Riggers get ready for '06

TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:54 PM ET

Calgary Roughnecks fans shouldn't need a program come opening night to identify the players on the floor.

After winning their first National Lacrosse League West Division regular-season title last year en route to a West final playoff loss to the Arizona Sting, Calgary coach Chris Hall doesn't see the need to overhaul his lineup.

It'll be more like a tune-up, if you will.

"We're pretty solid right down the roster," said Hall, whose club opens training camp today in Richmond, B.C. preparing for its Jan. 13 season opener at the 'Dome against the expansion Edmonton Rush. "Much like last year, there's certainly not wholesale changes to be made. It's more a matter of fine-tuning."

The Riggers, 10-6 last year, have invited 35 players to camp: 15 forwards, 16 defenders and four goalies.

NLL teams carry 23 players on the active roster and three on a practice roster and Hall admits most of those spots are already accounted for.

"We had a good run last year despite a tough schedule and some tough injuries so not a lot of big things have to be done," said Hall. "So, there's not a lot of openings, one would think, unless somebody surprises us and does very well. It's going to be tough for anyone coming in to knock any of these veterans out because the lineup we've had has been very successful the last two years."

On offence, the only big change is the departure of veteran lefty Ted Dowling. The free agent signed with the expansion Portland Lumberjax this summer.

Four players are vying for Dowling's spot on the crease: Chris Panos, Kevin Dostie, Kyle Neufeld and longshot Louis Alfred.

"Neufeld is a little more transition oriented than pure offence but we're going to see what he looks like in camp," said Hall. "Obviously, the front runners for that position are Dostie and Panos but Kyle has a shot as well. Dostie had a great summer out playing for Nanaimo in the WLA and Panos is the guy with all the experience. There's some good talent there for us to choose from."

Defensively, the team is expected to welcome back Devan Wray and Ryan McNish from knee injuries while all-star Craig Gelsvik will miss the first month of the season due to work commitments. Recently re-acquired defender Rob Kirkby -- who is yet to be signed -- may also miss some games due to a wrist injury. Gone are Brad MacDonald (traded to Toronto) and Rich Catton (free-agent signing in Colorado).

That means young defenders such as Travis Gillespie, Jeff Moleski and Graham Palmer will be fighting to earn some floor time in camp.

Between the pipes, Curtis Palidwor remains the Riggers' starter. Palidwor struggled last year posting a 7-6 record with a GAA of 13.36 in 848 minutes of play while backup Andrew Leyshon went 3-0 with a GAA of 9.89 in 109 minutes. Former first-rounder Matt Morehouse and Kitan Gbadebo will also be in camp.

"Curtis is our No. 1 until somebody can knock him off," said Hall. "Curtis didn't have a great year last year and he's well aware of that, too. He's a hard-working dedicated guy and I think he's going to come back and play very well."


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