Back home at long last

TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:01 AM ET

Battered, bruised and beaten in their last two games, the Calgary Roughnecks limped home yesterday. The Riggers fell 16-10 to the Toronto Rock in National Lacrosse League action Friday night -- their second straight road defeat -- and, in the process, may have lost another starting defender to a knee injury after rookie Ryan McNish went down in the first quarter.

One of the few recent bright spots for the defending NLL champions is the fact they end the season with three home tilts, beginning today with a 1 p.m. matinee against the Arizona Sting at the 'Dome, where the Riggers are 4-1 this season.

Given the adversity the team has faced in recent weeks both on and off the carpet, returning home to close out the regular season is a blessing, said Calgary head coach Chris Hall.

"It's nice to be home," said Hall.

"It's been a while. When we got off the plane today, I think that's the first thing

I said: 'It's nice to be home.' I think it's just what we need right now."

Like most of the Riggers at yesterday's practice -- one of their few full workouts since the all-star break -- Calgary product Andrew Biers echoed his coach's happiness to be back in Calgary.

"We're hoping to get some good crowds out for the last three games of the season and hopefully get a little winning streak going," said Biers. "We could really use a few wins right now."

The Roughnecks' mettle has been tested with the two losses and mounting injuries that have put a major strain on the starting lineup.

The team had a 10-minute, players-only meeting in the dressing-room following the loss to Toronto before the coaching staff joined the session where concerns and frustrations were aired behind closed doors.

On a positive note, forward Jason Wulder and defender Jesse Phillips, who missed the game in Toronto, both practised yesterday and are expected to dress today.

McNish, however, is the latest blow to an already reeling Roughnecks defence corps that has allowed 34 goals against in the two recent losses, which also included an 18-16 defeat to the Sting March 25 in Glendale.

It's been a tough slog lately, admitted Riggers d-man Andrew McBride.

"We're pretty embarrassed with the loss to Arizona," said McBride. "The loss to Toronto just rubbed salt in the wound. It's been a tough go."

The team has struggled playing with a patchwork defence -- which has included at least three rookies. McBride said they need to find their groove.

"I think we're a little frustrated," said McBride. "We know we can play a little better. We have to have confidence in ourselves that we can rebound from these past few games and play the way we know we can."

After McNish went down Friday night, Hall said he spoke to former Riggers defender Grant Hamilton, who retired after the team's championship win last May due to work commitments but is still listed as a protected player.

Hamilton has said in the past he would try to return if the team needed him.

Hall said Hamilton could be back in a Calgary jersey before the end of the season.

Despite Calgary's recent woes, Arizona coach Bob Hamley said he doesn't view them as wounded prey.

"They're the champions and champions know how to play through things like this," said Hamley at his team's practice yesterday. "We have to prepare for them like that. We can't take them lightly."


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