Similar start

TY PILSON, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

The ol' panic button could probably use a little WD-40 after the pounding it's taken over the last two weeks. The Calgary Roughnecks' 1-2 start to the National Lacrosse League season surprised a lot of folks, some of whom didn't seem to waste much time jumping off the bandwagon.

However, fans of the reigning NLL champions shouldn't despair. Things aren't that bad, at least if you go by the numbers.

The Riggers got off to the same start last season before finishing the year 10-6 en route to their Champion's Cup victory over the Buffalo Bandits.

A lot has been made of the fact Calgary's high-octane offence -- the second best in the NLL last season -- has sputtered out of the gate.

But, in another parallel to last year, Calgary scored only 32 goals over the first three games last year. This year, they've notched 31.

On the plus side, though, they allowed 40 over the same period while this year they've yielded only 34. Not bad for a defence that was supposed to be the team's weakest link early on after losing Rob Kirkby, Grant Hamilton and Brad MacArthur and starting the season without last year's co-defensive player of the year Taylor Wray, sidelined with a broken leg.

In its first win of the season last Saturday, Calgary's offence looked much improved, having scored a season-high 14 goals while allowing only 10 in a victory over the San Jose Stealth.

The Roughnecks have improved in every game they've played so far and Calgary head coach Chris Hall feels his team, which practises this weekend before returning to game action next Saturday at home against the Arizona Sting, is finally on track.

"I think we've had a lot of changeover and it's going to take a little a while to see who works best with who and to get people accustomed to each other and literally get our game legs," said Hall, whose club had a 30% turnover in personnel in the off-season. "I think it took until that third game to get a good idea of who we have and how best for this team to play."

Clearly, the defending champs would have liked to start the season with a higher winning percentage but Hall prefers to be an optimist.

"Would I love 3-0? Would I like 2-1? Without a doubt," said Hall. "Will I take 1-2 with a view to move forward and up, not backwards? You bet. You work with what you've got."

As for the team's early-season problems, they were highlighted by one glaring shortcoming: Hustle, or lack thereof to be more specific.

"I didn't see a lot of sprinting or maximum effort getting put out by people," said Hall.

"There's a quantum difference between running at about 90 percent and putting out that last 10 percent. We weren't really getting maximum effort out of people and I think we got maximum effort out of people (in the victory) because we had a lot of motivation."

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ROAD TO RECOVERY: Calgary defender Taylor Wray said his rehab from a broken leg is on track and he's still aiming to return to the lineup when the Roughnecks take on the Colorado Mammoth March 13 in Denver.

The Edmonton native, last season's rookie of the year and co-defensive player of the year, said he's currently wearing a soft cast he takes off to ride the stationary bike and is busy hitting the weights to keep in shape for his return.

"It's going well," reported Wray from Charlotte, N.C., where he serves as the assistant men's lacrosse coach at Queen's University.

"You can only push your body so hard but I'm happy with way everything's progressing. It's feeling better all the time."


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