Rivalry to Rock 'Dome

TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:34 AM ET

Since Day 1, the Calgary Roughnecks have had one goal -- to beat the Toronto Rock. So far, they're 0-5.

Tonight, the 8-5 Riggers get another shot when they host the 10-4 Rock in National Lacrosse League action at the Saddledome (8 p.m., Ch. 30).

The Rock, winners of four of the last five NLL championships, have always been the stick by which other franchises are measured, both on and off the floor.

When Calgary was awarded an expansion team three years ago, beating the Rock was at the top of the to-do list.

However, the champs have had Calgary's number, going undefeated, and they come into tonight's tilt riding a franchise-record eight-game win streak.

So it's up to the Riggers to derail the runaway Rock freight train.

"We can't control what they do against other teams and we can't control the fact they're on a big roll," said Calgary head coach Chris Hall, whose squad fell 18-12 to Toronto at the ACC Jan. 16.

"We won't prepare any differently because they're on an eight-game winning streak. We know they're sharp right now but that doesn't change what we have to do to beat them.

"They're motivated to win here but so are we. We're going to focus on what we need to do to win."

Calgary, currently second in the West Division, is still battling to lock down a playoff berth and a win against the Rock, who have already clinched the East Division title, would go a long way toward that goal.

"They're one of the best teams in the league and they're coming in hot," said Riggers forward and former Rock Kaleb Toth. "We haven't beat them yet and we really want that first win against them. I sure know I do.

"Above and beyond that, it's a win we need still battling for the playoffs and trying to get a home game."

Following the tilt against the Rock, the Roughnecks fly out to San Jose to play the Stealth tomorrow night in a huge West Division tilt.

Forward Matt Green, yet to play this season, is expected to see action in one of the two matchups.

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ALL-STAR SUCCESS: As first reported in the Sun yesterday, the Roughnecks were officially awarded the NLL 2005 all-star game.

The announcement was made at a press conference attended by Roughnecks president and majority owner Brad Banister, Flames president and CEO Ken King and NLL commissioner Jim Jennings, who flew in from New York.

The Roughnecks, which made the bid in conjunction with its Saddledome landlords, the Flames, were considered the underdog to host the game, slated for Sunday, Feb. 27.

The Toronto Rock, the only other team to bid for the game, was the early favourite but Banister's hard work lobbying owners and league executives apparently earned his team the nod.

"I think it was Brad's passion that did it," said Jennings. "All the other owners saw how badly he wanted it. At the beginning, everybody thought when Toronto put in their bid they would get it. It was a no-brainer. But Brad's passion turned the tables and tilted it in his favour."

Banister announced the team would include a free ticket to the all-star tilt for all season-ticket holders next year.

"It's good for us and good for minor lacrosse all across Alberta," said Banister. "It's a win-win day. Now, we'll focus on selling this building out to make the event a success."


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