Deals were second to none; Pilson

TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

The Calgary Roughnecks didn\'t have to worry about the dreaded sophomore jinx this season.

After finishing 4-12 last year in their inaugural campaign -- dead last in the then 13-team National Lacrosse League -- things couldn\'t have gotten much worse.

So, in the off-season, the Roughnecks went shopping and swapping and performed a complete face-lift on the team\'s roster in an effort to improve their fortunes the next time around.

Fast forward 16 regular-season games and the Riggers finished a much more respectable 9-7 this year and take to the floor against the Buffalo Bandits tomorrow in upstate New York in the team\'s first ever playoff game.

\"We talked about getting the best players we could and we went out and got them,\" said team president and GM Brad Banister. \"We said this season was all about making the playoffs and we pulled it off.\"

Jason Wulder was the first ever player acquired by the Roughnecks. Wulder, along with fellow Calgary native Kaleb Toth, are the only two players to have taken to the floor in every game since the team\'s inception.

Deserving of honourable mention are goalie Matt King, who has dressed for every game, and defender Rob Desormeaux, who missed only one game last year due to suspension and one this season because of work commitments.

\"At the beginning of the season, when we looked at all the changes in training camp, we knew we were on to a good thing,\" recalled Wulder, who finished third in team scoring with 20 goals and 33 helpers. \"So I don\'t think at the start of the year it was too far fetched for us to think we\'d make the playoffs. If there\'s any surprise, it\'s that we didn\'t have a better record. We should have had a better record, I think.\"

Wulder added a lot of the credit for the team\'s turnaround this year belongs with the team\'s management and coaching staff.

\"That\'s a testament to the organization that went out and got guys right away,\" said Wulder, \"instead of building the team over a few more years. They wanted to win immediately and that\'s what they did by going out and getting (captain) Tracey (Kelusky) and (goalie) Curtis (Palidwor). They filled a lot of holes on defence and transition (in the off-season).\"

Toth was one of many players who were very outspoken and confident the team would make the playoffs this year.

\"After last year, no one would have thunk we would have come around and made the playoffs this year,\" joked Toth, before turning serious. \"We just put our nose to the grindstone this season. We knew it was definitely a reasonable goal to achieve with the additions we had. There was no excuse for us. We wanted to make it and we went out and played our darndest in our last game to make it.\"

Making the playoffs in only their second season is an impressive feat for any pro sports franchise and has helped gain the Roughnecks more credibility in the league.

\"Making the playoffs this year is big,\" said Wulder. \"Of course, we want to win the championship too. We should model ourselves after Toronto. They won a championship, I think, in their second year in the league and now they\'ve become kind of like the dynasty in the league. That\'s what we need to aim for.\"

QUICK STICKS: A grassroots three-day e-mail and phone campaign by Calgary Roughnecks\' fans has convinced Sportsnet West to show the playoff tilt between the Riggers and the Buffalo Bandits tomorrow night.

The game will be shown at midnight tomorrow evening, a tape delay broadcast of the 5 p.m. tilt.

As well, Molson Canadian will host a playoff party at Dutton\'s Lounge in the Saddledome where the game will be broadcast live. It will be the only place in Calgary to see the tilt as it unfolds. Doors open at 4:30 p.m..


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