The West just got a bit Wilder.
And the timing couldn’t have been better for the Roughnecks, who have been looking for some offence from their back-end. It came just in time for a showdown with the Saskatchewan Rush.
“He really facilitates our transition,” said Calgary coach Curt Malawsky of Mitch Wilde, who was acquired on Feb. 22 from the Buffalo Bandits. “He’s a big body and we had him on the left side of the floor trying to slow down Matthew and Jones and I thought he did a great job in the defensive end. Then he got the ball up real quick, he made a great pass to Dobbie on a rope on the breakaway and Dobbie scored and he pushed the ball all the way up the floor and fed Digger for a goal. I thought he was exceptional for a first game not knowing the systems. He was one of our better defenders that night.”
Wilde lived up to expectations in his Riggers debut, playing tough, physical defence and helping spark a transition game that had been lacking in recent weeks. Wilde registered two assists against the Saskatchewan Rush, feeding both Dane Dobbie and Tyler Digby for fantastic goals.
With some injuries and suspensions to the back-end, the Roughnecks were looking to add some pieces to help them keep pace in a tough West Division.
Essentially, they wanted a player who could bring a similar skill set to that of injured Roughneck Karsen Leung.
“That’s what we were looking to do,” explained Malawsky. “We were looking for a pure defenceman and a transition player, but we were able to find both things in one guy. He’s a solid defender and he’s very athletic and can contribute on the offensive side of the ball. I thought that was a good move for us.”
Malawsky expressed his desire for Wilde to play hard on both ends of the floor and look to contribute on offence as much as possible – just like he had been doing over the past four years in Buffalo.
“It’s a fresh start and I want to bring what I did in Buffalo,” said Wilde. “Play honest, tough defence, and push the ball. That’s something that when I spoke with Curt, that he wanted me to do. I’m happy to do it and I’m happy to have the opportunity to play to my strengths within this organization. I’m hoping to be the right piece for success here. Obviously, I have the goal of winning a championship and I’m hoping I can help the guys do that.”
The trade came as a surprise to the talented transition player, who was coming off of a dramatic 16-15 overtime victory with the Bandits on Feb. 19.
“We had a big win on Sunday in Buffalo and things weren’t going too well and a win really put us back in it,” explained Wilde. “I thought things were moving well and then I saw the news.”
“I was a little indifferent at first because I spent so much time and I invested so much time in the team. You treat the guys you play with as your family and then all of a sudden, you’ve got a new family.”
Understandably, Wilde was disappointed to have to leave many close friends in Buffalo. But once he turned his thoughts to his new squad, there was optimism.
“I’m definitely looking forward to this new opportunity with a new team that looks like they’re putting the right pieces in place. It’s a whole different conference, so I’m looking forward to it,” Wilde admitted.
Having played out east for his entire NLL career, Wilde isn’t well acquainted with many of his new teammates, although there are a couple familiar faces on the roster.
“There’s only really two guys I know on the team,” said Wilde. “I actually lived with Tyler Digby my first two years of university at Robert Morris, so I know him really well. We graduated together there, so we spent four years together.
“He’s a B.C. guy and I was an Ontario guy and we shared a suite together for the first two years. We started off not knowing each other and then became really great friends by the end of the four years.”
And the two touched base immediately after the trade news came out.
“He texted me as soon as he heard the news,” Wilde said. “Definitely looking forward to seeing him. It’s tough when you spend so much time with someone and then you graduate and he’s from a different part of the country. You don’t see him as much, usually once or twice a year in this league or at an alumni weekend. I’m grateful for the opportunity to play with him again because he’s an outstanding player and a really great guy.”
Wilde also has a relationship with a Roughnecks rookie, from their time together in the Ontario senior A Major Series Lacrosse league.
“Chad Cummings,” Wilde said. “I had the opportunity to play senior with him in Kitchener and he’s an outstanding guys, really good on the floor and a really good locker-room presence. Looking forward to playing with him again.”
The western connections don’t end there.
“I have an uncle that lives in Banff, so this will be an opportunity for him to be able to come to more games,” said Wilde. “And Jake Hayes [a former Roughnecks draft pick], who I lived with my last two years of school who played for the team and is involved, I’ll get to see him a lot more often. I’m looking forward to seeing those guys and meeting a lot of new guys.”