'Shoot' in the arm

IAN BUSBY, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 7:33 AM ET

As much as lacrosse is a fun game, the Calgary Roughnecks needed a jolt of seriousness late in the season.

Enter Josh Sanderson.

Shooter gave the Riggers a much-needed shot in the arm after coming over from the Toronto Rock late in the season.

Minutes after losing to the Edmonton Rush in his debut with the Riggers, Sanderson showed his intensity by angrily declaring the team would make the playoffs and contend for a championship.

Since then, the Riggers have won four straight and host the Portland LumberJax in the West Division final tonight at the Saddledome (7:30 p.m.).

Sanderson's arrival coincided with captain Tracey Kelusky and goalie Steve Dietrich getting healthy, but defender Bruce Codd said the shifty lefty's impact can't be downplayed.

"It's not about numbers with him, but he does put up good ones. He brings a calming effect and the leadership aspect," said Codd, who grew up playing with Sanderson and is extremely close to the family, including Josh's father Terry, an assistant coach with the Riggers.

"Josh is a quiet leader and that's been the biggest thing he brings. From day one, he told us we needed to be more business-like. Ever since then, we have and it's shown in the results.

"I knew what he would bring to the team. He's been everything I thought he would be and more."

Sanderson has a serious demeanour on and off the floor, which is different from the leadership the Roughnecks already had in Kelusky, Kaleb Toth and Andrew McBride.

"I hope I brought something like that to the table," said the 31-year-old veteran. "I take my lacrosse very seriously.

"When it comes to the weekend, I want everybody to focus on the task at hand. You can have fun after the game is won.

"Business first. This league had a lot of travel and guys have to work separate jobs. So the main thing is focusing on the task at hand. Winning is fun, in my opinion."

Being that Sanderson spent the past four-plus seasons with Toronto in the East Division, he has never played against the LumberJax, who have the tallest roster in the league by far.

At 5-ft.-7, Sanderson will have to use his speed and quick passing ability to negate their height advantage.

"My main thing is with their size, I need to keep my feet moving and use my quickness," Sanderson said. "If we're standing around, it's advantage to them. But if we have our feet moving, then it's an advantage to us. They will be a tough team."

The Roughnecks gave up an outstanding scorer in Lewis Ratcliff to get Sanderson, who is nicknamed Shooter despite the fact he's a playmaker.

The move changed the dynamic of the Riggers offence because Sanderson doesn't take a lot of shots, instead faking and dishing off. Because of that, Kelusky said he has had a profound effect on the club's attack.

"Shooter is outstanding. He's a leader and he wants the ball in his stick," Kelusky said. "Everybody talks about Wayne Gretzky making everyone around him better. Josh Sanderson does that as well. As far as I'm concerned, he's one of the best players of our era."

In the 15-13 first-round playoff win over the Colorado Mammoth last weekend, Sanderson had one goal, but recorded five assists as he let others do the finishing.

"I knew coming out here that our right side was our strength with the four righties we have," Sanderson said.

"There's no sense me keeping the ball all the time. I make sure the ball gets into their sticks.

"There's no sense me having 15 shots if four righties can put the ball away."


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