Riggers must recover mid-season form to survive

TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:18 PM ET

One and done.

It's as simple as that in the National Lacrosse League playoffs.

Like the CFL, each game is do-or-die. One loss and the season comes to a crashing halt.

Thanks to two straight losses against the Colorado Mammoth to end the regular season, the Calgary Roughnecks -- as the West Division's third seed -- have a tough road ahead to make it to the NLL championship game.

That trek begins tonight in Denver when the Riggers and Mammoth take to the carpet in a West semifinal at the Pepsi Center.

It's a similar situation to what the Riggers faced in 2004 when they won their first and only NLL championship.

The team was a No. 3 seed that had to win twice on the road -- including in Denver -- before hosting the Champion's Cup game at the Saddledome where they beat Buffalo Bandits.

"We're trying to get to where we were before," said Calgary head coach Chris Hall.

"It's a tough task but we've done it before."

Tonight's tilt is the biggest gut-check for the Roughnecks in recent history.

The club won six of seven down the stretch and looked a good bet to lock up the West's top seed.

Instead, the Roughnecks tanked against Colorado -- including an ugly 17-7 loss at the 'Dome last Saturday to finish the season on a terrible note.

"We know what we have to do to win against these guys," said Calgary forward Kaleb Toth.

"We have a veteran team. We made a lot of mistakes in those last two games. They have a good team, no doubt about that.

"But we have a lot of skill on our team and a lot of veterans and we want to play for another championship."

The Riggers' game plan is simple:

1) Keep emotions in check and stay out of the penalty box;

2) Move the ball on offence and penetrate the Mammoth defence;

3) Play physical on defence and keep the Colorado shooters to the outside;

4) Transition the ball better and make good on odd-man rushes.

Easy enough on paper but likely harder to execute.

Roughnecks defender Andrew McBride said his team realize the chips are stacked against them and they come in as the clear underdogs after the two losses.

"We know we have to play better," said McBride. "We did a lot of things wrong (in those losses).

"We need to play smart and not get involved in any dumb stuff and just play lacrosse. If we do that, we'll be fine."

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QUICK STICKS: Rookie D Jeremy Cheyne, who made his debut last weekend against the Mammoth, won't play this weekend but D Jesse Phillips, who sat out nursing a sore knee, could be in the lineup tonight.

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CALGARY ROUGHNECKS @ COLORADO MAMMOTH

TONIGHT AT 7:30 P.M.


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