The Calgary Roughnecks are feeling the pressure. It’s self-inflicted, but it’s pressure nonetheless. And truth be told, it’s understood pressure. The Roughnecks have long been included among the elite of the National Lacrosse League, but they haven’t won an NLL title since 2009 with first-round playoff losses in 2 of the last 4 seasons. That’s leaving a sour taste in the mouths of the team veterans, who know full well the team is capable of winning more. They also know their careers won’t last forever and the time to strike is when the iron is hot, meaning now. The collection of talent in Calgary is second to none in the NLL and the motivated Riggers are heading into 2014 on a mission: Champion’s Cup or Bust.
2013: 9-7, lost to Stealth, 14-13, in West Division final.
Top 3 returning scorers: Shawn Evans (32 goals, 80 assists for 112 points), Jeff Shattler (33-41, 74), Dane Dobbie (40-32, 72).
Key additions: Pete Dubenski (goal), Karsen Leung (transition), Tor Reinholdt (transition), Garrett McIntosh (defense), Cody Hawkins (defense).
Key departures: F Scott Ranger (PUP list), D Nolan Heavenor (retired), Travis Cornwall (PUP), Peter McFetridge (PUP), Scott Carnegie (practice squad).
Outlook: There wasn’t a large overhaul in Calgary, and for good reason. They’ve won 10 or more games in 4 of the last 5 seasons and although last year’s 9-7 mark in the regular season was below expectations, the Riggers still were 1 game — and a 1-goal loss — from playing for the Champion’s Cup. Lots of the pre-season chatter from veterans like Geoff Snider, Jeff Shattler and Shawn Evans, along with coach Curt Malawsky, relate to the urgency in Calgary. Offensively, the Roughnecks are in a great spot with a loaded and balanced stable of scorers. In Evans, Shattler, Curtis Dickson, Dane Dobbie and Scott Ranger (eventually), Calgary is as potent an offense as any in the league.
It’s the defense and special teams that needed some tweaking and even then, it’s not like the team lacked the talent. It just lacked the consistency and the blame there doesn’t rest on any one single aspect. It was team thing, with a lack of discipline early on keeping the Riggers from establishing any sort of 5-on-5 consistency. How the Riggers address that going into 2014 will say a lot in how successful they are this winter. With parity so tight across the board, there isn’t a lot of wiggle room for mistakes and garbage goals can be the difference between celebrating a win or lamenting a loss.
Still, as if the hungry veterans needed any more motivation, there are some new and young legs to light a fire. With Ranger joined by Travis Cornwall and Peter McFetridge on the PUP list, the Roughnecks will start the season with 4 of their 6 draft picks on the roster. Tor Reinholdt and Karsen Leung will keep the speedy transition rep alive, and goalie Peter Dubenski didn’t get the love he deserved for his work with the Coquitlam Junior Adanacs this past summer. He could push Frankie Scigliano for the No. 2 spot behind veteran Mike Poulin. At 6-foot-3, Garrett McIntosh brings some size to the defensive corps and Cody Hawkins may not be large in stature at 5-foot-10, but his heart for defense is undeniable.
So while much of the foundation for Calgary remains with the talented veterans, there is a solid chunk of youth to work into the mix for Calgary. If the Riggers can find the right balance among lines and fix the consistency issues on the back end, there’s no reason to think they won’t be challenging for their third NLL championship.Chavez is an avid lacrosse player in Rochester and a journalist for the Democrat and Chronicle as well as a longtime Inside Lacrosse contributor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to RochesterSports.com.
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