Playoff payoff for No. 1 Riggers

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

The road to this year's Champion's Cup must go through the Saddledome, and the Calgary Roughnecks have a chance to host an unprecedented three playoff games.

"This is the biggest thing in franchise history," said Riggers owner-president-GM Brad Banister. "This is the best record we've had and the biggest opportunity we've ever had to take some heat off us at the banks. We're pretty excited about it."

With a win over the Edmonton Rush Saturday night combined with a Buffalo Bandits loss, the Roughnecks (11-4) clinched first overall in the National Lacrosse League by virtue of a tiebreaker.

That means someone must beat the Riggers on their home turf or the title game will be at the 'Dome. First up on the playoff schedule will be a division semifinal against either Edmonton, Colorado or Minnesota at home on the weekend of May 1-3.

And for the first time, the Roughnecks have time to push playoff tickets to fans.

"We have three weeks to pull it together," Banister said.

"I'm not worried about the bottom line. I just want to fill the stadium.

"When the stadium is full, I don't think anybody in this league can touch us. If we sell out three games, we would be in better shape than we have ever been in our history.

"It's exciting. We have to make sure we go through one game at a time."

The Roughnecks have lost three post-season home games since winning the Champion's Cup in 2004. That title game was played in front of a sellout crowd.

Before the playoffs start, the Roughnecks must finish out Friday against the Portland LumberJax on the road.

The Jax beat the Riggers in the playoffs at the 'Dome last season, and beat them again last Friday before Calgary regrouped to win the following night.

Although that game doesn't mean anything in the standings, Riggers head coach Troy Cordingley is expecting a better effort against Portland, a team they may have to face in the second round.

"The way we performed last game speaks volumes for the way they play," Cordingley said. "They came into our rink and basically dominated us. We have some pride in our dressing room, so we want a strong performance against them, for sure.

"It's a new season in three weeks. We have our focus this week on a team that has given us some trouble. We aren't looking past Portland. We would like to finish the season off on the right note."

During halftime against the Rush Saturday, Cordingley and his staff knew the Bandits had lost, giving the Riggers a chance to clinch first overall. So Cordingley's message was clear, and the Riggers responded by erasing an 8-5 deficit to win 14-13.

"Obviously, all the hard work has paid off," Cordingley said. "Our first goal was the playoffs, the second was win the West and the third was home-floor throughout. We all know what the final goal is right now."


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