Proving it

TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:06 AM ET

Sitting at 1-2 -- dead last in the National Lacrosse League's West Division -- the Calgary Roughnecks were desperate for a win when they hosted the Arizona Sting Saturday night.

However, Calgary captain Tracey Kelusky said they were also looking "to make a statement to ourselves."

Mission accomplished on both fronts.

This was finally the Roughnecks acting like the defending champions as they rallied for a 15-14 victory.

En route to last year's championship win -- in only their third season -- there was an air about the Roughnecks: That on any given night, no matter the adversity or the hole they may have dug, they could always win the game. It was never out of reach.

Especially in the playoffs, when the team seemed destined from the opening face-off to go all the way. They believed in themselves and their faith never wavered.

That's been in short supply so far this campaign.

In the Roughnecks' season-opening loss to the Colorado Mammoth, that panache was missing.

The Mammoth led 8-7 after three quarters and tallied four straight goals in the first eight minutes of the fourth quarter. The Roughnecks played desperately as they finished out the final frame trying to claw their way back and looked panicked as they lost 12-7.

But Saturday against the Sting, that air of confidence reappeared. That look of a championship team certain it could win and would win.

Calgary trailed Arizona 14-11 with less than 10 minutes left to play Saturday before flipping the switch and scoring four unanswered goals to stun the Sting.

It was far from the best game the Roughnecks have ever played -- as any player would tell you in the dressing room after the tilt, disappointed with their sub-par play for much of the outing -- but the late rally did wonders for the spirit of the defending National Lacrosse League champions.

More than 30% of the Roughnecks' roster changed in the off-season, turning the start of this year into an adjustment period for a club that needed to gel as a unit and recapture its championship form. Behind the scenes, many players didn't expect it to be such a bumpy ride.

After all, this was a team accustomed to great rallies. A club able to summon the strength to come from behind, no matter the situation.

In the championship final against the Bandits -- a team every bit their equal -- the Roughnecks trailed 4-1 after the first quarter but rattled off six straight goals in the second quarter to take control of the game.

While a late Bandits rally served to put a scare into the 19,289 fans in attendance, the Roughnecks never appeared rattled before putting the final nails in Buffalo's coffin for a 14-11 triumph.

And then there was the Roughnecks' most famous rally. Two seasons ago at GM Place, the Riggers trailed their arch-rivals, the now defunct Vancouver Ravens, 13-7 going into the fourth quarter. Calgary scored an amazing seven unanswered goals in the final frame to post a 14-13 win.

While Saturday night proved the champs still have that special something, the Roughnecks aren't completely out of the woods. There are still lingering concerns.

Calgary put forth a meagre effort for most of Saturday's victory and the offence often struggled. The defence, which played well, will be further improved when injured co-defender of the year Taylor Wray returns to action later this season.

Still, the Riggers are looking more and more like a team shooting for its second straight NLL title.

If you don't believe me, just ask them. After Saturday night, they'll tell you.


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