Season to forget

TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:38 AM ET

Devastated.

That's how the Calgary Roughnecks felt a day after their 19-15 loss to the Arizona Sting in the National Lacrosse League West Division final Saturday night at the Saddledome.

In fact, forward Lewis Ratcliff deemed the season a failure, even though the Riggers clinched the regular-season West Division title despite a year-long battle with the injury bug.

"As the defending champions," Ratcliff reasoned, "anything less than a championship is failure."

All-star defender Jesse Phillips looks back at the loss in disbelief.

"It was a total F," said Phillips of the season. "There's nothing good after what happened. We lost and played terrible and that's how it ended."

Fellow defender Andrew McBride was equally glum.

"We had one goal in mind and anything less was a failure," said McBride.

"It's going to take a long time to get over this one."

The Riggers battled through much adversity in 2005. They lost five key players from their championship squad in the off-season and then started the year without Taylor Wray, the 2004 rookie of the year and co-defensive player of the year, who broke his leg in a training accident.

After an 0-2 start to the season, Calgary rattled off four straight wins.

However, around the same time, the injury bug bit hard. The Roughnecks lost three defensive starters -- Ryan McNish, Andy Ogilvie and Devan Wray -- to season-ending knee injuries.

Along the way, they suffered a rash of maladies that robbed them of other bodies, including a nasty flu that sidelined Brad MacDonald and an abscessed tonsil that put Travis Gillespie on the injured reserve for two weeks.

Still, the Roughnecks persevered en route to a 10-6 finish.

However, none of that means much now, said assistant captain Kaleb Toth.

"Our goal this year was to improve on last year and win the championship again," said Toth.

"We fell short.

"You're only as good as your last shift and your last game and we were terrible in our last game. That's what we'll remember."

The Roughnecks had always been a team that could rally late for the big wins when it counted most.

But they got a dose of their own medicine, courtesy of the upstart Sting.

Veteran forward Jason Wulder admits he felt stung.

"We should have won," said Wulder. "Now, we have the whole summer to think about it. It's going to be a long summer. We have to regroup, decide if we need to make any changes and come back hungrier to win."

Calgary bench boss Chris Hall, a candidate for NLL coach of the year, said there were positives to take from the season and credited his team for their play this year.

"I think we did well to ride the rough waters of adversity and finish on top," said Hall.

"I think we did very well to get there. The guys fought hard to get there. However, losing to Arizona was definitely a disappointing way to finish the year."


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