Marquee matchup

WES GILBERTSON

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

If it was a boxing card, promoters might have trouble determining which to bill as the main event.

Would the marquee read Calgary Roughnecks vs. Toronto Rock? Or Lewis Ratcliff vs. Josh Sanderson?

Forget that the Riggers are facing one of their fiercest rivals and both squads need a victory to keep pace in the playoff chase. When the whistle blows tonight (7:30 p.m., Saddledome), all eyes will be fixed on Ratcliff, the former Riggers star who was shipped to the Rock in return for Sanderson at the National Lacrosse League trade deadline March 26 and is making his first trip back to the Stampede City.

"Anytime you call a place home for six years and then you're going in as the enemy, it's going to be a little strange," Ratcliff said. "To make a good play and not get a cheer, or score a goal and (the fans) aren't happy to see you score, that will be a little weird."

Ratcliff joined the Roughnecks as a rookie in their second NLL campaign and quickly became a fan favourite at the 'Dome.

When he packed his bags for Hogtown, he took several franchise records with him. No player has scored as many goals, assists, points or powerplay markers in a Roughnecks uniform as he did.

One of those marks could fall tonight. With four more goals, forward Kaleb Toth will count 211 as a Rigger and move into top spot on the club's all-time scoring list.

Ratcliff isn't too worried about whether he'll be in the building when his friend reclaims the crown.

"You tell Kaleb that he's had an extra season, so he needs to get it back," he joked. "It's going to be his in only a matter of time, so if he gets it (tonight) or in two games, it's not really a big deal.

"If somebody is going to break it, it might as well be a guy I like."

While few doubted his ability to fill the net, the knock against Ratcliff was he often fired more shots than the Riggers' pre-game cavalry.

He led the Roughnecks with 29 tallies in a dozen contests prior to the trade but unloaded 196 times over that span, averaging more than 16 shots per game.

Sanderson knows some people will be comparing their stats tonight.

"Yeah sure, but I won't be one of them," Sanderson said. "We play different games. He's a great player, but I can't try to do anything that I'm not used to doing. He is more of a power forward, and I'm more of a point-guard, if you want to put it in basketball terms.

"I'm going to try to hopefully get the ball in the right guys' sticks, and I'm sure he'll be trying to rip them past Chugger."

Sanderson made his 'Dome debut last weekend in an 18-7 pasting of the Edmonton Rush. Seeing him in home colours likely came as a relief to Roughnecks faithful, who've seen how much damage the diminutive lefty can do.

When the Rock paid a visit to Calgary last February, Sanderson torched the Riggers defence for four goals and five assists. He lit the lamp twice and added six helpers in his only trip to the 'Dome in 2006.

"When the trade came, I knocked wood. Hopefully, I can have the same success as I did coming in as a visitor," Sanderson said.

Roughnecks fans hope so, too.


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