One man army

TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:05 AM ET

Sgt. Rock has cracked the Calgary Roughnecks lineup.

Defender Ryan McNish -- a Canadian Forces aviation systems technician based at CFB Edmonton -- has earned a spot with the defending National Lacrosse League champions for the upcoming season.

The muscular 6-ft. 2-in., 225-pounder dished out some big hits over the last four weeks of the team's selection camp and impressed Calgary's coaching staff with his physical play. So much so, head coach Chris Hall yesterday confirmed the 23-year-old will step into one of the open spots on the team's back end.

The Riggers signed McNish to a one-year deal last month after trading a sixth-round pick in 2006 to the Toronto Rock (who owned his rights).

McNish, a helicopter mechanic who played senior B summer ball for the Edmonton Outlaws this year, knows the adjustment to the pro game will be a tough one.

"Right off the hop, you can tell they're at that next level," said McNish. "But I didn't have too many problems (in camp so far) and I felt I coped well.

"I just gave it my all ... I went out there hoping the coaching staff would like what they saw and I guess they did -- a bonus for me for sure."

Roughnecks assistant coach and defensive whiz Jeff Dowling -- who coached McNish for a year of junior A in Ontario -- will be tasked with helping him adjust to the NLL.

"He's got a lot of potential," said Dowling. "But he has some work to develop into a good defender in this league. But he has the raw tools. I think he can be successful."

McNish is the only non-roster player from last season to have earned a job in the team's ongoing selection camp.

The Riggers will take to the floor again next weekend in Vancouver and back in Calgary the following week before opening the season Jan. 1 in Denver against the Colorado Mammoth.

Hall expects to make some more decisions this week in order to pare down the roster.

"I would think we'll be awfully close to (the limit of) 26 by next weekend," said Hall.

Hall has yet to make a decision on whether rookie Matt Morehouse, the team's first-round pick this year (9th overall), or Chris Levis will back up starting goalie Curtis Palidwor but added he will likely end up protecting all three on the 23-man roster.

QUICK STICKS: Defender Brad MacArthur, the Riggers main face-off man, wasn't at camp yesterday as he continues to negotiate a new contract.

"I just want to be compensated fairly," said MacArthur, 29. "We've exchanged a few proposals. Mine didn't meet with their approval and theirs didn't meet with mine. I'd like to get this done soon, though."

Roughnecks GM Dave Bremner said he's confident they'll get a deal done before the season starts.

"We're getting closer every day," said Bremner yesterday. "I expect him to play this year."

One player who likely won't be back in a Riggers uniform is veteran defender Grant Hamilton. He doesn't expect to play this season due to work commitments and lingering injuries.

The 37-year-old Victoria police officer -- who was a key cog on defence and an integral part of the team's penalty kill -- will be sorely missed.

"Maybe in the new year, there's always a chance if they need me and my schedule settles down," said Hamilton. "But it's doubtful. But hey, we won a championship -- not a bad way to retire."


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