CALGARY, AB — The Calgary Roughnecks will hit the turf at Scotiabank Saddledome on Sunday afternoon for the first time since they were eliminated in the West Division Final by the Edmonton Rush.
For defenceman Mitch de Snoo, it will be his first time in the building.
The Drexel grad and University of Toronto Masters student is can’t wait for his first taste of professional lacrosse.
“Really excited to be here and it’s a crazy opportunity to be here,” Said de Snoo with a big grin. “Absolutely thrilled to be part of the team. it’ll be an interesting change to the highest level of the game and it’s exciting.”
Hailing from Oshawa, ON, the 23-year old is hoping to jump right in and continue to do what has made him successful in summer ball, college, and junior lacrosse.
The formula is simple, he suggests.
“I hope to do what I’ve done in the past — play solid defence,” de Snoo said. “We’re looking to be a transition team, so I’m hoping to contribute in that respect as well.”
Sunday’s game will be the first at the Rough House for all of Calgary’s rookies.
From checking out the locker room to getting out on the floor, everything will be a first for the new Roughnecks’ recruits.
“I’m pretty pumped to check out the facilities there and get out in front of the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of,” said de Snoo. “It’ll be quite the experience I think.”
One aspect they’ve never experienced is the much larger crowds of the NLL.
Averaging more than 10,000 fans at the ‘Dome for the last several years, it could take some time getting used too.
“I’m sure there are going to be some nerves,” admitted de Snoo. “It’s going to be a lot different. I think the music is going to be interesting, I’m not used to that.”
Roughnecks General Manager Mike Board recognizes that the rookies might have some nerves in their first game at the ‘Dome.
But he knows it will be a positive experience for the youngsters.
“There might be some jitters and that for them, but they’ll settle in,” said Board. “They’ve got the veterans that can help them along. It will be a good experience for them to get this under their belt before the home opener so they know what to expect on January 2nd.”
When the roster was released on Friday, the Roughnecks roster had a distinctly different feel than the year prior.
Seven new names were penciled into Calgary’s roster. Third-year man Tyler Digby, who came via a trade with New England, highlights the new Riggers.
The other new names were all taken in the 2015 NLL Draft. Each of the two picks in the first three rounds performed well enough to crack the line-up.
“Well we had a good draft,” laughed Board. “That’s the best way to look at it. So we’re happy that some of these young kids have stepped up and been able to make the team. We got younger, stronger, and faster. That’s the way we’re looking at it.”
Wesley Berg and Reilly O’Connor, the first round picks, will look to be prominent members of the offence, while Mitch de Snoo, Tyson Bell, and Kellen LeClair will reinforce the back-end.
Between the pipes, 18-year old Christian Del Bianco impressed the brass enough in camp that they have elected to keep three goalies on the roster.
“Offensively, O’Connor and Berg have stepped right in and performed well,” said Board. “They’ve scored in all of our games right now. They look comfortable out there. They’ve been at the top of the power play. Digby is settled in. Defensively, the young guys bring a lot to the table. They bring some transition, they’re big bodies, they’re strong, and they are fit. It’s helped our back-end.”
Despite the influx of strong, young players, it can present problems early on.
Learning the systems, their teammates, and the NLL game can take time. Board is hoping that’s not the case.
“We’ve been working a lot on our new systems and we’ve had a lot of good practices and games,” said Board. “They’re picking it up pretty quick. Some of these guys have played for Curt before, so they’re picking it up quick.”