary’s transition game since the 2010 season. “We just stuck to it and definitely improved as the season’s gone on. It’s a nice feeling to have worked for it and made it to the playoffs.”
At one point that prospect looked bleak considering that the Roughnecks started the 2015 National Lacrosse League campaign with six straight losses.
“There was a lot of negative talk from outside of our room at the start of the season,” recalled Manning, while noting the players never doubted that they could battle back to qualify for post-season play. “There was never any infighting or any kind of doubt with our group that it was going to be successful and we were going to be fine. That was definitely a reassuring thing and a good thing to be a part of.”
The Riggers went on to win seven of their last 12 games to finish in third spot in the NLL’s West Division with a 7-11 record. That earned them a first-round playoff game against the Colorado Mammoth (9-9) this Saturday (7 p.m.) in Denver at Pepsi Center.
It’s been well documented that eight of the past 13 games between the ’Necks and Mammoth have gone to extra time – including two of the three regular-season games this season, both of which were won by Colorado thanks to OT goals by John Grant Jr.
“It shows that the two teams are close and they play us tough every time,” Manning said. “For our sake, we hope it’s not that close again. You always get the feeling that they’re going to play us hard and it almost always ends up that way.”
Part of Manning’s job will be to keep an eye on the likes of Adam Jones and Grant, who finished the regular season first and second in scoring on the Mammoth with 93 and 91 points respectively.
“Those are arguably two of the best players in the game,” he said. “If you don’t come out and play your best defence against those guys, they’re going to get you for a lot of goals. It’s definitely a challenge every time. It’s a very, very talented offence.”
Fellow transition player Geoff Snider agreed with Manning that the Riggers will have their hands full with the Mammoth.
“They play us tight, we play them tight, and it’s going to be a great showing for the sport,” said Snider following Calgary’s strong effort to beat the Vancouver Stealth 14-13 last Saturday in Langley to lock down the NLL’s last playoff berth. “We’re just hoping to carry that forward into a very tough building to play in against a very talented, well-coached team. We’re just going to keep focusing on us and what we can do to get better as men, teammates, and players.”
“We were able to get the result (over the Stealth) and we are a battle-tested group at this point in the season,” said Calgary coach Curt Malawsky. “We enjoyed it on Saturday night and now we’re moving on. We’re excited to get going and I’m sure both teams will be ready to play.”
“Everybody has to contribute,” said Calgary captain Andrew McBride. “Everybody needs to do their job. If we can do that and everybody can do their job as a team, that’s what’s going to make us successful. We’re a great team when everybody’s contributing.”
DID YOU KNOW?
In the playoffs, Jeff Shattler is the Roughnecks all-time leader in points (66) and assists (42).
PLAYER PROFILE – #10 Curtis Manning
Height & weight: 6-4, 205
Birthdate: March 12, 1987
Hometown: New Westminster, B.C.
Fast fact: Manning helped his hometown New Westminster Salmonbellies make it to the 2009 Mann Cup, where they eventually lost to the Brampton Excelsiors in a hard-fought series that went the full seven games. He then competed at the 2010 FIL World Lacrosse Championships in Manchester, England where his Canadian squad lost 12-10 to the United States in the final.
Stat attack: Manning entered the final game of the season only two caused turnovers behind Geoff Snider’s franchise single-season record of 27. He went on to force two turnovers during the win over the Stealth to equal Snider’s accomplishment.
Occupation: Resident family doctor
Family ties: His dad Steve Manning previously played senior lacrosse for the New Westminster Salmonbellies, while his sister Alyssa Manning played volleyball for the Douglas College Royals.
Notable quotable: “It’s hard to pick one specific moment,” said Manning when asked to describe his favourite lacrosse accomplishment. “Every season’s had its own pros and cons. For the proudest thing, I might say even this year … the team coming back from where it was. It’s definitely been a good thing to be a part of.”