LANGLEY, BC — It’s lucky thirteen for the Calgary Roughnecks.

The Riggers punched their post-season ticket for the 13th consecutive season in dramatic fashion Saturday with a 14-13 victory over the Vancouver Stealth in Langley, BC. A loss would have put an end to a disappointing season for Calgary who came out of the gate 0-6 and clawed their way back to playoff contention.

Instead, they will attempt another Cinderella run for the Champion’s Cup, which eluded them last season after a heartbreaking loss to the Rochester Knighthawks in a ‘mini-game’ finale that capped off an unheralded bid for the NLL title.

“It’s definitely a nice feeling to not miss the playoffs,” said captain Andrew McBride, who has suited up in all of Calgary’s 23 post-season matches. “I know I didn’t want to miss the playoffs and I kept my streak alive.”

Calgary’s inaugural season in 2002 is the only time the club has missed the playoffs in their 14 year history.

McBride’s rookie season in 2003 marked the first playoff appearance for the Roughnecks — one year after the franchise was born. It was a short-lived as Calgary fell to the Buffalo Bandits in the single-elimination opening round but it spawned the beginning of the longest current run of consecutive playoff appearances of all Calgary’s professional sports teams.

And it’s not over yet.

The matter in which Calgary earned a post-season berth this year is of no consequence now. They’re in and that’s all that matters.

“It was a tumultuous year but the great thing is we wiped the slate clean,” McBride continued. “It’s one of those things where it doesn’t really matter what happened.

“We’ve got to go into a really tough barn in Colorado — a team that’s played us really tough, a team where we’ve had two overtime games this year and it’s going to be a battle.”

The Roughnecks will put their season on the line once again in a one-and-done opening round tilt against the Colorado Mammoth on Saturday, May 9 at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

If history is any indication, the game is likely headed for extra time. Eight of the past 12 games featuring Calgary and Colorado have gone to overtime — including two of the three contests this season.

“We’re going to watch some film and hopefully rise to the occasion in a tough barn in Colorado,” McBride said.

A glaring difference in this season’s Champion’s Cup bid for Calgary is they will be entering the playoffs as a clear underdog. The Roughnecks are the lowest seed of all six playoff teams and regular season dominance in many of the past years past had them favourites to win it all.

It’s a different story this year.

“In years past, in my first couple of years in the league we kind of just cruised into the playoffs and it might have hurt us a little,” said Curtis Dickson, who notched 14 goals and 28 playoff points last season. “We would come out stale in the first game because of bye weekends and whatever else heading into the playoffs.”

The clutch win over the Stealth should bode well for Calgary coming into Colorado next weekend.

“I think it’s massive to have a game like this heading into playoffs,” Dickson said. “It was a playoff-type atmosphere and these one-goal games, being able to pull these wins out are a big momentum builder going into playoffs.”

The quest for a third Champion’s Cup begins next weekend for Calgary and having the crown slip through their fingers less than a year ago will only make for a hungrier group.

“I think our championship run last year was invaluable — the experience,” Riggers’ coach Curt Malawsky said after the victory over Vancouver. “As tough as it was to lose that mini-game in Rochester, we went through some trials and tribulations last season that we were able to use now. Our season was up and down to say the least. We were in 10 one-to-two goal games and that’s something you can’t duplicate.

“These guys battled hard and we’re feeling good about ourselves. We’re just excited to be moving on.”

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