REGINA - It’s tough to win in Regina in November.
On Saturday, it was difficult just to get to Regina.
The B.C. Lions came within a few dozen feet of landing in the Saskatchewan capital early Saturday afternoon, but a dense ice fog that blanketed the Queen City forced the pilot of the team charter to pull up at the last second and double back to Calgary.
The Lions spent a few hours on the tarmac in Cowtown, popping in on a wedding that was taking place in a nearby hangar, before finally giving it another go and touching down in Regina at 6:30 on Saturday night.
“I think the bride and groom seemed happy to see us, so everyone was in pretty good spirits,” quarterback Travis Lulay said after arriving at the team hotel in downtown Regina. “We got a few photos, so it was pretty fun.”
Despite the extended travel day, the Lions vow they will be ready to battle the rested and waiting Saskatchewan Roughriders in the West Division semifinal on Sunday afternoon at Mosaic Stadium (TSN, 3:30 p.m.).
“If this beats you,” head coach Wally Buono said, “then we shouldn’t even be here.”
“It was eventful,” running back Jamal Robertson added. “You know the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles? It was definitely one of those.
“It just adds to the story. We started off a little shaky at the beginning of the year (with a 1-7 record), and it just adds to the story as far as some of the adversity we faced.”
The winner of Sunday’s game will advance to next weekend’s West Division final in Calgary against the Stampeders (13-5).
Lulay, who will be making his first career playoff start, said the travel delay was no big deal.
“It just gave the guys a chance to relax a little bit, which is pretty much what we would’ve probably been doing at the hotel anyhow,” Lulay said.
Buono scoffed at the notion the travel woes took pressure off his team, because he feels there was none before Saturday anyway.
“I don’t believe we have any pressure,” said Buono, whose Lions had to win their final three games and get help to make the playoffs. “We’re fortunate to be in the game …
“This was totally a gift to us, and the players appreciate the opportunity.”
Saskatchewan (10-8) thumped B.C. (8-10) twice in a pair of early season meetings when the Leos were still figuring out their quarterback situation and working in quite a few rookies.
The Lions proceeded to win seven of their last 10 games, including a 23-17 triumph over the Riders on Halloween. Two of B.C.’s three losses in the second half of the season were in overtime, and a third was a fourth-quarter collapse against Hamilton at home.
Saskatchewan is limping into the playoffs after halting a four-game losing streak with a win over Edmonton in their regular-season finale last weekend.
Defensive back Lance Frazier admitted the Riders, who will be without injured middle linebacker Barrin Simpson on Sunday, aren’t exactly riding high.
“Last year we were going in on an upswing. This year we’re kind of, like, even keel,” Frazier said. “We did finish the season with a win — a much-needed win — and hopefully the confidence level is where it needs to be.”
The Riders sold out every regular-season home game this year, but there were still several hundred tickets available for Sunday’s clash as of Saturday afternoon. Regardless, Frazier knows the home crowd will be a huge advantage for Gang Green.
“Most guys hate playing at Mosaic Stadium,” Frazier said, “because they know our fans are going to be into it and they’re going to hear it from our fans.
“They know our fans are going to poke and prod them — and maybe even throw things at them every now and then.”