No Prairie present Blue, Als again as Argos cream Riders

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:33 AM ET

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers and their fans can go back to despising the Saskatchewan Roughriders again.

The Toronto Argonauts moved past the Bombers and clinched first place in the East Division, along with the first-round bye, with a 41-13 thrashing of the Roughriders yesterday in Regina.

The red-hot Argos won their seventh in a row and finished the regular season with an 11-7 record, one point up on the Bombers (10-7-1). Had the Argos lost, the Bombers would have finished first.

Winnipeg will host the third-place Montreal Alouettes (8-10) in next Sunday's East semifinal at Canad Inns Stadium. Kickoff is at noon.

"I don't think anybody likes to play here when it's cold out," Bombers offensive lineman Dan Goodspeed said last night. "Hopefully that gives us the edge, and the fans recognize that and come out and support us."

Next Sunday's game will be a rematch of Friday night's regular-season finale at the Stadium, which the Bombers won 20-17 to sweep the three-game season series.

BLESSING?

"We let first place slip away, and Toronto took it from us," Goodspeed said. "You look at the positive: We're going to go right back into a game week.

"So any momentum we picked up last week, we just gotta keep building from there. It could be a blessing in disguise."

The Argos will host the Bombers-Alouettes winner at Rogers Centre on Nov. 18, and the Grey Cup will be played there a week later.

"It means we have three games left if we keep winning," Goodspeed said. "I came up here to play football, so let's play three games."

Bombers middle linebacker Barrin Simpson believes sweeping the Alouettes during the regular season will give the Blue and Gold a psychological advantage.

"It's definitely a mental edge for us, because we know that we have played well against this team, and the thing now is putting it together again for one more week," Simpson said.

Bombers head coach Doug Berry, meanwhile, didn't share the same thoughts as his defensive captain.

"Just because a team wins three times in the regular season doesn't mean anything," Berry said. "Everything is now history."

Berry, however, is looking at the bright side, even though his team had a five-point lead in the East with four weeks left in the season and watched it go down the drain.

"You gotta play somebody, and it doesn't really matter who," he said. "At this time anybody can beat anybody. It really doesn't matter."

Berry knows of what he speaks.

In the last three seasons, the East's second-place team has made it to the Grey Cup twice and won it once (Toronto in 2004).

"Sometimes, even when you have the bye, that's not necessarily good," Berry said.

The Bombers didn't exactly instill confidence down the stretch, losing four of their final seven games, but the party line after the win over the Alouettes was that they have bona fide momentum heading into the playoffs.

"There's been a little bit of criticism for our team lately, some of which is deserved and some is not," Goodspeed said. "We finished 10-7-1, and just looking at the season in general, that's a good record.

"We needed a win. A win is a win is a win, no matter what happens. It gives you confidence back. Hopefully we can get some swagger back going into the playoffs."

The last time Winnipeg and Montreal met in the playoffs was in 2000, when the host Alouettes won the East final 35-24.


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