Championship ... or bust

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:54 AM ET

Troy Cordingley isn't one to sugar-coat anything, so he's frank in his assessment of the Calgary Roughnecks.

Last season's 7-9 NLL record and second-round playoff defeat isn't going to cut it again.

The Riggers dealt with injuries to key players in 2008, including losing captain Tracey Kelusky for nine games due to a concussion, but those are just excuses.

In Cordingley's second season as bench boss, nothing short of a championship will do, because this team has the tools to do it.

"This team has underachieved for the past three or four years, and it has to stop," Cordingley said.

The Riggers have brought back the same core group of players from last season with a couple of deletions.

The offence will be led by late-season acquisition Josh Sanderson, Kelusky and veteran Kaleb Toth.

The defence is solid with the likes of Jeff Moleski, Andrew McBride and Bruce Codd.

But the main change is in goal, with Pat Campbell taking over as the No.-1 man after the Roughnecks traded last year's starter Steve Dietrich to the Edmonton Rush.

The biggest difference will be in style, as Cordingley has switched to a more fast-break transition game to utilize the overall speed of his team.

The best offence is a good defence in this case, and the Riggers will dress 10 of their 16 roster players as defence/transition.

"We want to push the ball lots this year," Cordingley said.

Here's a breakdown of positions:

DEFENCE

For every game, Cordingley will have to scratch a couple of capable bodies. The Riggers have 13 players listed as defenders and will only have 10 spots available.

"Obviously, we have tough decisions every night," Cordingley said. "We have guys battling for positions every night. You don't want to hold that over guys, but we need depth. Last year was a prime example. We had a couple injuries and work commitments, and it killed us last year."

Although the team traded heavyweight Ryan McNish to the Rush in the off-season, Mike Kilby was picked up to add a physical presence.

McBride, Codd, Moleski, Devan Wray, Nolan Heavenor, Mike Carnegie and Kilby should be pencilled in to play every night, while the likes of youngsters Scott Carnegie and Peter McFetridge will add some energy and Kyle Couling will bring a veteran presence.

OFFENCE

Scoring shouldn't be a problem with Kelusky healthy and a full season with Sanderson dishing the ball off from the left side. Both Toth and Scott Ranger have great outside shots, while veteran Curt Malawsky brings more leadership and contributes key goals.

With Kelly Hall retiring, sophomore Dane Dobbie will get a chance to use his sharp stick skills and could be a key component. Dobbie only played five games with the Riggers last season but had a strong summer campaign with Coquitlam in the Western Lacrosse Association.

"The guys earn everything they get with me. Right now, Dane is a starter and has performed real well for us," Cordingley said. "We asked him to get into better shape. It caught him off-guard last year coming into camp realizing how tough it is.

"He's in better shape this year. He's taken it to heart. You can't teach his stick skills. They are gross. He's mint around the net. He has that special knack.

"The best thing is he has four coaches on the floor with him."

Kyle Goundrey was re-signed this off-season after spending a year in Edmonton and will provide depth in case of injury or poor performance.

Youngster Cayle Ratcliff is in a development role, but Cordingley will try to get Lewis Ratcliff's younger brother some floor time at some point.

GOALTENDING

This is only the second time in Pat Campbell's long career that he is a starter. The previous time was with the expansion Rush, and he performed well for a losing team.

Campbell suffers from Crohn's Disease and came back to play for the Riggers last year when Dietrich was injured.

Cordingley has full confidence Campbell will provide a steady force in goal.

"Paddy came into training camp in great shape, probably the best shape I've seen him," Cordingley said. "He's really worked on his game. He's not taking any shots off and looks really good right now.

"He understands this is a chance to lead our team. He's all for taking that challenge and running with it."


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